AT THE PLANTATION
A coffee bean is a seed. It takes up to 4 years for a coffee tree to bear fruit. This fruit is known as a coffee cherry. In most coffee producing countries, coffee crops are picked by hand. In some instances, they are picked by machine. This is the case in many Brazilian plantations. As you might imagine, the manual process is more labor intensive.
There is one harvest per year in most coffee-growing countries, except in Columbia, where there are two flowering seasons, and thus two crops. Coffee must be dried promptly after the harvest in order to prevent spoilage. This is accomplished using one of two methods: Dry or wet.
The dry method is the oldest and it is used to this day in countries with limited water resources. It consists in spreading the coffee unto large surfaces to allow it to dry in the sun. When the wet method is used, the pulp is washed off the coffee beans and only the parchment skin remains. They are then fermented for up to 48 hours prior to being sun dried. The wet method also involves a separation by size. Beans used for export are typically processed using the wet method. They are then stored in jute bags when ready for export. The coffee beans are light brown or even green at this point. They darken during the next step, the roasting process.
WHEN THE GREEN COFFEE BEANS ARRIVE IN VERMONT FOR ROASTING
At Brown & Jenkins, we take a caring and artful approach to our roasting. Our green coffee is roasted fresh daily to meet the exact needs of each order. We use a gas-fired rotary drum roaster and we roast in small batches of anywhere from 10 to 40 pounds at a time.
Each variety of coffee roasts differently. Every coffee requires a different roasting treatment to achieve the ultimate development of its own unique characteristics. Every roast is monitored constantly in order to maintain the integrity of each and every green bean as it slowly becomes the wonderful coffee we know and love.
The green beans are poured in the top of the roaster drum. This drum is heated by two radiant gas burners. As the beans tumble in the hot roaster, they begin to change color. They slowly change from light green, to pale yellow, to rich ocher. At the same time, the beans are losing moisture, at first from the surface and later from deep within. As the internal moisture forces its way out, the bean expands and produces a snapping or crackling noise. It actually pops, a bit like popcorn.
As the internal temperature of the bean increases, the fats inside the bean become hotter and develop into coffee oils; the flavorful essence we are looking for. By this time, the beans have reached their final, full, rich dark-brown color.
During the final stages of the roasting process, we take samples of the beans form the revolving drum using a small scoop called a tier. We examine the beans carefully to determine the exact moment of roasting perfection for each specific variety.
The coffee beans lose a considerable amount moisture while roasting. This means that they lose a considerable amount of weight. For example, we may roast 100 pounds of green coffee and end up with only about 80 pounds once roasted.
Many coffee roasters save money by stopping the roasting process before reaching the peak of flavor. Coffees that are under-roasted lack flavor. They are light to medium brown in color and typically taste earthy, sour or harsh. An under-roasted bean is difficult to break apart with your fingers, and if you bite one it doesn't pulverize nicely in the teeth. The master roaster puts quality above all.
COOLING & PACKAGING
Once the roast has reached its maximum flavor, it is emptied into the cooling chamber where it is mechanically stirred while cool air is forced through the beans. This stops the roasting process by cooling the beans quickly. Some facilities use a cold-water spray to cool the beans. This is not acceptable. It deteriorates the flavor and adds false water weight to the beans.
When cool, Brown & Jenkins gourmet coffees are packaged and shipped the same day, from the Green Mountains of Vermont to your door!