How is coffee harvested?
Two harvesting systems are used most widely in coffee growing:
Picking: Coffee picking is a manual harvesting process in which the ripe cherries are selected and picked from the coffee plant one by one. This requires pickers to pass through the crop several times, and yields a more uniform, high-quality crop.
Stripping: Coffee stripping is a process that may be manual or mechanized, in which all the fruit is removed from the plants in one pass when it's of average ripeness. It often requires a further check to eliminate impurities, and underripe or already fermented cherries.
Extracting the coffee beans
The next step is to extract the coffee seeds from the fruit, using a wet or dry processing method:
- Wet processing is used for fruit that's been harvested by picking and produces a coffee classified as washed or mild. Wet processed coffee beans are the most highly prized variety, with a uniform appearance and no defects. This processing method requires the use of coffee cherries with uniform maturation and consistency. A machine removes the skin from the coffee beans, which are then placed in water to ferment so as to eliminate the mucilage (pulp).
- The beans are then washed and dried in the sun or in a dryer. Finally, the husker eliminates the beans' two remaining protective membranes.
- The dry processing method produces a type of coffee known as natural. Freshly harvested fruit is spread out in the air and sun for two to three weeks, then machines are used to eliminate the beans' skin, pulp and protective membranes.
- There is also a coffee processing method to produce a semi-washed coffee by employing machines to remove both the skin and the pulp, using water solely for washing. The seeds are then dried in the sun or a dryer.