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Coffee Harvest
7 October 2007


Bags Bucket This year's Kona coffee harvest season is in full swing.  We had our first round of harvesting back at the end of August but it was very light compared to this current round.  So far this year we've harvested over 16,000 pounds of coffee cherry and we're still not even half way done.  The local newspaper ran an article complaining that this year's coffee harvest would be light because of less rain than normal.  I don't know where they got their information but it wasn't from us, we've had a ton of heavy rain and our coffee trees are doing great.

There's no way we could pick all the coffee ourselves.  For this most recent round of picking we had a crew of 10 pickers for almost a week.  They're here from dawn to dusk, filling up bag after bag with ripe coffee cherry.  When I'm clever I'll leave out empty bags the night before so the pickers can find them in the morning.  If I'm not clever then my day starts early when I have to jump out of bed and go find some bags for the pickers.

I'll check on the pickers a few times during the day to make sure everything is going well but they don't really need much supervision.  Most of my time is spent processing the picked coffee cherry.  Some day I hope to have a large automated pulper with fancy piping, strong pumps and stainless steel troughs to move the coffee around.  For now all we have is a tiny little pulper and several buckets.  The coffee arrives in large burlap sacks that weigh about 120 pounds when full so the first step is to empty the coffee out of the sacks and into buckets which can be lifted and dumped into the top of the pulper.  It's a laborious process but our tiny little pulper is slow so I can usually keep up.

Sorting While I'm playing with the buckets someone else needs to watch the output of the pulper and pick out the bad stuff that didn't get pulped correctly.  I can manage both jobs myself if I have to but it's much easier with helpers.  One day not only did I get help from Valerie and the girls, we also had help from Oscar.  Oscar was tired of watching his parents pick coffee so he was more than happy to help us for awhile.  For a six year old, he was actually quite helpful.

It takes between two and three hours to pulp a full load of coffee.  Then the coffee sits in the vat to ferment overnight.  In the morning I have to empty the coffee and wash it clean, one bucket at a time.  That process takes another couple hours.  Someday maybe I'll have a fancy shaker table with built-in nozzles to wash the coffee.  For now I wash the coffee in a bucket with holes drilled in the bottom.

The good news is that processing the coffee by hand has really helped us get to know the entire process.  With an automated system the coffee goes whipping by quickly, with our little process we see each and every bean.  More good news is that the barn has stairs now, last year I was hauling the coffee up a ladder.  Carrying buckets up stairs is much easier than carrying buckets up a ladder.

Two years ago we had our beans spread out on flimsy wooden drying racks.  Having a nice big drying deck is great compared to that, the beans dry better too.  The drying deck still needs a little more work but it's almost done.  I'm sure it won't be too much longer before I have my fancy pulping machine and the beans go flying by.  That will be a good thing because I'm tired of seeing each and every bean.

Done Ferment


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