Coffee beans are nestled in red berries that grow on several varieties of evergreen trees belonging to the Rubiaceae family. Every year, harvesters and cultivators wait for the dry season when these berries turn firm, deep red and glossy before they can pluck them off and prepare them. Timing is very important for the perfect harvest. Immature berries will be green and unripe, and harvesting them will ruin the potential crop because they will fail to produce coffee beans inside.
How to Harvest Coffee Beans
Decide whether you wish to harvest the coffee beans by hand or with a machine. The former method of harvesting is known as selective harvesting, while the latter is known as stripping. All coffee beans are harvested by either one of these methods.
Selective harvesting is ideal for places where different trees have different maturation rates, allowing the harvester to pluck only mature berries, and returning to check the remaining ones every ten days. Stripping is usually suitable for countries such as Brazil because of their uniform maturation rates of berries and is done with a machine.
Stretch a branch of the tree with potentially ripe berries toward you with a holding hook and view the fruit to determine if they are ready. Berries usually turn from green to slightly red, and then glossy red, indicating they are mature and ready to be plucked. However, berries of yellow-fruited varieties do not turn red when they mature, but remain yellow. In such a case, squeeze several berries to test them for maturity. If they feel hard and cannot be easily squeezed, leave them to mature on the tree and check them again after a week or two.
Pluck ripe berries off with your hands, collecting them in baskets. If you come across a bunch that feel hard to the touch, leave them and move to the next ones. Continue collecting all the berries this way until you cover all the trees.
In the stripping method, strip all the berries, whether ripe or unripe, from the tree with a machine and allow them to fall on the ground. You can place a tarp there so collecting them is easier. Toss the berries in the air so any lightweight twigs or tree debris attached to them is blown away.