Coffee: the bean to cup story

December 13, 2013
Author: Tom

The coffee plants in our Rainforest Biome have been bristling with the bright beans or ‘cherries’ that are used to make the drink that is so popular around the world. Here’s a quick, caffeinated whizz through the story of how coffee gets from bean to cup.

Coffee journey map

Bean to cup process

1. Grow

Coffee plant

There are two types of coffee commonly grown for drinking:

  • Robusta coffeeCoffea canephora
    These robust plants are easier to grow, cheaper and have a higher caffeine content but they also have a neutral taste. They are used in espresso blends and instant coffee.
  • Arabica coffeeCoffea arabica (pictured at the bottom of this article)
    These delicate plants are harder to grow and pricier but offer a wider range of taste. They are used for single estate coffees and high-quality blends.

The plants prefer rich soil, lots of rain and semi-shade. Each plant produces enough for about 500g of coffee. Altitude, soil and climate affect the flavour.

Hand picking coffee beans

2. Pick

The beans are mostly picked by hand but increasingly by machine. The latter is tricky as coffee often grows in mountainous areas and cherries ripen at different times. It’s the low quality coffee grown on a large scale that is often machine-picked.

 

Green and red coffee beans

3. Sort

Once the cherries are picked they are sorted by hand or machine to make sure only the ripest are processed.

 

 

 

Coffee bean with pulp removed

4. Process beans

The pulp is removed from the beans.

 

5. Roasting

Coffee roaster

The roasting provides the flavour and aroma. It is considered something of an art and timing is key: it usually takes between 7 and 14 minutes depending on the desired coffee (espresso takes the longest).

Beans ’pop’ like corn as the heat increases. Once roasted, beans lose their freshness quickly, so most roasting occurs in the country of consumption.

Coffee grinder

6. Grind

The fineness of grind will affect the brewing time and the coffee-making equipment you use. Coffee releases up to 60% of its aroma within 15 minutes of grinding.

 

7. Brew

  • Filtered coffee: freshly-brewed tastes best. Use unbleached paper for your filters for good results.
  • Espresso: hot water is forced through coffee at high pressure for maximum flavour. Espresso coffee is also used in drinks such as cappuccino.
  • Plunger coffee: boil water, cool a tad, and pour over medium-to-coarse-ground coffee. Stand for 3-4 minutes then plunge.
  • Vacuum pot coffee: this is a bit special. Made under pressure in pure glass containers.
  • Percolator coffee: the coffee is boiled and passed over the coffee grounds several times.

Cartoon man drinking coffee

8. Drink

Espresso, cappuccino, café latte, flat white, long black or even a ristretto (an extremely short espresso), doppio (two shots of espresso in an espresso cup) or a Macchinato (espresso “stained” with a dash of milk or a dollop of foam). However you take it … enjoy!

 

More information on coffee plants

Find out more about coffee and see more photos on our coffee plant profile page

The coffee sold our on-site shop and in our webshop comes from Fairtrade farms in Central America, ensuring the farmers get paid a fair wage.

Coffee cherries growing on bush

 

Comments:
3 comments
Categories:
Food, Plants

3 responses to Coffee: the bean to cup story

  1. Bryan Patterson says:

    I see. So coffee is so delicate that a simple mistake in timing will lose its freshness. It’s interesting to try out different types of grind to produce different flavors.

  2. Suraya says:

    Hey! These are some great graphics, I am trying to create an activity where I easily show the different stages of coffee production. Could I use these & mention Tom? Thanks!

  3. Tom says:

    Hi Suraya, Yes you can use them, but please credit Celine Shenton and the Eden Project. Thanks

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