I have five coffee makers to brew coffee in five different ways. There’s the drip maker, espresso machine, the ubiquitous Keurig, French press and this odd contraption that allows me to make a 24-hour cold brew. Do I need them all? Umm, nope. But when has need mattered to a coffee aficionado?
You’d think with all the coffee gadgetry I’d know every last detail about how coffee is grown and processed before its brewed and hits the cup. Not so much true until last week when I went to visit a friend in Hawaii. It’s merely a coincidence that my first trip to Kona comes right as he bought a coffee farm. Really.
The first step to learning about coffee, pre-cup, is to locate a coffee farm. Alright, that was easy. Now there’s the matter of knowing when to pick the coffee fruit, or what I learned are called cherries. They should be solid red. Also, you should check that there isn’t a tiny black hole at the bottom, this is evidence a coffee beetle has made a home there. Now that you have the fruit you need to extract the beans. You can squeeze the bottom half of the cherry a little and the beans will pop right out of the top. Hand extraction is nice if you’re going to collect a few ounces of beans, otherwise you’ll need a sheller; a handy contraption that extracts the beans and discard the casings automatically.
The soaking. When the beans are extracted they are covered in pulp. Out of curiosity I tasted the pulp, it was sweet and pasty. Soaking the beans overnight will help to remove the pulp. Also, any beetle-damaged beans will float to the surface for easy removal.
After the soaking, the beans are dried in the sun for about a day. I thought we could start roasting after the beans were dry but there was an outer coating, a husk, that needed to be removed first. These come off easily and you can do handfuls at a time. Congrats, now you have ‘green’ or unroasted coffee!
Now comes the roasting. First go out and purchase a commercial coffee roaster and lease some space to house it, since its likely to be massive like the old school one I used. Late model commercial roasters are all programmed but this one was not. As an aside you can just roast green coffee at home on your cooker in a frying pan. Heat it up to high then dry fry the beans until they turn brown. Brown, not black; if they turn black or get oily, they are burnt – those you can sell to Starbucks. Roasting is trickier than it seems; I watched the beans closely and on my first round they went from brown to a black, oily mess in about 1 second. I also smoked out the restaurant where I was roasting them – good thing everything in Hawaii is open air.
That’s all, you’re ready to grind and brew! Now that I know more about how coffee is grown and processed, I feel it’s logical to drink more in appreciation.