How do you know when your coffee beans are ready to harvest? Harvesting coffee isn’t that hard on a small scale but it is actually a problem some commercial farmers are having to over come. Harvesting the best beans isn’t a problem for us that are growing our own coffee.
You’ve been patiently waiting to pick your fresh fruit. Years of hard work, sweat, water and fertilizing(poop) have gone into this moment!
It takes patience to grow a coffee tree.
Usually a plant is about 3-4 years old when it begins to produce anything that you can harvest. Your plant will reach its peak of production usually around the age of 7. At that point you could be harvesting coffee up to twice a year.
Magical coffee beans start as small white flowers that bloom in clusters all along the plant’s stem. As long as your caffeine producing tree is happy and healthy you should have a plentiful amount of fragrant flowers covering your plant. Loads of people love the smell of coffee in bloom. It has a sweet aroma, kind of like jasmine.
Eventually, in about 1 month, the flower clusters turn brown and fall off.
Don’t panic, it’s normal, tiny green fruit will reside where the flowers once were.Coffee will pollinate on its own, so no need to worry about having bees or the wind to pollinate!
These fruits, once ripe, are know in the coffee world as the coffee cherry. They start out as the color green and slowly turn to a deep red. eventually turning brown or black if not picked in time.
Each cherry contains two beans surrounded by a membrane layer called the parchment layer and a layer of sweet pulp. Both of these layers are later removed in the processing phase. More on processing later.
Not only does coffee take a long time to begin producing fruit but when the fruits are on the tree they also like to take their time to ripen up. According to thanksgiving coffee it normally it takes about 5 months (give or take a month) from when you first notice green coffee cherries on your plant until they are ready to be harvested.
I told you this plant took patience!
When Your coffee cherries start to turn a deep red this is a signal that its time for you to start harvesting coffee!
It’s important to know that all of the fruits may not change at the same time and this it pretty typical
.This is actually an obstacle that larger coffee farms struggle to overcome. Since some coffee farms may be hundreds of acres in size,they have no choice but to harvest by machine to keep costs low.
Generally, when coffee is harvested commercially on larger plantations,the plant is strip picked.
This means all of the beans are picked at once, even if they are green or overripe. this saves loads of time and money but as a result you are losing coffee quality!
It’s best practice to pick the coffee cherries that are ripe (deep red) and leave the green coffee beans on the plant, giving them time to ripen.
Some smaller farms actually do this. They will pay workers to pick their coffee trees for month longer periods when the coffee is at its peak. When I say small farms I’m still talking about farms that are at least 10 acres in size.
To get great end result you must hand select only the ripest beans off of your plant. Believe me, it’s worth it, you will have a superior cup of coffee in the end by only picking the best fruits.
Having a hand harvested, purposefully picked batch of fresh beans will give you an unparalleled taste and sense of fulfillment.
Another thing that could diminish the flavor of your final cup of coffee is having fruits that are overripe in your mix.
You will know when your coffee beans are past prime picking time when they are brown/black.
Be careful not to get these guys in your harvest on accident. These over ripened beans fall off very easily and produce a bitter to sour taste to your final cup.
Depending on the brand and how the bean was harvested, you are probably getting some of these guys in your store bought coffee as well!
Harvesting coffee is actually very easy, if they are ripe (deep red) all you have to do is give them a little twist and a pull. Voila, you have a fresh, hand picked coffee cherry, ready to be processed and turned into the vital life energy that we call coffee or processed for re planting!
After harvesting all of the coffee cherries that your plant has worked so hard to produce, It’s best if you give your plant a little help.
After all it did just give you so much potential energy.
I prefer to use this fertilizer. It is well balanced to help with the replacement of biomass we just took away from our plant.
At one point when those beans were green the plant was using them to actually capture sunlight and turn that light into energy for itself.
If you love coffee and literally live off of its fuel, like most of us in America.
I highly suggest growing and harvesting your own coffee. I promise you that you will get the best cup of coffee you have ever had in your life if you hand pick your very own coffee cherries when they are perfectly ripe! Not to mention the sense of pride you will feel when you tell all your friends that you are supplying yourself with your own caffeine!
If you have a batch of coffee cherries already picked, find out How to process your beans for roasting or planting!