From Bean to Brew

How coffee gets into your cup

By Paige Parvin 96G

Green beans growing on coffee plant

Young coffee plants take about three years to fully begin to produce, and once mature, they need to flower three different times each season before their beans are ready for picking. Those not grown in shade require chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order to bear fruit.

A picker's basket

Coffee pickers are paid by the pounds of beans they deliver to the wet mill, and they work hard to pick mostly the bright red beans, which are the highest quality. Pickers can gather up to seventy-five pounds of coffee a day during the harvest season, which lasts about three to four months.

The mill in the surrounding countryside

At El Peten’s wet mill, freshly picked beans are sorted, soaked, de-pulped, and then fermented for roughly twenty hours before they are loaded for transport to their next stop. By the time the beans are roasted and ready for brewing in the US, they will have lost some 80 percent of their original weight and volume.

A handful of dried beans

At the dry mills scattered throughout Nicaragua, individual “lots” of coffee beans are received, weighed, inspected, and spread on the ground to dry in the sun for about a week—until they reach the optimal humidity of 13 percent. Machinery then cleans them before a monthlong period of bagged “repose.”

Coffee being tasted at a cupping

After the dry mill process is complete, coffee beans are green once again; these dried, light-green beans can be stored for months before being roasted. It is estimated that coffee beans pass through thirty pairs of human hands during eight different processes before being ground and brewed for your morning cup.

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