Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How we processed our home grown coffee

'It looks like coffee, it smells like coffee' this was the reaction as we examined the freshly roasted beans I held in my hands. 'But is it going to taste like coffee - good coffee or would all the work we had put into processing these beans over the past week end up literally leaving a bitter taste in my mouth? The beans went into the grinder and the grounds were ready to go into the plunger or French Press as some prefer to call it. The plunger was eventually pushed down and the first cup of coffee - our very own coffee was poured. As I had done much of the laborious task of removing the husk I deemed that I should be the first to taste the coffee and I am happy to report that it actually tasted pretty good if I do say so myself. There was no burnt or bitter taste. It had quite a smooth and creamy texture and for the last few days I have had the satisfaction of enjoying a cup of coffee each morning made from our own beans from trees that we had planted and cultivated.

It was a labour of love! I'm not sure if I want to go through the process each time we have a decent crop of beans but I think the reward of drinking our own coffee will see me try it again in the future.

Here's how we did it - step by step.

1.Harvesting the berries
The picture above was taken a few years ago. This spring, the seven Arabica trees, five of which are planted as a hedge along our driveway have much denser foliage and were covered in beans. The children were given instructions to pick every single ripe berry and they brought up over four and a half kilos of red berries.

2. Removing the skin/ pulp
We did this by hand, squeezing open the berry to reveal a pair of creamy coloured beans which are covered in a mucus like material. They feel quite slimy and slippery in your hand. This process needs to be done as soon as possible after harvesting. The beans went into a bucket and water was poured over the top. We removed any remaining skins/pulp and the beans that came to the surface - the 'floaters'. These are not good beans.

3. Soaking/Fermentation
The beans now need to ferment and this is achieved by soaking in water. We placed ours in a plastic bucket (don't use a metal bucket) and left them to soak for about 3 - 4 days. You can test for fermentation by taking out some of the beans and rinsing them. They should no longer feel slimy. The beans I tested felt dry and had a much grittier texture. I rinsed the beans thoroughly using a colander and repeated this several times until the water ran clear.

The article I read suggested that a dehydrator could be used to dry the beans provided it could be set at a constant 40c for the whole drying period. My dehydrator didn't have a variable temperature setting but I decided to chance drying out  most of the beans in it and I lined the trays with baking paper and spread out the beans as evenly as possible. As it was a very hot and sunny day I decided to also sun dry some of the beans . I spread them out on a white sheet on our outdoor table.  Last summer I had reached this stage with a small batch of beans but it was a very humid summer and with so much moisture in the air the beans went mouldy in a short space of time. I didn't want that to happen this time and I ensured that I brought the  beans inside at night and waited for any morning dew to disappear before placing them outside the next day. I also stirred the beans several times a day using my hand to spread them around and bring any underlying beans to the surface.

The verdict - both methods worked but the dehydrator sped up the process. I used the dehydrator over 2 days turning it off at night and by the end of the second day I had noticed that most of the beans were now a blue/grey colour. It's very important to ensure that the beans are dried adequately - more than 12% moisture left in the bean will cause them to go stale/mouldy during storage. The article I was referring to throughout, stated to test for dryness by biting into a bean. It should be hard. If still soft and chewy the beans were not ready. Ours were definitely hard so they went into a container for a week before moving onto the next and most time consuming process of husking.

5. Husking
This is the removal of the papery layer surrounding the green bean. It is not difficult but it takes a long time if you do it by hand. It simply involves scraping away the papery skin and at first it was quite enjoyable and rather addicting but soon the novelty of husking had worn off for my little helpers and I was left to do it by myself. It took hours and hours! I would suggest rather than standing at the kitchen bench, to do it in the evening when you can sit down and watch a good movie. It might need to be an epic though or even a trilogy such as Lord of the Rings. The thought of drinking freshly roasted homegrown coffee kept me motivated and eventually the final green bean was popped into the canister.

The step I was most nervous about. The article I was reading had suggested roasting beans in the oven but a friend who grows and processes his own coffee told us he uses a popcorn maker. We bought a cheap $20 popcorn maker about a year ago with the intention of trying this method for our coffee. I had also watched videos on You Tube of a dude in Hawaii using a popcorn maker to roast beans, so with some intrepidation we put the beans into the machine, turned it on and waited for the crack we had been told to listen out for. The beans changed colour turning gold before darkening to a rich dark brown and we could clearly hear the crack. I was scared of scorching the beans and ruining the coffee and turned the machine off as soon as I thought they were ready and emptied them into a bowl. The aroma in the kitchen was wonderful and that is when we proclaimed 'It looks like coffee, it smells like coffee ...... and yes, it tasted like coffee. Good coffee and I am rather particular about my coffee. I like dark roasted coffee with nutty, chocolate tones. Ours is probably a more of a medium roast but it tastes oh so smooth and not a trace of bitterness.

We are very happy with the result. Our seven trees are not going to keep us in coffee all year round but for the next few weeks we will have the satisfaction of drinking our own coffee. I think I will go through the process again but if we were to have a much bigger harvest, say more than 5 kilos of berries, I think we would consider investing in a dehusking machine. I haven't checked what they cost but I'm guessing it's not cheap so looks like it will be husk removal by hand during movie marathons for the time being!

I hope this has been helpful to anyone considering processing coffee beans from their own bushes. Success is possible. It just takes an investment of your time.

Here's a link to the article that was the most useful for me as it takes you through the whole process. It's from the Queensland government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and although here are no photographs, it is very informative and written for people wanting to try processing on a small scale, their own coffee at home.

If you live in a tropical/subtropical climate and can grow coffee, have you ever tried processing your own beans before? How did your coffee turn out? Would you do it again or did you decide it was too much work for too little coffee?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Camping with Kangaroos

Spring has just been the busiest time for me and my family. I have had little time to update my blog as I have been busy doing other stuff... spring cleaning, planting gardens, harvesting coffee beans and attempting to process them at home, making cake stands, selling cake stands, buying china, attending a dinner, a bush dance and camping with kangaroos!

Let's start with the camping trip. We returned to a campsite which we stayed at a few years ago. It is in a National Park and close to the river. The only facility is a long drop toilet but firewood is provided. We set up our tents, our gazebo and spent several days off- grid. There was no mobile coverage so no texting, no phone calls, no blogging, no facebook. The children went swimming in the rock pools during the day and in the evening when the sun went down and it became rather chilly, we sat around a campfire and toasted marshmallows. Each evening the kangaroos would join us. It was as if they were drawn to our family! A mother brought over her joey and they sat and stared at us. As much as I don't relish all the preparations for camping and attempting to roll up sleeping bags and fit them back into their tiny bags causes me no end of frustration, I have to say I rather enjoyed this trip  - no rain, no mosquitoes either and I had time to read a wonderful book called 'Almost Amish' by Nancy Sleeth which is the story of one woman's quest for a simpler, more sustainable life. Very convicting and the chapter on technology made me feel less and less guilty about not updating this blog!

We did leave the campsite to go and do other activities. We enjoyed our second trip to Australia's best theme park (in the opinion of my younger children) and it is nowhere near the Gold Coast. All the rides are made from metal pipe! It is a 'fair dinkum' adventure playground that still allows adventure unlike most of the 'ultra safe, low to the ground' playgrounds you come across today. Even has an animal park with 'fair dinkum' Australian animals. Forgot the camera on that day so these pictures were taken on our first trip there. This slide is actually quite high but there is a much bigger waterslide and it was open for the first time this year. Even I ventured up the steps and found out at the bottom how cold the water was!

It even has a roller coaster!

This guy was still there to greet us!

As was the friendly dingo!

The next day we introduced our youngest to the more sedate thrill of fossicking for sapphires. We didn't go out into the bush this time. Just went to a local caravan park that has onsite fossicking. He was soon absorbed in this activity which is so much fun for children - a real treasure hunt. They did find some small sapphires but nothing which was worth having cut.

Which was a shame because on Sunday I discovered that the sapphire my son found on our first ever fossicking trip had fallen out of my ring. On Saturday night we had attended a 'fair dinkum' Aussie bushdance. (Always wanted an excuse to use that description 'fair dinkum' in a blog post and now I have 3 times!) It was the best night with an amazing bluegrass band playing and we had so much fun. I'm just guessing that all the exuberant bush dancing, hand clapping and knee slapping caused my gem to become dislodged. This means one thing -we will have to go fossicking for sapphires again soon! And pray one of my children finds one!

I did find some other treasures on our camping trip. We stopped at some little antique shops that were crammed with lots of lovely china at very reasonable prices. I bought some plates to make into cake stands, silver teaspoons and other tea time accessories for the collection we are putting together for a vintage china/high tea hire service.

This little business is keeping me so busy. I have been attending markets and events around my local region. This is my stall at a conference for women that was held at a resort. I did very well on that day and had so many conversations about china and the joys of taking time for tea. So many people are thrilled to see that high tea is back in fashion and my stall brings back so many memories for people! My daughter loves working alongside me. We wear our vintage dresses to really look the part and dressing up the stall is so much fun. We are meeting people from lots of different places - from all over Australia and other countries during the tourist season. Have met a girl who does catering for high teas. We have done one event together and plan to do more - she brings the food, I bring the china. She also has a daughter who loves vintage style and she is the friend that my daughter has longed to meet! They both love the same things. I am so happy for her.

This is the recent addition to my china collection. It is one of nine antique and vintage china tea sets I purchased recently with some of the money the business has earned. We had the pleasure of visiting a home in the country to view and purchase the china. The couple we bought it from were so lovely and so hospitable. We were given a tour of their home. I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Wrought iron balconies, antique furniture, four poster beds, dressers and hutches full of beautiful china. I had to rearrange a few cupboards at home to house the china we purchased. And now I have to catalogue it all and turn the plates into cake stands.

Thought you would like to see one more picture of my collection of teacups and bone china trios. I now have close to 100 teacups and hope to double that in order to cater for weddings and larger events. It also means anytime we have a tea party at home every person gets to choose a pretty cup. No more chunky mugs and definitely no paper cups at this house!

So pleased to have finally updated my blog but I'm still not sure when the next post will be up. I'm learning that you should never promise blog posts. If we have any success this year in drying and roasting our coffee beans I might share about that but I have one more weekend before the last term of the school year begins. We have someone coming to stay next month and my daughter is traveling to New Zealand arriving home a couple of days before her eighteenth birthday for which she has planned a celebration - at home of course!

Looks like I'm going to be busier than ever. Please continue to pray for rain - there has been no rain for months apart from an occasional sprinkling. There is smoke in the air from a bushfire caused by lightening strikes further up our valley. The worst bushfire season in 40 years is predicted for this summer.

I pray your spring or fall season is as productive and satisfying as mine. Never feel guilty about not updating your blog. Spending time with the people that matter most in your life is far more important!

Until next time


Blog Widget by LinkWithin