Intro: DIY Coffee Harvest
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!