DIY Coffee Harvest





Introduction: DIY Coffee Harvest

About: Just a guy who likes to build cool stuff...

Grow, roast and brew your own coffee!

Step 1: Find a Suitable Coffee Plant

This is the coffee plant I bought for $30 on eBay a few years ago. Coffee 'plants' are actually small coffee trees and will get quite large over their lifespan. Mine was about a foot and a half tall when I got it, but is quite large these days and sits in a 30 gallon pot. The tree stays outside during spring and summer, but it comes inside well before the first frost in the fall.  I keep it trimmed to the size of the container. (In case you're wondering, I live in Zone 7a)

There are plenty of online nurseries that sell coffee trees and you should look for the species Coffea arabica which produces the bean we are most familiar with in North America.

Be patient with your tree and take good care of it.  It needs to mature before it will flower and fruit and this could take a few years. It will take a couple months after the flowers fall off for the fruit (beans) to start growing.

Step 2: Pick the Beans and Husk the Shell

I have been getting beans from the tree for 3 years, but they never turned bright red like the beans grown in a normal coffee-growing climate. I spoke to a dude down in Honduras a few weeks ago who said that some of the coffee trees grown down there have beans that turn yellow when ripe - bingo!

The coffee bean itself is in the middle of the "cherry", and the fruit needs to be husked in order to get the bean out. I soaked them in water for a while to loosen the husk, but that really wasn't necessary because they were for the most part ripe.

It took me about an hour and a half to shuck them all, resulting in about 1/2 lb. of beans.

Step 3: Dry the Beans and Re-husk

After rinsing, I put them in a food dehydrator to dry. In commercial production, beans are either put into industrial-sized driers or left in the warm sun for 10 days or so to dry. I set the dehydrator at the lowest setting, and expect them to be ready for roasting in a few days :-)

After you finally get them dry you'll notice that there is another husk around the bean which needs to be removed. De-husking is a major league PITA.

Step 4: Roast Away!

I used an iRoast, a small roaster that will do about 1/2 lb per batch. i bought this a couple years ago for $150, and use it to roast green coffee beans I buy online to my own specs. It was perfect for the homegrown beans - I set it for an 11 minutes cycle, dark roast.

The beans came out perfect - slightly oily, bark brown-black in color and very aromatic. The smell was amazing - more 'fruity' than the commercial beans we've roasted.

On to the grind!

Step 5: Brew!

I prefer a french press to brew my coffee, and the result was fantastic.  My beer brewing partner Dan volunteered to be the guinea pig and was immediately floored by the result. It was excellent coffee - very strong like a Kona but dark and rich like an espresso. I was pleasantly surprised. When all was said and done, we got about 5 cups total and a great caffeine buzz.

Overall my homegrown coffee was probably better than any of the other green beans I've roasted over the years. The freshness of the beans was probably the key. Several coffee "experts" told me that it wouldn't taste good and it was a waste of time to even attempt this - that beans needed to be grown in a specific climate at such and such and altitude, etc. There is nothing quite so satisfying as proving a so-called 'expert' wrong!



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    Can you dry the beans inside on your kitchen counter on in your oven?

    I'm really keen to get going on this! Also would prefer starting from a cutting, might speed up the time until my first blossoming...I'm a little impatient. Will update once I have tried.

    In the meantime, because of all the reading I've been doing on the topic across the web, I've put together a resource on growing a coffee plant. It might be worth checking out?

    2 replies

    Hey, this is an easy project, just keep it in a huge pot so you can move it indoors once it gets cold (unless you're in zone 10-11). For me this was a one-trick pony - once we harvested and drank it we were satisfied! It's still the best cup of coffee I ever had but it's a lot easier roasting your own or just buying oily French Roast beans at a good coffee place. I ended up giving my tree to my sister who lives in S. FL. It's still growing like a banshee but she'll never get around to harvesting it.

    Anyway, good luck, this is definitely a worthwhile pursuit!

    Super impressed. Had thought that it must be possible, but great to see it laid out start to end. Great work. Somethings even more worth doing, just because most people don't think they are worth doing.

    1 reply

    Thanks! This project was fun - as a one time event. Too much work :-)

    I've never had the opportunity to try it but I've read that the cherry's are edible and actually quite good.

    2 replies

    That's something I read elsewhere on the internet. If you don't already know about it please double check it before you try it. At least, don't hold me responsible if it poisons you! I'm pretty sure it's true though because I remember reading it multiple places.

    I dunno, I chewed a few of them just for grins and they don't really taste very good. But I didn't die - best to cure and then roast them :-)


    Congrats from another DIY and ham radio enthusiast, I actually grow 100 tons of coffee here in India! I am not able to recognise the plant variety. Looks like lemon drops variety!

    1 reply

    Lemon drops? I guess that would explain why these never turned red!
    Thanks, this has been a mystery.

    Pretty amazing that you got GOOD beans - and so many - from one plant in Zone 7! I have been wondering for awhile if coffee would grow here in Los Angeles. If you could grow it there, it would probably do well here!

    1 reply

    Absolutely, you could probably even put it in the ground in SoCal. Get to it :-)

    Hi, thanks for the inspiring Instructable! I was wondering if you could tell me approximately how many pounds of coffee your plant yields each year.


    1 reply

    Sorry for the delay in responding. What you see in this 'ible is basically the full harvest of my tree, even three years later. Unfortunately where I live you can't put these things in the ground so mine resides in a large pot, which comes in the house very winter further slowing it's growth.

    Can you translate for non-Americans; what is a "zone 7a"?

    4 replies

    Its the zone that cant drive in half an inch of snow :P

    Hah, good one and mostly true.