6 Growing your own coffee
  6.1 Growing coffee trees
  6.2 Processing coffee cherries

Note: many thanks to Bob and Cea Smith of Smithfarms for their insights on growing and harvesting coffee.

6.1 Growing coffee trees
You have three choices for sprouting coffee: (1) a coffee cherry, which usually contains two seeds (one seed in peaberries), (2) an unprocessed seed that still has the pergamino (parchment) attached, or (3) a processed green seed (bean).

Of the three, green beans processed for roasting are far less likely to germinate. If this all you can buy, try to make sure that you have a new shipment of a recent crop. Fresh seeds may germinate in about two and a half months, while older seeds may take six months, if they germinate at all.

Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours and then sow the seeds, flat side down, (planting the seeds right into their first pot, e.g., a four-inch azalea pot, usually works well) about 1/2" deep in a light, well-aerated potting soil. The soil should be kept moist, but not wet and kept in a well-lighted location.

The tree should be kept indoors in plenty of light or placed outside in milder (no lower than 50 degrees, Fahrenheit) climates, watered twice a week and fertilized twice a year during the growing season. Replant in larger pots as needed. Coffee trees can produce cherries in as little as two to three years, but homegrown trees rarely do so--if at all--unless conditions are just right.

Some nurseries also carry seedling and small plants, and some seed suppliers carry green seeds that have higher germination rates.

6.2 Processing coffee cherries
Cherries are ripe when they have reached a bright red color. At this point, you may either dry- or wet process them.

Wet processing: Remove the seeds either by popping them from the berries by squeezing the fruit one by one, or place several handfuls of the fruit in a bucket and crush with the end of a piece of wood (do not use pressure-treated wood or plywood). Wash the seeds; if using the bucket method, fill the bucket with water, stir, and quickly skim off the floating pulp and any floating seeds; repeat several times. Pick out any remaining pulp. If you squeezed the individual fruit, immerse them in water and remove floating seeds.

Place the beans in clean water in a nonmetallic container. Allow to ferment until the seeds feel clean and are no longer slippery. Wash in agitated water and drain, changing the water a few times until clear. Strain out the beans.

The beans may be dried by spreading them out in the sun; if the beans get too hot, they may crack.Good airflow is important, and a drying rack with a mesh bottom will be very helpful. Beware of moisture condensing on the beans at night; take them inside if dew will be an issue. A dehydrator can also be used, if the temperature can be kept between 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. With either method, stir the beans several times a day. The drying process can take anywhere from a little under a week to about a month. When done, the beans should be hard, almost brittle; if still soft, they aren't ready. To allow the remaining moisture to distribute more evenly, store the beans in a non-airtight container.

Remove the parchment by placing the beans in a paper bag or within two layers of thin towels, then using a rolling pin on them. A food processor with a very dull or plastic blade may also work, but there is the chance that either the beans or the blade may be damaged.

Dry processing: care must be taken at the beginning to cull out obviously bad fruit—green (under-ripe) and black (overripe) cherries must be removed. The cherries are then placed in a single layer in a sunny area for two to three weeks. The fruit must be turned regularly to ensure even drying and to avoid rot. The dried pulp is then removed by mechanical agitation, then the parchment as above.

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