The cherry is what they call the pit inside the red or purple fruit. Just like ordinary cherries, the coffee fruit is also a so-called stone fruit.
Coffee beans are referred to as “beans” because they resemble true beans even though they are actually seeds.
The fruits – coffee cherries or coffee berries – most commonly contain two stones with their flat sides together. A small amount of cherries contain a single seed, instead of the two they usually have.
This is called a “peaberry”. The peaberry occurs between 10 and 15% of the time, and it is a fairly common (yet scientifically unproven) belief that they have more flavor than normal coffee beans. Like Brazil nuts (a seed) and white rice, coffee beans consist mostly of endosperm.
75–80% of the coffee produced worldwide is Arabica and 20% is Robusta. Arabica beans consist of 0.8–1.4% caffeine and Robusta beans consist of 1.7–4% caffeine.
Coffee beans are a major cash crop and an important export product, as coffee is one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages counting for over half of some developing nations’ foreign exchange earnings.
As the tree gets matures, it branches and less and bears more fruits and leaves. Coffee plants are grown several feet apart in rows.
Some farmers plant fruit trees around them or plant the coffee on the sides of hills, because they need very specific conditions to flourish.
Ideally, Arabica coffee beans are grown at temperatures between 59 and 75 °F and Robusta at 75–86 °F and receive between 5.9 and 11.8 in of rainfall per year.
The plants need heavy rain in the beginning of the season when the fruit is developing and less later in the season as it ripens.
…when the fruit is ripe, using either “selective picking”, where only the ripe fruit is removed, or “strip-picking”, where all of the fruit is removed from a limb all at once.
This selective picking gives the growers reason to give their coffee a certain specification called “operation cherry red” (OCR). Two methods are primarily used to process coffee berries.
The first, “wet” or “washed” process, has historically usually been carried out in areas of Africa and Central America soaked in water for about two days the seeds are fermented after the flesh of the cherries are removed…
… this softens the mucilage which is a sticky pulp residue that is still attached to the seeds. Then this mucilage is washed off with water.
For lower quality beans the “dry processing” method, cheaper and simpler, was historically used in Brazil and much of Africa, but now brings a premium when done well.
Twigs and other foreign objects are separated from the berries and the fruit is then spread out in the sun on concrete, bricks or raise beds for 2–3 weeks, turned regularly for even drying.
The term “green coffee bean” refers to unroasted mature or immature coffee beans.
When immature, they are green however when mature, they have a brown to yellow or reddish color.
Insects and animals are deterred from eating them because of the nonvolatile and volatile compounds in green coffee beans, such as caffeine.
Further, both nonvolatile and volatile compounds contribute to the flavor of the coffee bean when it is roasted.
Nonvolatile nitrogenous compounds (including alkaloids, trigonelline, proteins, and free amino acids) and carbohydrates are of major importance in producing the full aroma of roasted coffee and for its biological action.