How to Harvest Coffee Beans

Coffee starts to fruit at the age of 2.5-3 years old for robusta and 3-4 years old for Arabica. However, the first batch of harvest for coffee is usually small. The productivity will up to the maximum after age 5 and above.

Arabica and robusta coffee bear fruits seasonally. Robusta needs 8-11 months to mature and Arabica needs 6-8 months. Liberica bears fruit all year round.

Coffee fruits don’t ripen simultaneously, making the harvesting process quite long. In Indonesia, harvest season for coffee usually starts in May/June and ends in August/September. Big harvest happens for 4-5 months with picking frequency every 10-14 days.

how to harvest coffe beans
how to harvest coffe beans. Photo by: Wahid Priyono (Tipspetani.com)

Ready for Harvest

The wholly ripened, mature coffee fruits are totally red in color. However, for some reason, some farmers harvest those that are yellow or even green as well. Every phase produce different characteristics:

  • Green and yellowish green: This color means the coffee is still young. The bean is whitish pale and wrinkly. The aroma and body of this are still very weak. Not recommended.
  • Reddish yellow: This color indicates coffee is near maturity. The aroma and body have started to strengthen. The bean is grayish.
  • Red: Your coffee is ripe. The aroma, flavor, and body have formed strongly. This is the best condition for harvest.
  • Dark red: Your coffee is over-ripe. The bean would be blackish brown in color. The aroma and posture have started to decline. Sometimes it exudes earthy flavor.

Other than the skin color, you can know how ripe your coffee fruit is by the amount of sugar compound in the meat of the fruit. Ripe coffee fruit has high sugar compound in it with soft, slimy, sweet meat.

The picking

For Arabica coffee, ripe fruits are very easy to fall off. When they’ve fallen off and touched the ground, they will absorb aromas from the ground that will then lower their quality. So make sure to pick them before this happens.

Coffee fruits are not harvested simultaneously. Picking process happens gradually like so:

  • Selective picking: Pick only fruits that are already red in color indicating they’re already wholly ripe.
  • Half-selective picking: Choose a bunch with some ripe fruits to pick, then pick the whole bunch whether or not the fruits are all ripe.
  • Simultaneous picking: Pick everything, including the green ones, from every bunch. Usually done at the end of harvest season.
  • ‘Lelesan’: Pick up the fallen fruits that are over-ripe.

To keep your coffee tree’s productivity, make sure to pick your fruits correctly. Pick your fruit vertically as to not damage the branch and more fruits can grow from that branch.

Sorting

Sort your coffee fruits based on their quality. Get rid of the dirt, the damaged, or the diseased ones. Then, differentiate your red ones with the yellow and green ones. Sorted coffee fruits must be processed quickly after to avoid quality decline due to some chemical reactions.

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