How are coffee beans harvested?

Coffee beans are an integral part of our daily lives, providing us with the delightful beverage that helps kickstart our mornings and keep us energized throughout the day. But have you ever wondered about the journey that these beans take before they end up in our cups? The process of harvesting coffee beans involves a series of intricate techniques and methods that ensure the best possible flavor and quality.

The journey begins with the planting of coffee seeds in large shaded beds. These seeds grow into coffee trees, which eventually produce beautiful white blossoms that transform into coffee cherries. It is these coffee cherries that hold the precious beans we covet so much.

There are two primary methods of harvesting coffee cherries: strip picking and selectively picking. In strip picking, all the cherries are removed from the trees at once, regardless of their ripeness. This method is efficient but can result in a mix of ripe and unripe cherries. On the other hand, selectively picking involves carefully handpicking only the ripe cherries, ensuring the highest quality beans for a more flavorful cup of coffee.

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Once the cherries are harvested, they undergo processing using either the wet method or the dry method. In the wet method, the cherries are pulped to remove the skin and pulp, and then fermented and dried. The dry method, on the other hand, involves simply drying the cherries in the sun. Each method imparts a unique flavor profile to the beans, resulting in a diverse range of coffee tastes.

After processing, the beans go through milling, where they are hulled, polished, graded, and sorted based on size, weight, and color. This ensures that only the best-quality beans make it to the next stage of the journey. The final steps include exporting the beans in jute or sisal bags or bulk-shipping them in containers, followed by the crucial steps of roasting, grinding, and brewing to create the perfect cup of coffee.

From the moment the coffee seeds are planted to the time the beans are transformed into a delightful beverage, there are numerous stages and techniques involved in the harvesting process. Each step contributes to the rich flavors and aromas that we savor in every sip of coffee.

Key Takeaways:

  • Harvesting coffee beans involves two primary methods: strip picking and selectively picking.
  • The wet method and dry method are used for processing the harvested coffee cherries.
  • Milling involves hulling, polishing, grading, and sorting the coffee beans.
  • The beans are exported in bags or containers and then undergo the crucial steps of roasting, grinding, and brewing.
  • Each stage of the coffee bean harvesting process contributes to the unique flavor and quality of the final cup of coffee.

Planting Coffee Seeds

Coffee seeds, which are the actual beans, play a crucial role in the production of our favorite beverage. To ensure a healthy and successful coffee crop, the process begins with planting these seeds in shaded nurseries.

In these nurseries, the coffee seeds are carefully sown and nurtured until they grow into seedlings. To protect them from harsh sunlight, the plants are kept in shaded areas. This helps them establish strong roots and grow in a controlled environment.

We understand the importance of providing adequate moisture to the young coffee seedlings. Regular watering ensures that the soil remains moist and provides the necessary conditions for the seedlings to thrive. In particular, planting during the wet season helps maintain optimal soil moisture levels, allowing the roots to grow deeply and establish themselves firmly.

Once the coffee seedlings have reached a certain level of maturity and strength, they are ready for permanent planting in the coffee plantation. This transition ensures that the plants are well-established and can withstand the elements of their new environment.

Planting coffee seeds is a critical step in the journey of coffee production. By providing the right conditions and care, we set the foundation for healthy coffee plants that will eventually yield the beans we love. The shaded nurseries, wet season planting, and soil moisture management contribute to the long-term success of coffee cultivation.

Harvesting the Coffee Cherries

Coffee cherries are the beautiful and vibrant fruits that contain the beloved coffee beans. These cherries are harvested when they reach a deep red color, signaling their ripeness and optimal flavor. The process of harvesting coffee cherries is a crucial step in bringing us the delicious coffee we enjoy.

The main harvest of coffee cherries typically occurs once a year, but in some regions, like Colombia, there is a secondary crop as well. This secondary crop allows for a continuous supply of coffee throughout the year.

When it comes to harvesting coffee cherries, there are two primary methods used: strip picking and selective picking.

Strip Picking

Strip picking is a more common method, especially for larger coffee farms. It involves removing all the cherries from the coffee trees at once. This approach is efficient and less labor-intensive, making it suitable for large-scale production.

Selective Picking

Selective picking, on the other hand, is a more meticulous and labor-intensive method. In this approach, only the ripe cherries are harvested, leaving behind the unripe ones to mature further. Selectively picking ensures that only the highest quality and most flavorful cherries are collected. This method is often used for specialty or gourmet coffees, such as Arabica beans.

Both strip picking and selective picking have their advantages and are suited for different coffee production contexts and goals.

Let’s take a look at the comparison between strip picking and selective picking for harvesting coffee cherries:

Criteria Strip Picking Selective Picking
Labor Intensity Lower Higher
Harvest Speed Faster Slower
Cherry Quality Mixed High
Suitability Large-scale farms Specialty coffees

Both methods play a vital role in the coffee industry, ensuring a steady supply of coffee cherries for processing. Now that the coffee cherries have been harvested, the next step is to process them to extract the coffee beans locked within. We will explore the coffee cherry processing methods in the next section.

Processing the Coffee Cherries

After being harvested, the coffee cherries undergo a crucial processing stage to transform them into the beloved beverage we enjoy. The two primary methods used for processing coffee cherries are the wet method and the dry method, each with its own unique impact on the final coffee flavor.

The Wet Method:

In the wet method, the freshly harvested coffee cherries are pulped to remove the skin and pulp surrounding the coffee beans. This process ensures that only the coffee beans remain for further processing. After pulping, the beans are then fermented to break down any remaining sugars and other organic compounds. This fermentation stage is critical as it contributes to the development of the coffee’s flavor profile.

The Dry Method:

Alternatively, the dry method involves simply drying the coffee cherries in the sun, allowing them to naturally dry and preserve their flavors. This traditional approach is often used in regions with limited water resources and enables the cherries to absorb certain flavors from their surroundings, resulting in a distinct taste.

Regardless of the processing method used, the beans must be dried to a precise moisture content level before storing them for further processing. Proper drying is essential to prevent the growth of mold or fungi that can spoil the beans.

During the drying stage, the coffee beans are spread out in thin layers on large drying beds or patios, where they are carefully monitored and turned regularly. The beans are left to dry naturally over a period of several weeks until they reach the desired moisture content. Once dried, the beans are carefully stored in a controlled environment to maintain their quality and freshness.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the wet method and the dry method with the help of a comparison table:

Processing Method Process Steps Flavor Profile Drying Time Requirements
Wet Method Coffee cherries are pulped, fermented, and dried. Produces a clean and bright flavor with acidity and complexity. Several weeks Ample water supply and controlled fermentation tanks.
Dry Method Coffee cherries are sun-dried. Yields a distinct, earthy flavor with pronounced body and sweetness. Several weeks to a few months Adequate sunlight and dry climate.

As you can see, both methods offer unique characteristics that contribute to the overall flavor profile of the coffee. The wet method often results in a cleaner, more acidic cup, while the dry method produces a flavor with greater body and depth.

Now that we understand how coffee cherries are processed, we can proceed to the next stage: milling the coffee beans, where further refinement occurs.

coffee cherries processing

Milling the Coffee Beans

Once the coffee beans have been dried, they undergo the important process of milling. Milling involves several key steps to ensure the beans are prepared for further processing and eventually brewing a delicious cup of coffee.


Hulling is the first step in the milling process. It refers to the removal of the parchment layer that surrounds the coffee bean. This layer, also known as the pergamino, is thick and fibrous, and needs to be removed to access the bean itself. The hulling process can be done manually or using machinery.


After hulling, the coffee beans may undergo a polishing process. Polishing is not always necessary, but it helps to remove any remaining silver skin. Silver skin is a thin, papery layer that can be left on the bean after hulling. Polishing enhances the appearance of the beans and improves their overall quality.

Grading and Sorting

Once the beans have been hulled and polished, they are sorted and graded. Sorting involves separating the beans based on their size, weight, and color. This step helps to ensure consistency in the final product. Grading refers to the classification of the beans according to their quality. Beans are graded based on strict industry standards, taking into account factors such as aroma, taste, and defects.

Here is an example of a grading scale for coffee beans:

Grade Description
1 Large beans, highest quality
2 Medium-sized beans, good quality
3 Small beans, lower quality

Final Checks

Before the beans are ready for export, they undergo a thorough inspection. They are checked for any imperfections or defects that may have been missed during earlier stages. This ensures that only the highest quality beans make it to the market.

The milling process is crucial in preparing coffee beans for further processing and eventual consumption. It helps to remove unwanted layers, enhance appearance, and sort the beans based on quality. The properly milled beans are then ready to be roasted and ground, ready to brew a perfect cup of coffee.

Exporting the Coffee Beans

Once the coffee beans have been milled, they are ready to be exported. At this stage, the beans are referred to as green coffee. Exporting coffee beans involves careful packaging and shipping processes to ensure their quality is preserved throughout the journey.

Coffee beans are typically loaded onto ships in durable bags made of jute or sisal. These natural fiber bags provide excellent protection and allow the beans to breathe during transport. The use of jute or sisal bags is common in the coffee industry due to their strength, breathability, and environmentally friendly nature.

Key Factors in Exporting Coffee Beans Benefits
Jute Bags 1. High strength and durability
2. Excellent breathability
3. Environmentally friendly
Sisal Bags 1. Natural and biodegradable
2. Good moisture absorption
3. Resistant to pests and fungi
Bulk-Shipping in Containers 1. Efficient for large quantities
2. Protection from external elements
3. Easy loading and unloading

In addition to using jute or sisal bags, coffee beans can also be bulk-shipped in containers lined with a plastic material to preserve their freshness and flavor. Bulk-shipping in containers is a convenient method for transporting large quantities of coffee beans at once, ensuring efficient logistics and minimizing the risk of damage or spoilage.

Exporting coffee beans requires careful handling and adherence to international shipping standards. Proper packaging, including the use of jute or sisal bags or bulk-shipping containers, helps maintain the quality of the beans during transit, allowing coffee lovers around the world to enjoy the rich flavors and aromas that green coffee has to offer.

Exporting coffee beans

Tasting and Roasting the Coffee

Once the coffee beans have been harvested, processed, and milled, they are ready for the next crucial step in the journey to our cups: tasting and roasting.

Coffee tasting, also known as cupping, is a method used to assess the quality and flavors of the coffee beans. It involves carefully observing the appearance, aroma, and taste of the brewed coffee. Cupping allows us to evaluate the characteristics and nuances of different coffee beans and determine their unique profiles.

To begin the cupping process, we visually inspect the coffee beans for any defects or irregularities. This step helps us identify any issues that could affect the overall quality and taste of the coffee.

Next, we roast a small sample of the beans to perfection. Roasting is a critical step that significantly impacts the coffee’s flavor and aroma. The beans are subjected to high temperatures, causing complex chemical reactions, including pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the process in which the sugars and amino acids in the beans react to produce aromatic compounds that give coffee its distinct flavors.

The roasted beans are then ground and brewed using specific parameters, such as water temperature and extraction time, to ensure consistency in the cupping process. We carefully observe the aroma as it wafts from the cup, noting any fragrant notes or hints of sweetness.

When it comes to tasting, we evaluate various factors, including acidity, body, and balance. Acidity refers to the coffee’s brightness and liveliness on the palate, while body relates to the mouthfeel and weight of the coffee. Balance is the harmonious combination of flavors, ensuring that no single element overpowers the others.

Coffee Tasting Key Factors:

  • Aroma: Fragrance and scent.
  • Flavor: The overall taste experience.
  • Acidity: Brightness and liveliness.
  • Body: Mouthfeel and weight.
  • Balance: Harmony of flavors.

Through cupping, we gain valuable insights into the coffee’s quality, flavor profile, and potential. It allows us to select the best beans for our discerning customers and ensure that every cup of coffee provides an exceptional experience.

Acidity Body Flavor Notes
High acidity Light body Citrus, floral
Moderate acidity Medium body Chocolate, nutty
Low acidity Full body Caramel, dark chocolate


Coffee harvesting is a fascinating process that involves several crucial steps: planting, harvesting, processing, roasting, and brewing. Each of these steps plays a significant role in determining the flavor and quality of the final cup of coffee. Whether the coffee beans are strip picked or selectively picked and processed using the wet or dry method, the end result is a delightful beverage enjoyed by millions worldwide.

The intricate journey from bean to cup ensures the rich flavors that we all cherish. From the moment coffee seeds are planted in shaded nurseries to the careful selection and harvesting of ripe coffee cherries, the attention to detail is evident. The processing methods, wet or dry, further enhance the unique characteristics of the coffee beans, resulting in distinct flavors and aromas.

Roasting, a crucial step, brings out the depth and complexity of the coffee. The beans undergo a high-temperature transformation, giving rise to caramelization and developing the signature flavors that coffee lovers crave. Finally, the brewing process allows us to extract the desired qualities from the roasted beans, ensuring every cup is a delightful experience.

The artistry behind coffee harvesting, processing, roasting, and brewing is what sets apart a truly exceptional cup of coffee. The dedication of coffee farmers, processors, and roasters in maintaining the highest standards of quality is evident in every sip. So, the next time you savor your cup of coffee, take a moment to appreciate the intricate journey and the dedication it took to bring that flavor to your palate.


How are coffee beans harvested?

Coffee beans are harvested by either strip picking or selectively picking the ripe cherries.

Where are coffee seeds planted?

Coffee seeds are planted in shaded nurseries before being permanently planted in the soil.

When are coffee cherries harvested?

Coffee cherries are harvested when they turn a bright red color, indicating ripeness.

What are the two methods of harvesting coffee cherries?

The two methods of harvesting coffee cherries are strip picking, where all the cherries are removed at once, and selectively picking, where only the ripe cherries are harvested.

How are coffee cherries processed?

Coffee cherries are processed using either the wet method, which involves removing the skin and pulp, or the dry method, which simply dries the cherries in the sun.

What happens during the milling process?

During the milling process, coffee beans go through hulling, polishing, grading, and sorting to ensure quality and consistency.

How are coffee beans exported?

Coffee beans are exported in bags made of jute or sisal, or they can be bulk-shipped in plastic-lined containers.

What is the purpose of cupping in the coffee tasting process?

Cupping is a process where coffee beans are evaluated for their quality and taste through visual examination, roasting, and brewing.

How does roasting impact the flavor of coffee beans?

Roasting develops the flavor and aroma of coffee beans by causing the sugars inside to caramelize and produce the characteristic flavors.

What does the coffee harvesting process involve?

The coffee harvesting process involves planting coffee seeds, harvesting the ripe cherries, processing the cherries, milling the beans, exporting them, and finally tasting and roasting the coffee.

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Emily Reynolds

I am an unapologetic coffee aficionado with an insatiable passion for all things java. Pour-overs, French presses, espresso machines—each holds its own thrill, a chance to unlock new levels of taste and aroma. So let the aroma of freshly brewed coffee guide us through the world of flavor and inspiration that is coffee.

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