Coffee: the bean to cup story
The coffee plants growing in our Rainforest Biome often bristle 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.
Bean to cup process
There are two types of coffee commonly grown for drinking:
- Robusta coffee, Coffea 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 coffee, Coffea 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.
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.
Once the cherries are picked they are sorted by hand or machine to make sure only the ripest are processed.
4. Process beans
The pulp is removed from the beans.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 photos of the plant 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.