Techniques for Picking Coffee Beans

Coffee trees grow best in high-altitude tropical climates, but some varieties tolerate drier, hot climates. Some home growers plant their coffee trees in greenhouses to mimic tropical growing conditions. Different climates and growing conditions produce different flavors of coffee. Your homegrown coffee trees will produce a brew with its own unique flavor. Coffee beans are seeds found inside the coffee tree's fruit, which commercial coffee farmers call "coffee cherries." Coffee cherries are harvested once a year, when most of the berries are ripe. Two methods are used to harvest coffee beans at home. No matter which you use, you will have the freshest coffee beans and the freshest brew in town.

Selective Harvesting

With selective harvesting, you pick only the coffee cherries that are ripe, leaving the unripe cherries on the tree to ripen for harvest at a later time. To selective harvest your coffee tree, identify the coffee cherries that are ripe by look and touch. Ripe coffee cherries are glossy red in color (or yellow, if you have a yellow variety coffee tree). Gently squeeze the fruit to feel if it is ripe. Ripe coffee cherries are soft and slightly squishy. Pluck the ripe cherries off the tree and place them in a basket.


Stripping is a method of harvesting where all of the coffee cherries are removed from the tree, whether or not they are ripe. After harvesting, the coffee cherries are sorted to remove the unripe cherries from the batch. Commercial coffee farms use an expensive machine to mechanically remove the coffee cherries from the trees when strip harvesting. Stripping a coffee tree is used when 75 percent or more of the coffee cherries are ripe at one time. At home, you can strip harvest by hand. Work with one branch at a time. Wrap your hand around the base of the tree branch. With your hand formed into a fist, move your hand toward you to knock the fruit off the branch onto the ground. Once you have harvested all of the branches, rake the fruit off the ground and scoop it into a basket. Hand-sort through the coffee cherries to separate the ripe fruits from the unripe ones. Discard the unripe coffee cherries in a compost pile.

Pulping the Coffee Berries

Pulping is the process to remove the fruit from the coffee seeds or beans. To remove the pulp, squeeze the fruit until the beans pop out. Soak the beans in a bowl of water for two days to remove the rest the fruit pulp. As the beans soak, the remaining fruit separates from the beans and floats to the top of the water, while the beans sink to the bottom of the container.

Drying the Beans

Dry the coffee beans in a shady area outdoors. Spread them in a single layer on top of concrete, asphalt or wire mesh. Stir the coffee beans, using your hands, three times a day, so the beans dry evenly on all sides. It takes anywhere from 10 to 30 days for the beans to completely dry, depending on your local climate. The beans are dry when the outer parchment layer of the bean slides off easily.

Roasting and Storing the Beans

Roast the coffee beans in a home coffee bean roaster, following the directions in the roasting unit owner's manual. Store the roasted coffee beans in a burlap bag until you are ready to grind them. For the best tasting coffee, grind the beans right before you are ready to brew your coffee.

Keywords: harvesting coffee beans, selective harvesting, stripping coffee beans, coffee cherries, coffee tree

About this Author

Rose Kivi has been a writer for over 10 years. She has a background in the nursing field, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation. Kivi has authored educational textbooks, patient health care pamphlets, animal husbandry guides, outdoor survival manuals and was a contributing writer for two books in the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Series.