From its origins over two thousand years ago, Coffee Bean processing has grown into a worldwide market whose output as a commodity has a dollar value second only to oil. There are numerous different varieties of coffee bean, but as far as the coffee bean plant is concerned, there are only two classes. These are the Arabica, first cultivated on the Arabian Peninsula, and the Robusta which contains about twice the caffeine.
By contrast to wine, coffee beans or coffee cherrys are not valued for their fruit, but only for the bean inside. It is that bean that is aged, roasted, ground and brewed to make the four hundred million cups of coffee consumed around the world per day.
The two varieties of coffee bean are green and red. The red bean has a higher aromatic oil and lower acid content than the green and is used to produce the finer coffees. In view of the difference between the two types of bean the most important stage in the life cycle of coffee beans is the picking.
Most coffee beans are hand picked by labourers whose output is only a few baskets per day. However, being able to separate the red and green beans is a valued skill and has a large effect on the final product.
After picking, the fruit is removed by soaking, scouring and mechanical rubbing. Then the coffee beans are washed to remove any remaining flesh. This ‘fermentation’ stage produces beans which are then dried in the sun over large concrete or rock slabs, until they have about 12% water content.
From there the coffee beans are sorted by color and size, sometimes by hand increasingly often by machine. Some of the beans are discarded, others polished to remove the skin. For select types, the beans are then aged anywhere from three to eight years, while others go to be roasted within a year.
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