How to Ferment Coffee

Written by sean lancaster
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How to Ferment Coffee
Find out how coffee is fermented during coffee production. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Coffee production is a complex procedure that includes picking, fermenting and drying. The fermentation process removes the outer portions of the coffee cherry leaving the hard bean which continues on to produce coffee beans. The removal of the outer layers of the coffee cherry eliminates the outer skin, pulp, and parchment that cover the hard bean at the centre. The only layers remaining after fermentation is the silver skin and the coffee bean. During fermentation, naturally present enzymes act upon the pulp aiding in the removal of the outer skin and pulp from the bean.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Fresh picked coffee cherries
  • Water tank
  • Screen
  • Coffee depulper machine
  • Fermentation tank
  • Drying screens

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  1. 1

    Empty the bag of fresh picked coffee cherries into the water tank. The water tank separates the overripe cherries, underdeveloped cherries, sticks and leaves from the ripe and green cherries. The ripe and green cherries sink to the bottom; discard the floating layer.

  2. 2

    Strain the coffee cherries from the water using a screen and empty the cherries into the coffee pulping machine. The internal pressure of the pulping machine allows ripe cherries to press through a screen with holes only large enough to pass a coffee bean. The ripe cherries are soft enough for the internal pressure to break the outer skin and allow the coffee bean to pass through the screen. Using careful control on the pressure of the pulping machine, only about 97 per cent of the ripe beans pass through the screen. This makes sure that no green beans pass through to subsequent stages.

  3. 3

    Empty the pulped coffee into a fermentation tank and fill with water. Allow the mix to ferment for between 16 and 36 hours. During this time the enzymes continue the process of removing any remaining pulp. The end of fermentation is determined by feeling the coffee beans for the elimination of the mucilage (pulp).

  4. 4

    Transfer the contents of the fermentation tank to the water tank for a final washing that will separate any remaining pulp (floating layer) from the coffee beans (sink to the bottom).

  5. 5

    Empty the washed coffee beans from the water tank and pour them out onto drying screens to partially dry in the sun before shipment to the coffee market where the final drying is performed.

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