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The coffee plant, an amazing creation...

The coffee plant is a member of the genus Coffea in the family Rubiaceae and is found in areas with lots of sunshine, moderate rainfall, altitudes up to 6000ft, frost free and with average temperatures of between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Although usually pruned to a height of about 8 foot to make harvesting easier, a coffee plant can grow as tall as 32 feet high.

The coffee plant has lush, shiny green leaves attached to long thin branches. When the plant is in season, small white flowers are seen coming from the base of the leaves. After pollination, the flowers are replaced by a ruby-like fruit, the coffee bean. Each of the fruits, usually referred to as coffee cherries, contains two seeds (or beans). When only one bean is produced, this is known as a "pea berry". The cherries are bright red and reach the size of a grape, then harvesting takes place.

   
 

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A mature coffee plant produces approximately 2000 coffee cherries per year, which is equivalent to about kilo of roasted coffee. It takes about 3 to 4 years for a coffee plant to mature and will then produce coffee beans for about 15 years.
 

Arabica and Robusta coffee beans

There are more than 20 species within the genus Coffea but only two, Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (commonly know as robusta) are produced in vast amounts to produce the worlds coffee demands.

Both species of coffee are very different from each other in taste, caffeine content, cultivation conditions and disease resistance. The arabica bean is typically grown at heights between 1500ft and 6000ft and requires better soils to grow. Due to this and also the fact that the bean is considered tastier, the price of arabica beans is far higher against robusta beans. The Robusta beans being more easily farmed and more resilient to disease and hence cheaper, are used to produce both the instant coffee and the mass-produced ground coffees found in supermarkets everywhere.

       
Coffea Arabica  from Ethiopia, known from prehistoric times.

Coffea Robusta  from Congo, discovered in 1898.
Coffea Liberica from Western Africa, not grown for the coffee trade.

How to Grow Your Own Coffee Plant
     

 

Do you have the patience to wait for three or four years? Well that's about how long it will take you before you can harvest your first beans from your own coffee plant. In the meantime though you can enjoy the dark shiny green leaves and fragrant white flowers of this very unique, ornamental plant. Growing your own coffee plant from seed isn't all that difficult. The coffee 'tree' is actually a variety of tropical evergreen shrub. The coffee tree does not begin to produce its full yield until its sixth year and will continue prime production for about ten years, however coffee

Plants may live on for 60 years. The tree, if left alone will grow to a height of between 16 and 40 feet. In most coffee plantations the trees are kept at a manageable six feet to get the best yield and to make it easier to harvest.

The best growing conditions are in a temperature range of 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall should be plentiful and the weather should switch between heavy rainfall and sunshine to bring the berries to full maturity. The type of soil is not too important but good drainage is a must.

Coffee plants are fairly easy to grow in the home as a potted specimen, which should be moved outdoors for the summer if possible. They do best in filtered sunlight, with night temperatures in the lower to mid 60s and day temperatures of 70F or higher. Plant them in any good commercial, fast draining potting soil . The soil should be kept on the moist side, but never soggy.

Coffee plants will produce fruit without any fertilizing whatsoever, but for best results and maximum yield, they should be fed every 2 weeks from March to October, and then monthly from November through February. Use a soluble, all purpose (10-10-10) fertilizer.

Coffee is easily grown from seed though starting off with a plant is of course much easier. If you want to give it a shot, you can find coffee seeds at The Seed Rack (The Whatcom Seed Company) near the bottom of the page. If you prefer to start right off with a mature coffee plant you can them at Direct Gardening → The plants will grow to about 10 feet if given ample root room, but can be pruned if this is too big for the allotted space. Pruning may involve simple pinching to produce a bushier plant, or you may go as far as cutting it way back.... Right down to where only two branches near the bottom are left on it.

Coffee PlantThe fruit of the coffee plant are red when they ripen in the fall, with a sweet pulp surrounding the center coffee bean. Each coffee berry has two beans. The coffee tree's fruit does not all ripen at one time. In fact it will have blossoms and berries in various stages of ripening. Only the ripe berries can be picked. The berries cannot be picked when green since they will not ripen once picked.

Once you have harvested sufficient beans to brew your first pot of 'home grown' coffee, you will have to roast them. There are many 'home type' roasters available on the market, which do an excellent job of evenly roasting your beans. Whether you are willing to go to the expense of purchasing one of these is up to you. It is possible to roast your own beans in the oven. This method will tend to smoke up the house a bit, and the smell of the burned off chaff will tend to linger in the house for quite some time. The amount and size of beans, as well as your altitude will make a difference in the roasting process, so this is a 'live and learn process.

The beans should be placed in some form of perforated container, such as a steel strainer or vegetable steamer. Place them in a pre-heated, 250 degree F. oven for about seven minutes. Then increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. In about ten minutes the beans should begin to crackle. (This timing will depend on the temperature, heat capacity of the oven, and the beans; so keep an eye on them.) When the beans start crackling, mix them up, to promote an even roast.

Check their color every two minutes until they have achieved a color slightly lighter than the end color which you desire. (As the beans cool, they will continue roasting). When they have completely cooled, store them in an air tight container in the refrigerator...... or grind em, brew em and drink it all up!

         
         
 

 

         

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