Each and every bean in Loaded's small batch coffee has undertaken a journey from plant to cup. That journey began on the far sides of the globe. Our dedicated farmers nurture the coffee from a seedling into a tree full of cherries ripe for harvesting. Our producers then take charge of the processing, drying and milling to get the bean ready for shipping. Then it is our turn. We apply our years of experience into the roasting process to honour the quality of the beans.
Coffee making is a delicate process, in which each and every step is important.continue »
Coffee is derived from the seed of the coffee tree, which thrives in subtropical and equatorial countries across the world. Seedlings are raised in shaded nurseries until they are big enough to be replanted into individual pots filled with the optimum soil blend. Once they are established they are replanted once again into fields, often during the rainy season so that the soil remains wet for the moisture loving trees.continue »
The coffee tree needs three to four years of growth before it starts producing its fruit, or 'cherry'. The cherry is ready when it turns a deep, bright red. Loaded works with select farms in countries across the world. These farmers know exactly when their crop is at its best for harvesting. This harvesting is generally done by hand, but might also be done by machine is the terrain allows. In most coffee growing countries there is only one harvesting season, excepting Colombia where the climate results in two annual flowerings. A seasoned picker, paid for the weight of their harvest, might collect between 45 and 90 kilograms of beans a day.
There are two ways of picking the coffee cherries:
Selective picking the ripe cherries are picked individually by hand, avoiding beans that are not quite ripe. Pickers might return to the tree every eight to ten days until the tree is stripped completely. This process is obviously more time and labour intensive, so it normally reserved for the best quality crops.
Strip picking The entire crop is harvested in one go and each branch is completely stripped, either by hand or machine.continue »
The coffee cherries must be processed as soon as possible after harvesting. This processing and drying is commonly done in one of two ways;
In this traditional method, the newly harvested cherries are spread out in the sun to dry. They are covered during the night or in rainfall and frequently raked and stirred to avoid spoiling. This might continue for weeks, depending on the weather, until the moisture content of the cherries reaches 11 percent and they can be transported to storage warehouses.
In the wet method, the newly harvested coffee cherries are passed through a pulping machine. This machine uses water to wash away the pulp leaving only the parchment skin, or endocarp, attached to the bean. As the bean move through the water, the lighter beans rise to the surface while the heavier beans sink. A series of rotating drums then separates them based on size. After this they are transported to water-filled fermentation tanks where they might stay for between 12 and 48 hours depending on conditions such as climate, altitude or bean quality. In these tanks naturally occurring enzymes strip the beans of the parenchyma, slimy mucilage that covers the parchment skin. Once the beans are ready they loose their slick feel and gain a rough texture. As soon as this occurs they are thoroughly rinsed and dried to 11 percent either on drying racks or in large tumbler machines. Once dry these 'parchment' beans are ready for milling.continue »
Once they are dried, the outer skin of the beans needs to be removed and the crop sorted. This involves a few steps:
For beans processed using the wet method, machine hulling removes the endocarp parchment layer that remains on the bean. For dry method beans, hulling removes the entire dried husk of the cherries, which consists of the exocarp, mesocarp and endocarp.
Polishing is an optional step that involves the use of polishing machines to remove any skin that might remain on the beans after hulling. While polished beans are considered superior to unpolished, this step does not necessarily affect the quality of the coffee.
Before they are ready to be packed and shipped beans are carefully sorted by weight and size, and inspected for any imperfections or blemishes. Bean size is normally ranked on a scale from 10 to 20, referring to gradients of 1/64s of an inch. So for instance, a number 12 bean would pass through a hole that has a diameter of 12/64 of an inch. This size is determined by passing the beans through a series of differently sized screens. Pneumatic sorting with an air jet is also used to separate the beans based on weight.
The beans then pass through a final selection process that eliminates defective ones. While this can be done by machine, it is often done by hand or with a combination of both. Beans are removed for inadequate size, unacceptable colour, imperfect hulling, over-fermentation or insect damage. This final step ensures that only the most perfect beans are used.
Milled coffee is referred to as 'green coffee'. Green coffee is loaded into plastic lined containers or jute or sisal bags for shipping and transport.continue »
Tasting, or 'cupping', is an important step that is repeated constantly throughout the entire production. Cupping often takes place is a specially designated room in which the taster, or cupper, can carefully appraise the beans. Cuppers are experts who can distinguish the most subtle differences between samples.
First the cupper visually inspects the beans. Is they are satisfied, they will then roast the beans in a laboratory roaster, grind them and infuse them in water heated to a very specific temperature. The cupper 'noses' this mix to inspect aromas. Once the coffee has rested and infused for a few minutes the cupper will 'break the crust', carefully pushing aside the grounds that have gathered on top of the brew, before taking in the aroma once again. Tasting is undertaken by slurping the coffee up in one quick spoonful; this ensures that the coffee is distributed fairly over the cupper's tastebuds. The cupper will then spit out the coffee.
The tasting process is not only undertaken for the appreciation of a bean's qualities and flaws, but also for the purpose of determining potential blends of different beans or to decide upon the most appropriate roasting process for that batch.continue »
Roasting is what transforms green coffee into the brown beans ready for consumption. Most roasting is undertaken at approximately 290 degrees Celsius. To avoid burning, the beans are constantly shifted around within the roasting machine until they reach an internal temperature or around 205 degrees. It is at this temperature that the oil inside the beans, the caffeol, begins to seep out and darken the colour of the bean.The activation of the caffeol with heat is called pyrolysis and is responsible for the aroma and flavour of coffee. This is why the roasting process is such an integral part of the production process, and so important for the final result.
As soon as they are roasted sufficiently, the beans are removed from the machine and immediately cooled using air or water. The sooner freshly roasted beans reach the drinker the better, so the roasting process is mostly undertaken in the country in which the coffee will be consumed.continue »
The degree to which the beans are ground has an impact on how much flavour can be extracted from the beans. The coarseness of the grind depends on the intended brewing method. A finer grind demands quicker coffee brewing, such as an espresso machine which exposes the coffee to a fast burst of high-temperature water. Larger grain coffee is more appropriate for slower production methods such as drip brewing.continue »
Whether done in a machine in a café, or on your stovetop at home, the brewing is the final step in the long process of coffee production. Brewing should be undertaken with an understanding of the best method for the blend and grind you have chosen. Before it hits your lips, each bean has been through a careful process that ensures only the best make it into your cup.