Although there are many coffee species, most coffee is made from the seed or bean of either Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) or Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee).
Arabica trees produce berries 8 to 15 mm in diameter, and Robusta produces berries approximately 10mm in diameter.
Pick the berries when they ripen to a bright deep red colour.
The coffee or ‘green bean’ lies within the fruit and is surrounded by the parchment membrane, pulp or mucilage and outer skin.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the taste of the coffee berry fruit.
While only thin in comparison to the size of the berry itself, the fruit coating has a lovely fruity taste, similar to Miracle fruit.
Firstly, you need to remove the skin and pulp from the berry including any green (unripe) pulp and any black, dried or drying pulp (overripe).
You must do this within a day of picking the berries.
An effective way of doing this is to put your berries into a bucket with water and keep squashing the berries with your hands,
effectively tearing the skin and pulp away. Rinse and strain the mixture frequently. Good berries do not float.
Next, the berries need to ferment.
This breaks down the mucilage, which is the slimy film that you can feel around the actual seeds.
Let them sit for usually two days.
Take out a handful of seeds and wash them. If they no longer feel slippery then they are done. If they still hold onto the slippery film then put them back in the bucket and let them sit for another day.
Once the fermentation is complete you can rinse them and strain them at least two or three times until the water stays clear
Next comes the drying.
We prefer to dry in the shade instead of sun drying as it is slower and easier to control but most coffee sun dried as it is of commercial benefit to get them dry quickly. Spread them out as thinly as possible. You can use old picture frames with mesh tacked to it or even newspaper as long as you remember to stir the beans around at least three or four times a day.
Drying can take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the climate. As long as they are stirred often they will dry evenly.
Test their dryness by touching the ‘parchment’ or the skin that still covers the seed. If it tears off easily and the seed ‘breaks’ when you bite it then they are dry.
If the seed is still soft enough not to snap, they need more time.
It is important to make sure that the beans are thoroughly dry as your next step is to store them away for two or more weeks. If any moisture remains in the beans, the chance of mould or mildew is enough to spoil the crop.
Store the beans in cans, bottles or, if you want the authentic look, hessian.
Your next step is the ‘hulling’ or removal of the parchment.
This is where technology comes in handy as the plastic blades in the food processor are fantastic for roughing off the parchment conveniently.
Only 30 to 40 seconds is necessary and then it’s time to use the hair dryer to blow away the debris.
There is still yet another skin on the seed, called the ‘silver skin’ but there is no need to remove this.
Soon you will know without a doubt that you have grown great coffee.
Beans usually roast in around 12 minutes if spread thinly and stirred often. As they cook they shrink a little as the moisture is extracted. Then the process reverses as they cook and they begin to swell, the sugars caramelize, and the colour begins to change. The colour of the roast is up to you, but the darker the beans become, the stronger the flavour, and more caffeine is
cooked out of them. The lighter the roast, the stronger the caffeine hit.
When you decide they are ready take them out and cool them as quickly as possible as they will continue to cook inside the shell.
You do not need to use the oven as is quite possible to do them in the frying pan or even in a popcorn maker.