Growing Our Own Coffee: Nailed It

We did it. We drank coffee brewed with home grown beans. Failure never tasted so sweet.

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We were so excited when our coffee bush was loaded with blossoms this spring. And, whoa, did they smell heavenly. All spring we lovingly weeded around the bush, checking the soil for just the right amount of moisture, and keeping a daily vigil for the rogue mole that just loved to circle around it.

coffee plant

Soon the white blossoms gave way to little green clubs, then full-on beans. So many beans! All summer they got bigger. Until the super rains, so common at the Tropical Homestead, arrived. And the beans…changed. For the worse. It was exciting at first because they started taking on a reddish hue, just as they should when they begin to ripen. But instead of turning bright red they literally turned black overnight. I’d pluck them from the branch and they would be all squishy. Heart-breaking. And incredibily unappetizing.

bean close-up

So we lost a bunch. But some remained. And once the rains slowed, they ripened to that beautiful Christmas-lipstick-race-car red. I harvested them. Not with crates or baskets or even a bag. The handful fit it my pocket. But, by Jove, it was MY handful and MY pocket!

 

bean roll

This where a little knowledge would have gone a long way. I was already dreaming of the fine roasted flavor filling the kitchen. But that waltz wasn’t even on the dance card yet.

 

bean shuck

First, you need to squish the beans out of the shells. For this, I found it’s best to employ someone with small hands that enjoys slimy fingers. We’re fortunate to have such slime-loving-itty-bitty-digits-person in residence. Griff squished out the beans like a champ.

fermentThen they have to ferment. That’s right, I said ferment. The same process that gives us wine and beer (and mead) works on coffee, too. Isn’t nature wonderful? But instead of yeast turning sugar into alcohol, the microbes at work are eating away at the aforementioned slime that coats the bean. I placed the beans in water (removing any that floated) and waited FOR DAYS. Three or four, I think; seemed like forever. I changed the water one or two times each day as not to let ne’er do well microcreepies crash the party. Once the beans felt bumpy instead of slippery, I dumped out the water and let them dry in one layer FOR DAYS. I was really impatient by this time, but the beans need to be completely dry before roasting.

Once dry we can finally get to roasting. I feel the need to remind you that I’ve waited months, and then DAYS for this moment. I lovingly dumped my pale, very dry beans into a pre-heated skillet and waited for magic. Almost immediately the kitchen filled with smoke. This is normal, so the internet said, so I opened a window and forged ahead. But alas, my beans, once again, turned black. I burned them. The skillet was too hot.

burnt beans

 I was undaunted. I would grind these little caffeinated bits of charcoal. I’d come too far to turn back now. I let the beans cool overnight. I awoke and ground the beans, grinning like a madman. This was guaranteed to be horrible, but we did it, coffee from our own beans.

carafeThe handful of beans was enough for one cup of espresso. Clay and I split it; he took his with sugar, and I made mine a sissy iced coffee drink.

It was…not horrible. Although burnt, it was a smoky flavor rather than full-on charcoal. And there was absolutely no bitterness. Very, very smooth. Smoky and smooth.

iced coffeeI learned a lot from this experience, mostly a new awareness of my utter lack of patience. But I will happily wait for next year’s harvest. And hope the skillet is a little cooler.

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