How Coffee is Made: From A to B(ean)

Coffee is one of my favorite drinks, but I’ve never put much thought into how it gets into my cup or favorite Starbucks drink every morning. This trip has completely opened my eyes to the wonderful world of coffee production and I don’t think I’ve ever learned more about a type of beverage in my life. I now know everything that goes into making a perfect cup of coffee.

First, the bean begins at the coffee farms. The beans must be planted, germinate, and then are planted after they are about a year old. After about 3-4 years the coffee plants are ready to produce fruit. The fruit is then harvested by workers. One thing I never realized about this stage, is that coffee plants are fairly sensitive to the elements. There are many factors such as pests, fungi, nutrients, shade, etc. that can lead to a less than perfect coffee bean.

After the coffee farms, beans are sent to mills to be processed. Some larger coffee farms process the beans themselves. Processing includes sorting the beans, peeling them, fermenting, and then drying them. Most companies use the wet processing method which fully peels the coffee beans (except the parchment layer) before drying. However, it was interesting to find out there are a couple other processing methods. Natural processing waits to peel the bean until after it is dried and honey processing leaves the glucose layer to caramelize the bean.

The beans are ready to be sent to a roaster now that they are processed. At the roaster, the parchment layer is peeled off and the beans are placed into roasting drums. What I found the most interesting about this process, was that beans are heated at the exact same temperature – to make the different roasts, they just sit in the roaster for different amounts of time. I also found out that darker roasts actually have less caffeine than lighter roasts. This whole time I had thought drinking an espresso roast coffee would give me the biggest caffeine boost.

Coffee roasters can either package and sell the coffee themselves, or they can sell the roasted coffee to retail stores. At this point, the making process is basically over. The roasted (and usually ground) coffee is packaged and sits on shelves waiting for a customer. Some retailers, such as Cafe Britt, are involved with much more steps of the supply chain than just distributing. They have their own processing plants, roasters, and retail stores. However, for a smaller coffee roaster, selling the product themselves is not a feasible or cost-effective idea.

The last step in the journey of coffee, is in the hands of the customers. Customers can purchase their coffee in many ways: e-commerce websites, retail stores, roasters/ manufacturers themselves, etc. Although the coffee bean itself has been fully processed, there is still one last step to the making process: getting the coffee into your cup. As we learned at Coopedota, there are many different ways to make coffee such as the chorreador, drop brewer, and the French press. Personally, I want to try making French press coffee at home.

As a whole, this trip has been absolutely incredible and I am so thankful I have had the opportunity to go. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country and I really appreciate getting to learn so much about it and an industry that is so important to them. These past two weeks have flown by, but I know I will be returning to this amazing country in the future.

P.S. I’m going to apologize in advance to all my friends and family back home because this trip has turned me into a coffee snob like no other;)

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