Coffee Harvest - How Is Coffee Harvested?

It takes a long time from the cultivation to the harvest of the coffee. Only after many months of growth and subsequent roasting does the freshly brewed drink end up in your cup.

We took a close look at how the coffee harvest takes place, what the coffee farmers have to pay attention to and which methods are used in the different growing areas.

When Does The Coffee Harvest Take Place?

Coffee cherries are sometimes on the plant for a very long time before they can be harvested. The ripening time can be up to ten months before the cherry can be processed further.

The exact time of the coffee harvest depends on the respective country of cultivation. Since there are different climatic and geographical conditions in all countries of the coffee belt and the precipitation varies in intensity, the harvest time also adapts to them.

Harvest Times Around The World

Country Harvest Time Number Of Harvest Months
Brazil
April to September
6
Colombia
February to June & September to November
8
Ethiopia
October to January
4
Guatemala
November to March
5
Kenya
May to July & October to February
8
Mexico
January to March
3
India
September to December
4
Peru
April to August
5

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What Color Is The Coffee Bean When Harvested?

What Color Is The Coffee Bean When Harvested?

The central factor in the coffee harvest is the color of the cherries to be harvested.

A typical coffee cherry has a diameter of around 0.60 inches and is still green at the beginning. It always contains two coffee beans that are pressed tightly together. However, it should not be harvested when it is green, as it hardly has any typical aroma. The color gradually changes over the course of the following weeks and months. The cherry first turns yellow before developing towards orange and finally taking on its typical dark red, cherry-like color.

This maturation process normally takes between seven and eight months, but as mentioned above, it can take even longer. In order to specify the right time to harvest, attention should not only be paid to the color. One trick is to gently press the coffee fruit. When the coffee bean just falls out, it’s almost time to harvest.

Some special species have a different color, for example, yellow instead of red at harvest time. An example of this is the Brazilian coffee Segredo Amarelo (“yellow secret”), where each sip contains aromas of mango and passion fruit. Tchibo sold it around Christmas 2019 as the rarity of the year.

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How Is Coffee Harvested?

Picking vs Stripping

The coffee harvest can be carried out by machine or by hand. Since many coffee plantations are located on the hillside, picking by hand is the only option.

The harvest itself is very physically demanding for two reasons. On the one hand, the tropical weather that prevails in the coffee belt has to be overcome. On the other hand, great care must be taken when picking, as the pulp can be destroyed if the cherry is not twisted off the bush slowly enough.

The Traditional Method Of Coffee Harvesting

The simplest method of harvesting coffee used to be used due to a lack of alternatives. The coffee farmers simply picked up the beans as they fell off the plant. This works because the coffee plant no longer invests any energy in its fruit after it has reached full maturity. The beans dried up directly on the plant, which saved the farmers another work step.

There are two main methods used to harvest coffee today: stripping and picking.

The Stripping Method

Stripping can bring advantages, especially in terms of speed, but has disadvantages in terms of quality. The fruits and leaves are removed directly from the plant during stripping, leaving only bare branches at the end. To automate this process, even machines are used to do the work in flat growing areas. The fruits are caught directly or fall on the ground.

A big disadvantage is that both overripe and unripe beans are harvested since the coffee harvesting machine cannot distinguish between them. The quality of the harvest is usually inferior since the ratio between ripe and unripe coffee beans fluctuates greatly.

The Picking Method

Picking with the picking method is much more precise.

When picking, only the deep red fruits that are really ready to be processed are selected by hand. Although the harvest of coffee is much more complex, it is also subject to fewer fluctuations in quality.

Every plant is regularly checked on the corresponding plantations and the coffee cherries are harvested depending on the progress. All fruits harvested in this way are collected centrally and can then be processed further.

Fairtrade Coffee Harvest

Fairtrade Coffee Harvest

Falling commodity prices on the international stock exchanges and global warming pose additional challenges for coffee farmers.

Companies like Fairtrade are committed to strengthening local social conditions in order to enable picker families to live above the poverty line through stable prices and premium payments. During the Fairtrade coffee harvest, the Fairtrade beans are processed separately from other beans at all times.

The Processing

The best coffee cherries are processed directly to avoid fermentation, which can occur when the coffee has been separated from its vine for too long. Processing should have taken place after a maximum of five hours.

Wet and dry processing is possible for processing. The latter is the traditional variant, in which the cherries are spread out in the sun and turned regularly. A wet mill with various machine stations is used for wet processing. Here the green coffee cherries are first removed before the outer skin and pulp are separated from the bean by depulping. Finally, the slimy pectin layer is removed mechanically before the beans spend a night in the water tank for final cleaning and selection.

Conclusion

Coffee growing and harvesting presents many challenges that coffee farmers around the world face on a regular basis.

Harvest times vary in length depending on the growing region and are in different seasons. Furthermore, only the dark red and therefore ripe coffee cherries should be picked to ensure the high quality of the end product. The best way to do this is to use the picking harvesting method. Nevertheless, there are other methods of coffee harvesting, for example, to increase the speed. The most famous of them is called stripping.

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