How does coffee from around the world end up in your cup? It is not as simple as just growing, picking and packaging the beans. There is a huge science aspect to coffee preparation and processing.
The type of bean is important; whether it is Arabica or Robusta. First of all, the coffee plants are grown in plantations and harvested. This is not an easy job. There are sometimes droughts, insect infestations, mold issues and the unfavorable conditions of too much rain or sun. There are things to identify like pruning to ensuring a healthy crop, the distance between the plants so they can cross pollinate, the type and acidity of the soil, animals and ground water conditions. Plus, theres fertilizers, chemicals etc. and if the plantation wants to grow organic coffee there are many other things to consider.
The coffee cherries (bean cover) are either hand picked or harvested from the ground. There are a few machine harvest plantations, but not many. Beans are then sorted by color, size, ripeness and sometimes by gravity (floating in water). The coffee cherries are either red, yellow or brown in color. The coffee bean is then pulled out of the cherry usually by hand, but sometimes by using a spinning drum (centrifugal force). The resulting bean itself is green and can be tinged with blue, red-brown or grey. Most often there are 2 coffee beans per berry, but there are one bean per cherry varieties called pea-berrys. It takes 5 lbs of coffee cherries to create about 1 pound of beans. The unsavory beans are removed.
There are now 2 methods of coffee bean processing:
The dry method: The resulting beans are then cleaned and dried, either using heat from the sun or forced air heating. This method can be damaging to the bean.
The wet method: A fermentation process occurs with the mucilage (the outer layer of the bean) similar to the making of alcohol. The fermentation eats the mucilage away in a natural process and is washed away. It doesnt damage the bean and are considered a higher grade; thus these coffee beans have a better taste and cost more.