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.
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.
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?
Posted by Ann at eightacresofeden at 10:36 AM