The art of producing and drinking coffee
From seed to cup
CHOOSING THE SEED:
Ipanema harvests coffee seeds from its own trees chosen for their high yields, natural resistance to pests and disease, uniform and defined maturation timing, and especially for their fine cupping features.
In fact, coffee seeds are the same beans as the ones used for roasting. They only differ in the way they are picked and their subsequent treatment. Seeds are harvested from April to June. Ripe beans (cherries) are picked, washed and pulped (removal of husk and pulp). They are then dried until their moisture reaches between 15 and 20%, at which time they are ready for planting. Nurseries and “mother plants” are certified by IMA (
Coffee is a perennial culture exploited up to 25 years. Planting quality seedlings is essential, and to a great degree, determines the coffee grower's success.
The nursery’s location is always of overriding concern. The site should be well drained, be easily accessible, sunny, and close to irrigation water. Next step is to prepare the small seed bags in which the seed will germinate into seedlings. Special coffee seedling plastic bags are filled with sifted subsoil dirt, matured cattle manure, and vital for perfect seedling growth complementary phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers.
Sowing is done between April and July, by placing two seeds in each bag. The best seedling in each bag is selected after 45 days. Irrigation, pest and disease control, and fertilizing operations follow. In over the next couple of months until the seedlings are ready and acclimatized for definite planting. Once the seedlings reach the stage in which they have three pairs of leaves and an established root system the ones not meeting quality standards are discarded.
SOIL PREPARATION AND PLANTING:
Preparing the ground about to receive the seedlings correctly is another key success factor. Adequate removal of previous plantings, deep soil fertilizing, correct tree spacing, sun oriented east-west row placement, and soil conservation techniques, will determine the field’s ultimate quality. The seedlings are planted November through January during the rainy season.
Seedlings are hand planted, almost always by women, with tender care. The seedling bags are split open and seedlings inserted in previously prepared furrows. The perfect row alignment determines future harvest efficiency throughout the coffee plantation’s useful life.
Fertilizing, crop dusting, weed control, pest and disease management, row cleaning, soil and leaf sampling, are yearly activities that seek to optimize the tree’s production.
During March and April the soil acidity is corrected by applying gypsum and lime that also enhance nutrient absorption. Liquid fertilizing follows, based on phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen, in addition to micro-nutrients such as zinc, boron, manganese and others. Three different applications, in October, December, and February are usually made. A well-nourished tree is more resistant against pests and diseases. Correct nutrient management ensures a measurable reduction in pest control usage.
Crop spraying supplies micronutrients for quick leaf absorption and to fight off pests and diseases. Leaf miner, leaf rust and phoma remain the biggest plant challenges in South Minas.
Pruning and de-budding, performed between September and January, shape and guide the plants´ growth toward its optimal production capacity.
The flowering is an important event for the coffee trees. It usually happens three or four times between September and November. As the result of the flowering (successful germination) a small green berry, the "chumbinho", transforms itself into a coffee bean after 6 to 8 months. The more uniform the flowering, the easier the harvesting will bean thus also the final bean quality.
The coffee cherry concentrates in it every bit of quality that can be obtained from a tree. It is therefore up to the producer to efficiently pick the beans as quickly as possible. Row clearing, consisting of cleaning the area under the coffee trees removing dry leaves, weeds, twigs and dropped berries performed between March and April anticipating the harvest.
The harvest usually starts at the end of April and lasts through August. Bean ripeness determines the harvest sequence. Trees are harvested when 80% of berries reach their maturation stage.
When coffee is hand picked, the picker lines the ground under the trees with polypropylene sheets and strips the berries off the branches onto the liner. Using large hand held sieves the coffee is then sifted, to remove leaves and twigs. At the end of the day the team supervisor, assesses the collected coffee for cleanliness and berry quality and registers amounts harvested by each laborer.
Mechanical harvesting uses vibratory fiberglass rods to shake the tree’s branches. The beans are dropped into the harvester where the coffee is ventilated, sifted, and bagged into
Once the coffee has been harvested, the milling process starts by transporting it to the service center. This step is crucial to the coffees final quality since once harvested it must be gravity separated as soon as possible”. Keeping coffee inside the “Big Bags” longer than four hours will cause the fermentation process to set in.
To assure that quality is maintained the picked beans are transported to the service center where they undergo different processes depending on the type of final product desired.
As soon as it arrives from the field, coffee is unloaded and aired-out to blow away any remaining twigs and leaves. The coffee is then processed through the wet mill where pebbles, stones, dust, and dirt grains drop out. The green and cherry beans are separated from the dry floaters through gravity separation in water.
The less dense dry beans float to the top while the heavier ones will sink in the water. It is here that the first type of preparation; "Boia" or Floaters are sent straight to the drying patios where they remain for three days. After the third day the will be batched in mechanical dryers for over 36 hours until the drying process is complete.
Green beans (imature beans) and cherries are then sent to the pulping machines. There the cherries are separated from green beans by mechanical pressure and centrifugation.
The husks are carried to composting areas and the compost is subsequently used for soil improvement and fertilizer. Green beans are taken to the drying patios remaining there for at least 5 days after which they are batch-dried mechanically. This second kind of processing method is only used for domestic consumption blends.
After they have been pulped, only the parchment remains on the bean. At this point, two processing methods may be followed. In the first one the beans may be sent directly to the drying patio where they will remain for 4 days and then be mechanically dried. This kind of processing is called semi-washed.
The second option is to remove the parchment in aerobic fermentation tanks. The coffee is rinsed and sent to the drying terrace after remaining in the tanks for up to 24 hours. The beans are patio dried for three days and then sent to the mechanical dryers.
This kind of processing yields washed coffee.
The entire process is controlled by a quality cupper/classifier who directs selects the different coffee types to according to their physical and cupping characteristics to assure the quality of each lot.
Once the moisture content is lowered to 12%, beans are stored in wooden silos where they rest for about two months before being prepared for sale.
RE-MILLING AND BAGGING:
After being allowed to rest in silos the coffee is milled and screen separated. Electronic separators then remove defective and whitish beans. After this final segregation process, the coffee is bagged and shipped to its final destination, be it a large roasting house or a small corner coffee shop anywhere in the world.
In order to be consumed, coffee must be roasted regardless of its client or country destination. To roast them, beans are exposed to a quick temperature rise thereby dropping their internal moisture to 3%. Since the amount of roasting can highlight and/or hide many bean qualities, this phase determines the drink’s final characteristics.
For different markets and different clients, a different roast follows. They become each company's trademark. After it is roasted, coffee has to go through a resting period to allow it to “de-gas”. Coffee is finally ground or packed, depending on the kind of use it is intended for: espresso, filter, percolator, French press and others.