Coffee Berries and Green Beans!
If someone asked you to describe coffee beans you might describe them as brown beans with wonderful aromas and filled with your beloved caffeine. But have you ever wondered about how coffee beans grow or why they need to be roasted?
Now, whether you buy your beans whole or buy them ground, they all start out the same way: as the pit of coffee berry (or sometimes called a coffee cherry)! Coffee beans are not really true beans, since they’re the pits of coffee berries which are stone fruits (much like cherries you buy at the grocery store for snacks). In some places, coffee cherries are dried and made into tea – but the most famous use is turning their pits into coffee beans. Coffee berries don’t taste like coffee, since the taste we associate with coffee is a result of roasting. Almost all coffee beans in circulation come from the Arabica and Robusta plants. Interestingly, Robusta coffee beans contain significantly more caffeine, but Arabica beans are still more commonly available.
Okay, so now that we know coffee beans are actually the pits of fruit, let’s talk about how they turn into the beautiful brown beans we know them as. Once the ripe fruit are picked, the first step is to remove the fruit from around the pit. There are two ways to do this: the wet way, where the fruit are removed from the beans and the beans are soaked in water for two days, and the dry way, where the fruit is laid out in the sun to drive for 2-3 weeks. Now, once the beans are separated from the fruit, they need to be roasted before they can be enjoyed.
Dry, unroasted coffee beans are referred to as ‘green coffee beans’. These beans can be stored for long periods without spoiling, but they shouldn’t be used for a cup of coffee because they’re generally very acidic and bitter. As coffee beans roast, the moisture inside the beans is forced out – which means the beans expand and feel lighter. They also have more developed flavours, as the sugars inside the beans transform and either off-gas as carbon dioxide or caramelize. After roasting, the beans continue to off-gas and after a couple of weeks the beans will start to lose their flavours. The off-gassing is why you see so many coffee bags with little vents on them – they’re not just there so you can smell the beans inside the bag, they’re also there so the bag doesn’t explode open over time! This is also why our coffee is roasted when you order it and sent to you as soon as it is ready – we want you to experience all of those beautiful, fresh flavors!
Now, you might also be wondering how coffee gets its distinction as light, medium, or dark roasts. A lot of that comes down to the roasting time and temperature. Now, there are ten different levels of roasting that have been identified, but we’re going to keep it simple here! Lightly roasted coffee (which has the most caffeine) are usually heavier and more solid than a darker roast, and sometimes they haven’t even gone through the ‘first crack’ stage of roasting. Generally, it requires lower temperatures and less roasting time. Light roasts are generally more acidic. Medium roasts are usually less acidic, since they roast for longer and at higher temperatures. They usually get to the first or second ‘crack’ stage of roasting. Darkly roasted beans are roasted to the ‘second crack’, and are generally oilier and have the lowest acidity. Regardless of the roast type, the outer layer of the bean (known as the chaff) needs to be removed before the coffee is used for brewing!
Now, the safest way to get freshly roasted beans is from us or a local roaster in your area! There are ways to roast your own beans at home – but this process can be dangerous if not done properly! Many roasters also offer tours of their roasting facilities, which is such a fun way to get to see roasting up close and personal! Let us know if you have ever roasted your own beans!