In The Beginning
To begin with, you need to decide how you want to start your coffee tree. If you want to start at the very beginning, and you don’t mind waiting for the plant to mature and begin producing beans, you’ll want to buy some seeds. Preferably, they’ll be from a mature plant and pretty fresh. The older the seeds, the longer it will take for the seeds to sprout.
If you don’t want to wait four years for the coffee plant to mature, produce fragrant blossoms and then fruit, you can buy a tree already growing from a reputable company. They start a tree using a piece cut from an already mature tree. This can take two or three years off the maturing process. I think for research purposes, I’m going to do both.
When you get the seeds, should you decide to start from scratch, you’ll need to soak them in water for 24 hours. After that, you should cover them in wet sand or vermiculite. Once they are germinated, a little sprout sticking out of each one, you can plant them in a light, porous soil. It wouldn’t hurt to put a little compost in the hole around the seed. Be sure to put the seed flat side down, and do not pack the soil tightly on top of the seed.
It helps to put a light mulch on top of the soil until the sprouts poke out of the ground-then you should remove the mulch. The soil itself needs to be a low pH, high in Nitrogen.
Depending on where you live, you can grow the tree indoors or outdoors. The temperatures should not drop below 50 degrees and humidity helps as well. Given that, you may want to keep them in pretty good size pots so you can move them indoors during the winter. They also don’t need direct sunlight, so you put them inside a bright room, just not in the sunlight. Remember, you are trying to mimic tropical, high altitude conditions. Of course, this is just the beginning of growing and roasting coffee beans at home.
A New Member Of The Family
All of this seed planting and germinating is done if you buy the tree that’s already been started, but there is still a long way to go. As I said, you are trying to replicate the same conditions as the high altitudes of Colombia and Ethiopia. I read one place you should cut back on the water leading into winter, and when spring comes water it a lot to shock it into blooming. Even if this works, it will probably still take 3 years to mature and bloom.
When it does bloom, it will produce star-shaped, white flowers that smell much like Jasmine. This is why it’s a good plant for the inside of the house, even if you’re not a coffee lover. I’m told they’re quite aromatic, but as I said, be prepared, because it is your new baby.
Now it’s cherry pickin’ time. Ripe coffee bean cherries, as they are called, turn a bright red. If you were in a large scale coffee producing situation, you might use machinery to strip all the coffee cherries off each branch, regardless of color. It’s not unusual, though, to find red and green cherries on the same branch right next to each other. So, considering we are small time, we’ll just pick the red cherries. Big companies may harvest beans twice a year, using local labor to pick only the ripe cherries, and paying them by the pound for what they picked each day.
Once you harvest all the red cherries from your plants, the real work begins. They have to be pulped-the red fruit covering has to be stripped off. In most small time operations such as ours, the beans are floated in a big pail or pot of water. The bad beans will float, and we’ll discard them. The rest we’ll have to painstakingly remove the bean from the fruit hull by hand. Our coffee will be a labor of love, you know, like a child.
There is still a thin layer of mucilage left on the bean, which can be removed after we dry the beans, which we’ll do by spreading them out on a screen in the daytime, but bringing them in at night to avoid them collecting additional moisture. You can’t let them get rained on either. We are trying to get the moisture down to about 10%.
Do You Smell That Smell? Roasting Time!
Roasting beans at home isn’t that daunting a task. People have roasted beans in skillets over open fires or on cookie sheets in the oven. You need to pay attention to what you’re doing, but other than that, it’s just a matter of timing. Some folks use a hot air popcorn poppers to roast small amounts. If you just want to try roasting to see if it really interests you, that might be the way to do your first batch.
If then you’re hooked, you may want to invest in a more tried and true method, like an air roaster or a drum roaster, which is most common with commercial roasters, as they can do much larger batches. An air roaster is limited to smaller batches, meaning you’ll have to roast more often, depending on your coffee consumption.
As previously stated, air roasters are generally for smaller batches of beans, but some have features like a filter for catching the chaff, and/or a smoke control feature.This one I found at Amazon. That’s it below right. Below left is a drum roaster. Much more expensive, but can do as much as a pound of beans at a time, and has all the bells and whistles.
When It’s All Said And Done
The beans you start with are green, and as you roast them, they’ll turn somewhat yellowish and then light brown. They tend to start with a kind of grassy smell progressing to that toasty aroma. Then comes the first crack. The crease in the bean opens up to release the moisture inside.
There are three primary roasting levels: City, Full City and Vienna or French Roast. As most of us know, French Roast is very dark.
Stage 1 is City-City+: This is right after the first crack. They can be a little sour at their lightest color, but can also have a floral, nutty taste.
Stage 2 is Full City-Full City+:This is what most commercial brands are roasted to, some roasted a little longer, allowing the consumer to taste some chocolate or roasted flavor.
Stage 3 is Vienna or French Roast: This very dark, not usually removed from the oven until after the second crack. You really need to be paying attention if you are going this far. A little too long and you’ve burned your beans.
How To Store Dem Beans
You should let your beans rest for 12 to 24 hours, stored in a container not tightly covered. This allows flavor to develop as the beans release carbon dioxide. After that they will remain fresh for about a week in an airtight container, as long as they are stored away from heat, light and moisture.
For larger batches, again, an airtight container is best, but stored in the freezer. This should hold the freshness for pretty close to a month. If you pull them out for any length of time, do not freeze them again.
That is about all I’ve learned about growing an roasting coffee at home. In the long run, it’s easier to just go down to your local grocery store and buy what you want. For me though, the quest is about growing and producing every thing I eat myself. Even if I try it and don’t like it, I at least will have put out the effort. If you have more information about this subject and are willing to share with us, please do so. I can use all the advice I can get. I’m ordering my coffee tree today and will be ordering some beans sometime this week and can’t wait to get started. I respond to all comments so don’t hesitate to leave one. Thanks for stopping by.