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From berry to bean: the transformation of the coffee berry

Florian Fermin
Florian Fermin

In this blog we continue the journey of the coffee bean. We dive into the process from berry to bean: the transformation of the coffee berry! In our previous blog about the coffee bean we already gave away the process a little bit, but processing the coffee berry into a coffee bean is a true art. That is why we will dive deeper into processing the coffee berry in this article.

The importance of drying

The taste of coffee is determined by many factors. It may not surprise you that the processing of the coffee bean is one of them. Coffee beans that have just been picked have a moisture content of up to 60%! This large amount of moisture makes the coffee bean vulnerable to mold and increases the chance that the beans will rot. It is therefore very important that the beans are dried as quickly as possible. Over the years, various methods have been developed to dry the coffee beans. The natural drying process (how could it be otherwise) is the oldest of these.

Natural drying vs. Crops

With the natural drying process, the coffee cherries are spread over a large area after picking to dry in the sun. During this process, the berries must be turned regularly to prevent rot. However, it is difficult to guarantee the quality of the coffee beans with this process, which results in low-quality coffee beans. Other methods have therefore been developed to prevent rot. For example, by first removing the pulp from the coffee berry, leaving only the coffee bean itself. Most of the pulp is removed by passing the coffee cherries through a special de-pulping machine. The remaining pulp is soaked in water. Then the coffee beans themselves (which also contain a lot of moisture) are spread out on large areas to dry. Because the chance of rotting is much smaller with this process, this also produces higher quality coffee beans. On the other hand, this process is a lot more expensive.

coffee berry coffee bean drying process coffee post-drying sorting rot
The washed coffee beans are spread over large areas to dry.

After drying & Sort

After the coffee beans are dried, they are packed in large bags and stored for drying. This process can take up to 60 days. After these 60 days, an advanced sorting process follows in which the beans are sorted by size and assessed for quality. This is a particularly labour-intensive process in which coffee beans are often even sorted by hand. A large part of the final coffee quality is determined with this process and that is why this process also influences the price of coffee to a large extent.

after drying coffee berry coffee bean process rotting coffee
Coffee beans in burlap bags can be stored for up to 60 days to dry properly.

In the end, the sorted coffee beans are packed per type in large bags and shipped all over the world. We could write a whole new article about this shipping of coffee, especially given the social impact of the coffee trade. Contemporary developments in fairchain coffee are increasingly becoming a standard for high quality coffee. To be continued. For now, at least you know how the picked coffee cherries are dried, sorted and packaged to eventually end up in your favorite coffee.