Coffea arabica is the most common species of the popular beverage many people enjoy. Its favorite growing environments are in higher elevations of tropical regions, such as Jamaica, Kona, Guatemala and Kenya. If you live in USDA climate zone 7 or higher (Arkansas and Georgia to Florida and Hawaii’s cooler mountainous regions), you might try your hand at growing coffee beans. The ideal temperature range is from 59 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but coffee trees can survive brief periods of freezing weather. The perfect amount of rainfall is 60 to 100 inches of rain a year with a three-month dry period after harvest.
Germinate green coffee beans from a recently harvested crop by soaking them in water for 24 hours. Fill a nursery flat with sand and moisten it well. Spread your seeds evenly across the surface of the sand and cover with damp burlap bags or straw.
Prepare your planting area while your beans are germinating by weeding out all small trees and other weeds. If you plan far in advance, it’s beneficial to plant a cover crop of fava beans or other cover crop three to four months before you plant your coffee. Dig composted cow manure and phosphate fertilizer into beds that are 3 feet wide and about 20 inches deep. For every 3 feet of length of your beds, use three to six gallons of manure and 3 1/2 oz. of fertilizer.
Plant your sprouted coffee beans 1/2 inch deep and about 4 feet apart. You can thin the weaker trees when they are larger, allowing for approximately 9 feet between plants. If you provide shade during the plants’ early life, the chances of your coffee getting sunburned or drying out will be reduced.
Water your young coffee plants every day--do not allow the soil to become completely dry. After they are established, water twice a week.
Fertilize your coffee trees every three months during their first year in the ground. Use a plant food having an N-P-K ratio of 10-30-10. Starting with the tree’s third year, reduce the amount of phosphorus and increase the potassium. A plant food having an N-P-K ratio of 10-5-20 is ideal. As trees grow older, use a 10-5-20 plant food at the rate of 375 lbs. per acre four or more times per year. Increase this amount to 2,000 lbs. per acre per year during the trees’ fifth year. The richer your soil, the less fertilizer you need.
Reduce watering for two to three months at the beginning of winter. This will help to increase the number of flowers your coffee tree produces, which will result in the maximum number of coffee beans. When spring arrives, begin watering your plants well and continue to water on a regular basis, twice a week and deeply.
Harvest your coffee beans when the cherries are ripe--red, firm and glossy. You must harvest ripe beans several times because they become red at different times.
Control pests such as the coffee leaf miner, the coffee stem borer and the coffee berry borer with approved pheromones, predator insects and pesticides. Consult your local agricultural extension agent for specific information and instructions.