Friday, November 17, 2017

Processing Coffee Cherries At Home

The red berry on coffee trees is called coffee cherry. Yup, it looks like a cherry. But it's not juicy and fleshy as a eating cherry. It's rather firm to the touch with not much flesh at all. 

That beautiful red color is only skin deep. Beneath the tough skin, a thin layer of slippery flesh adheres to the bean. Separating the cherry skin from the bean is rather simple. For small amounts, one can use their fingers. I'll use my thumbnail to make a nick in the skin, then it's just a case of squeezing the beans out. Pop! Gotta be careful because they can fly beyond the bowl if I squeeze them too hard. There will be some beans that are adhered to the skin. I discard these because there us usually something wrong with them one way or the other. 

Most cherries contain two beans, but one or three isn't all that uncommon. Beans that are solo are shaped roundish and are held in high esteem. These are called peaberry. Many coffee drinkers swear that peaberry tastes different and better, but honestly I can't tell the difference. But coffee lovers will pay extra for peaberry. About 5%-10% of my crop is peaberry. 

Removing the beans from the cherry is called "pulping". I'll pulp my cherries by hand for small quantities, but if I get a full basket while harvesting, I'll switch to using a hand cranked cherry pitter. It does a faster job of it. But of course, there's that clean up time at the end that deters me from using it for tiny batches. 

(Above, the top bowl has the pulped coffee beans....that is, the red skin has been removed. Bottom bowl cintains the removed skins.) 

If I had a larger orchard of coffee, I'd need to go with something bigger. They make pulpers for just about any size operation, from handcranked models to larger machine pulpers that combine multiple processing steps. I don't foresee me ever getting past the handcranked cherry pitter. 

Once I've got the beans freed, I need to wash them well in water. I simply place them in a bowl or other container, add water, and use my hands to rub the beans well. This releases bits of cherry skin and flesh, which I flush away with repeated rinsings. Inferior beans often float, so they're easy to remove. Once cleaned, I'll look over the beans for signs of coffee borer damage. Anyone that shows dark areas are sorted out. 

(Above, these beans contain coffee borers. The dark spots indicate the damaged areas.) 

Side note: the discarded cherry skins get added to the cook pot of the chicken slop & glob. The borer damaged beans get dumped into boiling water (to kill the beetles) then disposed of by tossing them into a garden area. With the internal beetles and eggs killed, they pose no danger. I don't feed the beans to the chickens because they are like chickens can't digest them.) 

 Next step.....remove the fleshy slime on the beans. The easiest way I've found is to soak the beans overnight in water. By morning the flesh is starting to ferment. I'll now use my hands to repeatedly and vigorously rub the beans together, scraping off the loosened flesh. With lots of water flushes and rubbing, I can feel the difference. The beans start to feel rough rather than slippery. It doesn't take long to clean them, just 3-4 minutes. By then the rinse water is clear and clean. 

Next step....dry the wet beans. I sun dry the beans over a period of a week. Leaving them spread out on a tray on the truck's dashboard works just fine. I just have to remember to park the truck at the right angle to capture the sun. Most of my neighbors simply spread them out on a screen or fine mesh in a sunny, airy location. But they have to protect them from the rain, which this year is a problem. It becomes a race to get them dry before they begin molding. Because I don't have too much coffee, the truck method works fine. 

Once dried for a week, I can then store the beans is a mason jar to await roasting. But I could also simply store them in a burlap bag in a dry, airy location. Problem is, I don't have one in my farm. It's been too wet this year. In the past I have used a clean five gallon bucket with a tight lid. That worked ok with larger quanties of beans. 

Commercial operations test the moisture content of their beans. They want them dry enough not to mold, but retain a tad of moisture in order to roast properly. Back when I use to deal with hundreds of pounds of coffee beans, I did that too. But now I'm working with only a small amount of coffee, so I just give it my best guess based upon my prior experience with processing coffee. Home brew doesn't have to be so precise. And I still can fairly well tell the moisture content by listening to the sound the beans make when dropping into a metal bowl. 

How much coffee do I get from my trees? Last year I got just under 60 lbs of ready to roast green beans, enough for home consumption and a little to give away as gifts. This year I'll get be getting more since some of the younger trees are producing more cherries. 

No comments:

Post a Comment