In this next blog we will be explaining the process of preparing the beans for exportation. There are two methods and at Café Las Flores they use both processes.
The first process is the dry method this is the old method and is still used today in many countries where water is a scarce resource. At Café Las Flores they use this method for the lower grade green coffee cherries.
The green cherries are taken to the drying plains and left there for several weeks to dry. They must be constantly turned with a rake to ensure that they dry on all sides. In some countries they need to be covered at night but in Nicaragua as the cherries are harvested in the dry season there is no need to cover them.
After being hand selected the yellow and red coffee cherries are passed through a pulping machine where the skin and sticky pulp are removed with water. The beans are then separated by weight with water, as the lighter ones float to the top and the heavier ones sink to the bottom. After this they are ready for fermentation. This can be anywhere between 12 and 18 hours depending on conditions. At Café las Flores they ferment them for 14 hours.
The beans from the red and yellow coffee beans are now ready to be dried. They are then pushed up and out through a tube that goes to a hole in the wall down and then down onto the drying plains.
They are then left to dry here for 2 weeks and like the green coffee cherries they too must be constantly turned with a rake to ensure equal drying.
The next stage of the process is called hulling. For the dry method coffee beans this refers to removing the skin and the inner layers. Whereas for the wet method coffee beans this refers to removing the outer case known as the parchment layer.
The next process is polishing and separating into sizes. At Cafe Las Flores they have a machine that brushes off the final layer of the beans and then it separates them out in to different sizes.
The final stage before the beans are ready for exportation is grading and sorting. In many countries this is done by hi-tech machines. As you have seen though the machines and method in Nicaragua is much more basic than in some countries. In Nicaragua it is women (only the women!) that do the grading and sorting by hand. Being a woman, Shiv from Romo asked why it is that only women do the sorting. The answer was that they pay more attention to detail and therefore do a more thorough job.
In the grading and sorting process they are looking for any defects that the beans may have and also ensuring that the final layer has been removed. After this the coffee beans are now known as green coffee and are ready for exporting. However, if you think they are ready to make your cup of coffee it is a long way off! The coffee beans at this stage still have no aroma and if you were to give them to a barista you wouldn’t have a nice cup of coffee at all.
We hope you are starting to realise a bit more how much time and effort goes into to every cup of coffee that you drink. Please note that this is the process as Romo saw it in Nicaragua, every farm differs and uses their own methods and machines. In the next blog we will be writing about the roasting process.
All the best,
The Romo Team!