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coffee

It’s been a good coffee year this year.  We probably, possibly, have a whole year’s supply if the grown up kids don’t claim too much of it.  When I look back, our coffee growing and processing has come a long way in the last few years, since Growing Our Own Coffee parts 1 and 2.  We now have about a dozen mature bushes and another dozen coming on, and that will hopefully be enough to let the grown up kids take as much as they like.  We bought a coffee pulper recently, which makes it really easy to separate the berries from the beans, and we now send our main coffee crop off to be professionally roasted. It saves a lot of laborious work removing the paper shell since professional roasters have a fan that does that as they roast, and it saves a lot of caffeine spins from breathing too much of the volatiles.

coffee-pulper

And, we bought second hand a Little Guy coffee maker that goes on an induction burner.  It was ridiculously expensive even second hand but it makes real barista quality coffee.

Homegrown, homemade café quality coffee every morning.  This simple life is so hard 🙂

little-boy

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Two years ago I posted Part One of Homegrown Coffee. If you ignore the fact that I skipped ahead a couple of years, we’re now up to Part Two!  This year’s coffee crop has been drying on a screen door on the verandah for a couple of months now. The beans are hard and dry and ready for the final stages.

Next step is to put them back through the food processor with the plastic blade to remove the papery shell. Once it’s off the bean you can winnow, or blow it off to separate.  Which leaves green coffee beans.

Green coffee beans are best for storing, so we roast them as we need them.  I’ve heard lots of ways of doing it, including baking in the oven or using a popcorn maker. We use the Cuban method of cooking the beans in a heavy, cast iron pot, over a medium flame, stirring constantly for about 15 minutes till the beans are the right depth of colour and have a shiny, oily finish.

The trick to making this a job you are not too reluctant to repeat is choosing a windy day. They give off caffeine-y smoke that gives you a headache if you breathe too much of it, so I  use the verandah barbeque, and stand downwind. There are also lots of little bits of the papery shell left, and the inner, parchment which need to be separated or it gives the coffee a burnt flavour.  If it’s nice and windy, I can stir by dropping spoonfuls of beans back into the pot from a bit of height, and the papery shell blows off as it drops.  It makes a mess. You want the wind blowing the right way. At the very end, I tip the roasted beans into an enamel colander and toss them around to let the last of the chaff fall through.

But we’re not done yet. (You appreciate why coffee is expensive when you make your own).

Then grinding the beans, these days using a little electric coffee grinder, then brewing in our little stovetop expresso maker.

But it is worth it.

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We’ve just harvested the first of the coffee beans for the season, and now begins the slightly laborious process of processing them.

We have eight Coffea canephora (Robusta) coffee bushes.  They are small trees or large bushes, that we keep pruned to about 2 metres tall.   From them, we get about a third of our coffee supply.  We could plant more, but we would have to be sure we would get around to harvesting, as it has the potential to become an environmental weed if the beans are let wild.

Robusta is generally considered inferior to Arabica – more full bodied and higher caffeine, but more bitter and harsher.  But in an expresso maker like this, robusta is a very drinkable coffee, or at least ours is! And it has the advantage of being much hardier and less prone to pests and diseases.

Coffee grows really easily in this Northern NSW climate – this region grows some of the world’s best.  Although commercial producers like full sun (and lots of fertilizer) it is naturally an understory plant and will produce fine in light shade.  It doesn’t cope at all with frost.

But getting it from bean to cup takes a few stages – worth it considering the price of coffee and the satisfaction in offering visitors a cup of home-grown.  But you can see why coffee is expensive!

First step is to pick the beans.  We get several picks, from August until October, usually a large bucket full each time.

Next the beans have to be popped out of their cherries.  This can be done by hand (and during football season my partner is usually more than willing to do it).  But he has discovered that the plastic blade on the food processor does a good job without the requirement for him to watch football on TV.

The beans inside are coated with a slippery gel, and the next stage is to ferment it off.  The easiest way is just to soak the beans for a couple of days, feeling them every so often until the  slippery coating rubs off with a bit of agitating.

They are then rinsed with several changes of water.

Next the beans have to be thoroughly dried.  We spread them out on an old screen door on the verandah to dry – we have been caught out too often by an afternoon shower to leave them out in the sun!  They take a few weeks, depending on the weather, to get down to 10% moisture content.  They are ready when you cannot bite into a bean and create teethmarks.

That’s where we are up to now.  After the beans are dried, they still need the parchment layer removed, also easiest done, we’ve discovered, in the food processor with the plastic blade.  Then the green beans need to be roasted, ground, brewed, and finally, you get a wonderful cuppa out of it.

I shall keep you updated as the process continues!

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