From Farm to Your Favorite Cup

The Harvest Cycle of Coffee

mini coffee plants in a field

 The Compass Coffee journey - from crop to cup.

Like any other crop, coffee is grown and harvested according to seasons. The growing process starts during the rainy season. Then, over the course of about nine or ten months, the coffee flowers morph into coffee cherries—enticing, red berries that are then harvested and processed into green coffee beans.

So how long does it actually take to get from the coffee farm to your cup? Though the season timing is different across the world, it looks something like this:

Coffee trees begin producing quality coffee roughly three-to-five years after they’re planted. They hit their producing prime as teenagers, and after about thirty years they have to be retired. Each growing season, coffee processing begins immediately after the coffee cherries are harvested from the plants. During processing, the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry are removed from the coffee bean. Depending on the method, processing can take from four to six weeks.

Mini pots of coffee plants in a field, used for Compass Coffee.

Types of Processing Beans

There are three different types of processing beans: natural, washed, and honey. Each processing style elicits its own distinct bean properties.

For example, natural processing (also known as dry processing) has been used by coffee growers for hundreds of years. Typically, natural processed coffees are the most fruity, as the cherry is left completely intact during processing. During natural processing, coffee farmers wash harvested berries and lay them in the sun to dry. Natural processing requires a lot of attention and a dry climate to ensure equal drying, as unevenly dried cherries could ferment and lead to unwanted flavors down the line.

Wet processing keeps the inner part of the coffee cherry intact while it ferments in controlled fermentation tanks. The resulting coffee retains a crisp and pronounced acidity. Wet processing produces some of the cleanest-tasting coffees.

Of the three processing types, honey processing is the least common. Honey processing produces sweeter coffee flavors because a lot of the original coffee cherry mucilage is kept intact. As the mucilage dries, it becomes amber-colored and sticky—this is actually where honey processing derives its name. Honey processed coffees carry a creamier body and a syrupy sweetness that is separate from the flavor of the fruit.

After processing, the coffee beans are given time to rest. Resting allows the flavors and aromas to mellow out and settle. Usually, resting lasts two to four weeks, although it might take as long as three months. Following the resting phase comes milling, which is the final step in processing. It removes any of the remaining traces of pulp that were left over on the coffee bean. Once processing is complete, the beans are packaged in burlap bags and placed in large shipping containers and sent to our talented roasters who transform the raw, green beans into the blends and seasonal coffees we all love!


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