How Coffee is Made

Insert Content Template or Symbol
the history of coffee

Have you ever thought about how that fresh, hot cup of coffee in your hand began it’s little coffee bean life? Not really? Well, I get it. 

Most of us just want to savor the moment and satisfaction of that first sip of java in the morning, and where the little beans originated and found their way into your coffee cup is not exactly at the top of your list of things to learn at the moment. We want to make a great cup of coffee and enjoy it! 

how coffee is made from bean to cup

But, let’s say that you’re awake and alert, and that curiosity about how coffee is made is prompting some action on your part. You might even be a coffee newbie, and want to know all the facts about this curiously delicious brew.

It really is quite a fascinating process, with some very specific steps that go into the creation of the coffee beans that ultimately are used in brewing your java. So settle in with a cup of coffee in hand (maybe a sweet treat in the other) and prepare to understand how coffee is made.

If you happen to click on a link and then make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

And so, our story, 'from bean to cup', begins...


How Coffee is Made

From a seed...

young coffee plants in nursery

Yes, coffee beans are actually seeds, and are grown around the world in what is known as “The Bean Belt”. This is the area that is between the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, a tropical region of the world.

There are more than 50 countries in ‘the Belt’, including:

  • North America & The Caribbean - US Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico
  • Central America - Guatemala, Costa Rica
  • South America - Columbia. Brazil
  • East Africa - Ethiopia, Kenya
  • West Africa - Ivory Coast
  • The Arabian Peninsula - Yemen
  • Asia - Indonesia, Vietnam

A coffee seed begins it’s life in a nursery, planted in large, shaded beds. With a lot of love, water, and protection from the harsh sun, the small plants are nurtured until they’re strong enough to be permanently planted during the wet season, and are typically about 18 to 24 inches in height.

Most of the coffee produced is one of two varieties derived from two plant species: Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta.

About 70% of the world's coffee is arabica, and it is considered to be the higher quality, with a mild taste and a light and airy complexion with an intense, intricate aroma. It grows typically in higher elevations and requires considerable care while growing. Most gourmet coffees are made with high-quality mild varieties of arabica coffee.

Robusta coffee is grown mostly in Vietnam, with India, Africa, and Brazil also contributing to the supply. It is easier to care for and has a greater crop yield than arabica, so it is cheaper to produce. The taste of robusta coffee is a little bitter although full-bodied and possessing a distinctive earthy flavor. Not surprisingly, you'll find robusta used most often in espresso blends.


...to a Fruit

The plants grow into a tropical evergreen shrub, and are pruned and tended to for about 4 years before they graduate to coffee tree status and are ready to produce their fruit. 

The coffee trees flower during the annual rainy season with a delicate, white blossom that is somewhat reminiscent of the scent of jasmine.

After flowering (which only lasts a few days), the shrubs are tended for about 7 to 9 months for Arabica beans, or up to 11 months for Robusta beans, when the fruit comes. 

It is green at first, but when it ripens, it turns into a deep red, shiny cherry, appropriately named the coffee cherry. Inside there are usually two seeds, and we refer to them as the green coffee bean.

how coffee is made - blooming coffee plant

Then Comes the Harvest...

harvesting the coffee cherries

In most countries the crop is picked by hand, which is labor intensive and slow. There are two methods for harvesting

  1. Strip Picked - all of the cherries are stripped off of the branch at one time, either by hand or by machine. The machine could be a derricadeiras, a mechanical tool held by a picker to strip the beans. Or, it could be a machine called a mechanical harvester.
  2. Selectively Picked  - harvested individually by hand, choosing only the cherries at the peak of ripeness. The pickers tyypically wear a basket around their waist, then empty the basket into one large bag.

The harvesting is done is cycles, revisiting the trees until all of the coffee is picked from the field. It is a costly process and used primarily for harvesting the finer Arabica beans.

How many coffee cherries does a coffee picker pick? Approximately 100 to 200 pounds  per day, which translates into about 20 to 40 pounds of coffee beans.


you might also like: how to choose the best coffee for cold brew


...and Processing

Processing must begin quickly after the coffee cherries have been picked to prevent spoilage, and is most often handled in one of two ways:

The Dry Method is the ‘age-old’ method and is used in countries where water resources are limited. It’s very simple but labor intensive.

The coffee cherries are spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. They are turned regularly to keep the from spoiling, and covered at night to keep the rain and moisture off. This manual process could continue for several weeks, and ultimately until the moisture content of the cherries reaches about 11%. After the drying process the outer cover will change to black.


The Wet Method  is quite different in contrast. The freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the pulp and skin from the beans.

Then, the beans pass through water channels where they are separated by weight. The heavier beans sink and the lighter beans float. 

how coffee is made - fermenting the coffee beans in the wet processing method

The next step in the wet method is to soak the beans in large, water-filled fermentation tanks. The magic that happens here is that while they soak (anywhere from 12 to 48 hours), a slick layer of mucilage will dissolve and leave just the beans. After this process they feel rough to the touch. But, they’re now ready for drying!

The beans can be sun-dried by spreading them out and turning them regularly, or they can be machine-dried in large tumblers. Either way, they must be dried to approximately 11% moisture.

Now, our small java friends are referred to as parchment coffee. They are stored in jute or sisal bags until ready for export, in an area that has good air circulation, is dark, and away from moisture. There are quite a few steps in learning how coffee is made, and we're working our way through!


Now It's Time for Milling

In the milling process, the skin is removed from the coffee beans (the parchment coffee). There are two steps to this process:

  1. Hulling - the dried husk is removed using a machine called a 'huller'. It is done carefully to avoid damaging the little beans.
  2. Polishing - an optional process where any remaining silver skin is removed and leaves the coffee beans shiny and pretty. It doesn't affect the taste, though.

Now, the coffee beans are light brown, and they're called 'green coffee. I know. Confusing, but that's what it is. 


The All Important Tasting of the Coffee

Before the beans are taken for roasting, more coffee-magic happens, and that is the grading of the coffee. It is done by professionals who are called tasters, or cuppers. They play a vital role in how coffee is made.

There are very special rooms designed solely for the purpose of cupping. This is the process of tasting the coffee and evaluating it for overall visual, taste, and aromatic appeal. A professional cupper can taste hundreds of samples per day and be able to find the subtle differences between them. Amazing.

You might be wondering how this is accomplished, as we’re still in the ‘green coffee’ stage, aren’t we? Well, here’s how the process works.

  • A professional taster, or cupper, first evaluates the beans for their overall visual quality.
  • Then, the beans are roasted in a small laboratory roaster, ground immediately, and infused in boiling water (at the perfect temperature, of course).
  • The cupper will then nose the brewed coffee and experience its aroma.
  • The coffee rests for several minutes, and then the cupper pushes aside the grounds at the top of the cup...that is called the crust...and they nose it once again.
  • The tasting of the brew is quite special, too. The cupper quickly slurps a spoonful of coffee, then weigh it on their tongue before spitting it out.

It's Distributed...

exporting of the green coffee

The bagged, green coffee is loaded into shipping containers or bulk shipped inside plastic lined containers. By the way, coffee is the world’s most traded agricultural commodity. 

There are a variety of methods and variables in the distribution chain, but simply put, ultimately the green coffee is exported from the country of origin, imported to the countries that are purchasing the product, then sold in smaller batches in bulk, to different sellers and distributors. It eventually reaches local coffee roasters.

Whew! Those little can beans travel.


you might also like: french press or pour over coffee - which is right for you?


...then it's Roasted!

Okay, we’re finally to the step in the process of how coffee is made where the little beans turn the beautiful brown color that we’re accustomed to seeing (and smelling!)

Most roasting machines maintain a temperature of about 400 degrees Fehrenheit. During the roasting process the beans begin to turn brown, and they emit a fragrant oil called caffeol. This process is called pyrolysis...the evolution and creation of the flavor and aroma of the coffee we ultimately drink and enjoy so very much!

While roasting at high temperatures, the oils and lipids found in the coffee beans move from the center to close to the surface of the beans.

how coffee is made - the commercial roasting process


Much of the commercial roasting is done on a large scale, but a small-scale, single-origin roast can take place at your local coffee shop.

If you have an adventurous spirit and want to know first-hand how the coffee roasting process works, consider roasting your own coffee at home! The roasters themselves can be budget-friendly, and purchasing the green coffee beans isn't difficult. Wouldn't it be fun to amaze your friends by showing them your part in the coffee-making process with a uniquely roasted java?

Bestseller No. 1
Coffee Roasting Machine KAKA-G400 Gas Coffee Bean Roaster Set 400 grams US STOCK
  • ✿ Roasting your own coffee opens up a world of potential for any coffee lover or coffee seller, and it begins with the right equipment.
  • ✿ Coffee roasting machines are mechanical devices that can make your coffee taste like a slice of heaven! They come in different shapes and sizes. And the most expensive coffee roasting machines aren't necessarily the best ones.
  • ✿ Our coffee roaster KAKA-G400 design for who wants to roast coffee themselves, 400 grams capacity, simple to use,can roaste a variety of flavors of coffee .
  • ✿ Power : Powered by DC 12V 3A universal power adapter (included)
  • ✿ Package : The Coffee roasting machine Set, Funnel, Power adapter, Manual.
Bestseller No. 2
Coffee Roaster Machine Household Electric Coffee Bean Roaster with Timer 800W Roasting Machine Peanut Bean Home
  • ☕ 【Coffee Roasters for Home Use】This home coffee roaster does not only have 0-60 minutes of timer function but also comes with adjustable temperature from 100-240℃(212-464℉). You can adjust freely to bake different grains with a professional thermostat automatic constant temperature heating.
  • ☕ 【High Efficient Roasting Machine】Powered by 800W Coffee bean roaster machine can heat automatically and uniformly mixed to ensure 750 grams (1.65lb/26.45 ounces) green coffee beans in 25 minutes. It's perfect for beginners who are just starting to roast coffee at home with this automatic coffee roaster. The optimum amount of roasted coffee beans from 300g-500g.
  • ☕ 【Professional Design Electric Coffee Roaster Machine】The transparent lid with venting holes allows you to see internal processing and smell fragrance, observe the color of the coffee bean. The cover can be stand when you don't need to use it.
  • ☕ 【Easy to Operate】Just turn it on and set the temperature for different roasting requirements, a thermostatic roasting heat-resistant coffee roaster with rotating rods inside to stir for a uniform then you can get the desired coffee bean. Good choice coffee bean roaster machine for home use.
  • ☕ 【Wide Usage】Coffee Roaster with the non-stick base ensures easy cleaning, you will not have to spend hours cleaning the interior of the commercial coffee roaster and can be used for other purposes as well as coffee beans, Rice popcorn, peanuts, etc.
Bestseller No. 3
Home Coffee Roasters Machine with Timer, 110V Coffee Bean Roaster for Home Use, Large Non-Stick Coffee Roasting Machine for Nut Peanut Chestnuts
  • ☕ LARGE CAPACITY: Upgraed home coffee roasters provides larger roasting chambers for bigger batches(750g/1.65lb/26.45 ounces). Also can roast few small batches to create your own blends perfectly, you can have your freshest coffee always.
  • ☕ EASY OPERATION FOR BEGINNER: Automatic coffee roaster machine for home use with adjustable temperature(100-240℃/212-464℉) and timer(0-60 minutes), greater controllability, flip a switch and walk away, the coffee roasting machine will automatically complete the roasting, you can access the full range of roasts, from blond to Italian.
  • ☕ PROFFESSIONAL DESIGN: Non-stick interior coating makes clean-up a breeze. Thermostatical system and strong rotating arm keeps the beans tumbling for an even roasting constantly, no matter how dark you want to go. Compact size for easily move around and store. Heatproof coffee bean roaster machine with glass cover lets you watch your roast in action and smell amazing fragrance from the venting holes. Upright standable handle for easy placement.
  • ☕ VERSATILE: Food-grade home coffee bean roaster with modern shape, not only aesthetic, but safe and healthy. This coffee bean roasting machine can be used to roast many kinds of beans, including coffee beans, nut, soybeans, chestnut, barley, dried fruit, peanuts and so on. And as a bonus, it can pop popcorn too!
  • ☕100% WARRANTY: This home coffee roaster could be used for home, coffee shop or restaurant ect. We offer 100% refund or free replacement for this nut roaster if you are not satisfied with our product. Please contact us if any question you do have, thank you! Just a reminder, please stop the roast a little before your desired roast level. Cool the beans off as quickly as possible.
Bestseller No. 4
750g Electric Coffee Roaster Machine Home Coffee Roaster Coffee Bean Roaster for Home Use 110V
  • 【Large capacity coffee roaster】: 750g capacity oven, suitable for home or coffee shop use. In order to ensure the roasted flavor, it is best to place 300-500g of coffee beans at a time.
  • 【Professional coffee roasting machine】: the temperature can be set to 100-240°C (212-464°F), and coffee beans of different degrees and flavors can be roasted by setting different temperatures, which is very suitable for coffee lovers. During the roasting process, you can observe the changes of the coffee beans at any time through the transparent lid.
  • 【Honeycomb does not stick to the bottom】: honeycomb Teflon coating, safe and hygienic, very easy to clean. The stirring rod works as the machine starts, and the coffee is evenly roasted.
  • 【Multifunctional use】: This coffee roaster can not only be used for roasting coffee beans, but also for roasting soybeans, mung beans, rice, popcorn, and so on. Note that it is not suitable for too small substances such as sesame.
  • 【100% purchase guarantee】: If you are not satisfied with our products or services, please contact us, we can provide refund or free replacement service.


Onward to the Packaging...

Because roasted coffee beans are easily spoiled by air or moisture, it's important to package them quickly and properly.

An air-tight bag with opaque material to protect them against UV rays is used, as well as a one-way valve in the packaging material that is included to allow carbon dioxide to escape the bag. The valve also prevents oxygen from entering the bag.


...Then it's Time to Grind

Our journey into how coffee is made has now ventured all the way to the point of grinding the beans. This can take place at the manufacturing location, at the local coffee shop, or in your kitchen!

There is nothing quite like the aroma, and then the taste, of coffee brewed with freshly ground beans. The level of grind depends on what type of coffee will be brewed:

Coarse - looks like flaky sea salt, and is used to make french press coffee

Medium: feels crumbly, looks like peat moss, and is used to brew coffee using the pour-over method

Fine: looks like finely milled salt, and is used when making espresso style coffee

Here is a helpful Coffee Grind Size Quick Reference Chart: 

While purchasing ground coffee can be convenient and efficient, the process of grinding your own coffee is, in my opinion, so very worth the result! A coffee grinder doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and if you keep one on hand you can decide when you want to take those extra couple of minutes to grind the beans. After all, brewing a fresh cup of java should be fun, right?

If time doesn't allow, keep the ground coffee handy!

Here are some of the best selling coffee grinders:

SaleBestseller No. 1
OXO Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder
  • Durable 40 millimeter stainless steel conical burrs create uniform grounds for optimal flavor extraction
  • 15 settings (plus Micro settings) let you adjust your grind to suit your taste
  • One touch start timer keeps your last setting, just push to grind
  • Hopper holds up to 0.75 pounds of Coffee beans. Product Dimension - 12x7.4x16 inch
  • Grounds container accommodates up to 110 grams (enough for 12 cups). Never use water or other liquids to clean the inside of the grinder/burrs
Bestseller No. 2
Cuisinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill
  • ENJOY OPTIMUM FLAVOR: Burr grinding provides a uniform grind to your fresh coffee beans with its 18-position grind selector – move the slide-dial from ultra-fine to extra-coarse to ensure your coffee grounds are exactly the way you prefer
  • REMOVABLE FEATURES: Our 8 oz. bean hopper is fully removable as well as our built-in grind chamber for ease-of-use and accessibility during the cleaning process
  • GRIND CHAMBER: Our removable grind chamber holds enough ground coffee for 32-cups, you won’t have to worry about grinding beans multiple times to brew coffee for the entire household
  • ONE-TOUCH GRIND: The one-touch power bar is separate from the unit and complemented by an electric timer that automatically shuts off the unit when your grind cycle is complete
  • CONVENIENT DESIGN: Our heavy-duty unit motor doesn’t take away space for additional design features; enjoy the convenience of cord storage and an additional scoop/cleaning brush to declutter, clean and maximize counter space
Bestseller No. 3
Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind Electric Coffee Grinder for Beans, Spices and More, Stainless Steel Blades, Removable Chamber, Makes up to 12 Cups, Black
  • EASY CLEANUP — DISHWASHER SAFE GRINDING BOWL: The grinding bowl on this coffee bean grinder is designed with durable stainless steel. It's removable for easy filling and pouring and is dishwasher safe.
  • GRIND ENOUGH TO BREW UP TO 12 CUPS OF COFFEE: If you love the delicious taste of coffee made from freshly ground beans, this electric coffee grinder is perfect for the job whether you're grinding coffee for a quick cup or a full pot
  • SIMPLE & INTUITIVE: The coffee grinder is so easy to use that you'll want to drink flavorful coffee made from freshly ground coffee beans everyday. Just place the lid on the grinder and press the button to grind coffee. Release to stop grinding.
  • DURABLE STAINLESS STEEL BLADES: With the durable stainless steel blades, this grinder makes easy work of grinding everything from coffee beans to herbs and spices.
  • REDUCE CLUTTER WITH HIDDEN CORD STORAGE: Hideaway cord storage at the bottom of the grinder stores the cord neatly and out of sight when it's not in use.
SaleBestseller No. 4
Mueller HyperGrind Precision Electric Spice/Coffee Grinder Mill with Large Grinding Capacity and Powerful Motor also for Spices, Herbs, Nuts, Grains, White
  • Consistent Grinds Every Time – Unlike many others on the market, the Mueller HyperGrind gives you perfect consistency & precision control over the coarseness of your Pour Over, Drip, Chemex, Cold Brew, French Press, Percolator,Turkish, Espresso, Herb, or Spices grind EVERY TIME!
  • Compact & Stylish – Takes up minimum counter space and can be easily stored in cupboards and drawers but with its great modern styling, you just might want to leave it out in the open.
  • Quality Above All Else - Mueller HyperGrind Precision Grinder is designed and tested through three professional grade inspections to outlast and outperform the competition!
  • Powerful & Efficient - Long lasting blades made from strong and durable stainless steel will easily grind any type of coffee you like, from coarse to fine quickly and efficiently with minimum grinding noise.
  • Made in China.

So, our story of how coffee is made is complete, except for one final detail...

Savor the fresh brew!

Enjoy, my friend, now that you know how coffee is made! ☕



Last Updated on August 4, 2022