how to grow coffee beans

How to Grow Coffee Beans: A step-by-step Guide to Cultivation

Ever wished you could make a cup of coffee using the beans you’ve grown at home but found the whole enterprise just a bit too overwhelming?

It’s easy to feel like beating your head against a brick wall when trying to grow coffee beans at home – so many things to consider, from choosing the right plant to creating just the right conditions for it to thrive.

Not knowing the first thing about how to get started can leave you feeling like a deflated soul before you even reach the starting line.

There’s no point putting all this time and effort in without any certainty of success, is there?

What happens if your home environment isn’t right? How do you look after the plant? Will you ever get those precious coffee cherries?

Well, don’t panic! Because I’ve put together my ultimate guide to growing coffee with ease.

I’ll take you through the process, step by step, from selecting the right coffee plant to creating the best conditions and, at last! harvesting and processing your beans.

And if you follow this guide, you’ll acquire the knowledge and confidence that come with it to grow your own coffee beans and turn your dream into reality.

Summary

  • Although very rewarding, growing coffee at home requires a lot of care.

  • The environment (light, soil, temperature, humidity) is of utmost importance.

  • The way you harvest and process your beans determines the final flavor.

1 How to Grow Coffee Beans at Home?

Coffee plant with green coffee cherries

Ever wished you could tend to your coffee trees and revel in mountains of coffee cherries, ripe and ready to be processed into your morning cup?

Well, it’s a nice thought, but let’s get some realistic expectations straight from the start: growing coffee at home is not a feat to be accomplished by those who like things done quickly.

You can certainly grow your own coffee plants but don’t pack in your coffee shop visits just yet.

A coffee plant will produce a modest amount of beans – just enough for a taste but not a daily haul.

Growing coffee can take years before the plant is mature enough to produce beans, but all the waiting and effort can make that first cup from your coffee plant grown just that little bit more rewarding.

Whether you’re in it for the long run or just want to grow a coffee plant as a lush, leafy addition to your indoor plant collection, a coffee plant can be a rewarding challenge.

Choosing the Right Coffee Plant

Coffea arabica plant

Whichever variety you choose, make sure it’s one that will thrive in your environment and satisfy you.

The first and most important thing you need to consider before growing your own coffee plant is to select which kind of coffee plant to grow.

Though there are more than 100 species of coffee plants, only a few of them are of commercial importance.

The most popular and beloved one is Coffea arabica, known for its mild taste and strongly perfumed coffee beans. However, all coffee plants that produce beans are not equal.

To get stronger and bolder coffee, you may opt for the Coffea canephora, known as Robusta coffee.

If you are looking for a compact coffee plant suitable for indoor coffee gardening, you can choose the dwarf Coffea arabica ‘Nana,’ which grows only about 20 inches (50 cm) tall.

No matter what you choose, you can easily grow your own coffee plant and enjoy it in no time. After all, you just need two coffee beans from your own coffee plant.

Setting Up Your Growing Environment

a plant with red berries

Just like any other plant, the conditions in which you grow your coffee plant are paramount to its success.

Coffee plants are high maintenance, and they require very specific light, soil, temperature, and humidity in order to thrive.

In order to provide the best conditions for your plant, it will be easiest to grow a coffee plant indoors unless you happen to live in a tropical location where coffee plants grow wild.

In case you didn’t know the origin of coffee lies in the tropical highlands of Ethiopia and Sudan, so try to duplicate their growing conditions as closely as possible.

To prepare a suitable space for your tropical coffee plant, I suggest the following:

Light Requirements

Coffee plants require bright, filtered light in order to thrive.

Direct sunlight, especially in the afternoon when it’s hot outside, will be too intense, and you risk sunburning the leaves of the plant, which aren’t accustomed to such intense light.

If you live in a cloudy, rainy climate and your house lacks sunlight, you can always use grow lights to provide artificial sunlight for the plant to the level to which it is accustomed.

The lights should be on for at least 8-12 hours to provide the necessary light requirements for the plant.

Soil and Potting

Coffee plants like rich, loamy soil to grow in and excellent drainage. For potting soil, you want to think of a peat-based mix, but not too dense.

The particles should be fluffy enough that water can drain through easily, and roots have access to oxygen.

If the soil is too dense or doesn’t drain well, the plant’s roots will rot, and the plant will die.

When your plant reaches 3-4 inches in height, it’s time to put it into a larger container to give the roots more room to grow.

Potting your coffee plant in its early stages of growth will ensure a strong, healthy plant.

Temperature and Humidity

Coffee plants like warm temperatures in the 70°F to 80°F range during the day and a few degrees less at night, approximately 65°F to 70°F.

If possible, try to control the humidity of the room. It should be around 50% or higher, as coffee plants thrive in humid environments.

Planting Coffee Seeds or Seedlings

Planting coffee seeds

Now you’re ready to put your coffee plant in the limelight. Start with a seedling or a green coffee bean, and the steps are pretty much the same (our coffee beans start as seeds; they’re just really tiny infants with potential).

If you’re starting with seeds, you’ll want to soften their tough shell by soaking them in water for 24 hours.

Then, place them in an inch-deep bed of vermiculite, and don’t hold your breath because the magic of germination will take place over the next 90-120 days.

Those little beans have some growing to do on their own, and you’re going to have to nurture the heck out of them as they go through their stages of growth.

Watering and Fertilizing Your Coffee Plant

Just like any relationship, a coffee plant needs love and support to grow well. And by love and support, I mean water and nutrients.

Your plant’s roots are going to demand water, and you’re going to have to satisfy them, but not excessively, because that’s just wrong. As for nutrients, stick to a balanced diet.

A liquid fertilizer rich in nitrogen will promote healthy leaf growth during its growing season, so it’s ready to produce blooms and bear fruit.

So, get your sleeves rolled up and your watering can and fertilizer ready because it’s time to put your plant to work.

Watering Schedule

You’ll want to keep a consistent watering schedule for your coffee plant. I recommend once a week to start, but always check the soil first.

If the top has dried out, it’s time to water.

If you’re the overbearing plant parent type, mist the pot twice a day to keep the soil moist but not excessively wet.

Just remember that your coffee plant doesn’t like wet feet, so allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings, or you’ll have some root-rot issues going on.

Fertilizer Needs

Fertilizer is the magic dust that makes your coffee plant’s world more interesting.

It’s going to require high nitrogen content to grow those leaves quickly and beautifully for photosynthesis to take place.

So, get your liquid plant foods with a cocktail of micronutrients like magnesium, iron, and the rest of the vitamins to keep your plant healthy.

You can use a water-soluble commercial plant food or go organic with compost or even fish emulsion.

Just feed your coffee plant every two weeks during its growing season, and you’ll be guaranteed a plentiful harvest going forward.

Pruning and Maintaining Your Coffee Plants

The act of pruning your coffee plant is simply done to enhance the natural shape as well as the productivity of the specimen you’re cultivating.

Reach for your shears (or scissors) each spring and trim away any thin or dried stems to make space for the new growth sprouting from the buds below.

Trim with sharp, sterilized shears at a 45-degree angle above the leaf axil. It’s like saying to your plant, “Grow strong and bloom well!”.

This will also improve airflow and, in turn, will help those delicious coffee blooms to appear.

Pests and Diseases

Like with any prized plant, pests and diseases can appear, and try to take residence in your coffee plant, so always keep an eye out for discolored leaves or dull growth.

If you notice any insects like mealybugs or aphids, take action immediately.

Organic pesticides such as neem oil are available and can help create a natural barrier of defense, while welcoming beneficial insects like ladybugs will help keep any harmful insect populations down.

For fungal infections, using a copper-based fungicide may help. Always stay alert and act quickly to maintain a healthy and productive coffee plant.

Flowering and Fruiting

The ultimate stage of both the coffee tree and coffee-plant-growing project is the flowering and fruiting phase.

After 3 to 5 years of proper care, your plant will bear small white flowers with a jasmine-like fragrance, which will give way to future coffee cherries.

Don’t stop now; keep your plant well maintained and with the optimal conditions to produce future crops.

There is no special after-bloom care–the withered flowers will naturally take a bow and make space for the green fruits that will eventually give way to your homegrown coffee beans.

Blooming Season

The blooming period of coffee plants usually lasts a good two to three months, all during the spring season.

To ensure a bountiful bloom, water your plant less during the winter months.

This will imitate the dry season in the plant’s natural habitat and will promote a heartier flowering come spring.

Once the first buds start to appear, you’ll notice the glossy green leaves giving way to a scattering of white flowers that will eventually become the coffee cherry and coffee cherries you’re hoping for.

Fertilization

The coffee plant is “selfing” or self-pollinating, with flowers that can fertilize without the help of insects or other animals.

But if you’d like to get involved and act as the busy bee yourself, you can reach between the flowers with a soft paintbrush to simulate bee-like activity, which can improve your odds of setting fruit.

This is especially good advice for plants kept indoors that don’t receive the busy pollinator traffic that outdoor plants may get.

Harvesting and Processing Coffee Cherries

Man harvesting coffee cherries

Harvesting coffee cherries is an exciting milestone when growing your own coffee beans. It’s the moment when all your care and patience pay off. Here’s how to do it:

Harvesting

  1. Timing: The best time to harvest coffee cherries is when they are deep red and slightly soft to the touch. This indicates full ripeness. Avoid picking green, unripe cherries, as they won’t have developed the flavors you’re aiming for.

  2. Method: Gently pull the ripe cherries from the branches by hand. Be careful not to damage the plant or the unripe cherries that are still growing.

  3. Sorting: After harvesting, sort through your cherries to remove any that are underripe, overripe, or damaged. Only the best cherries will produce the finest coffee.

Processing

Once you’ve harvested your cherries, it’s time to process them to extract the beans:

  1. Pulping: Remove the outer pulp of the cherries. This can be done by hand or using a simple pulping machine. The goal is to expose the beans inside.

  2. Fermentation: Place the pulped beans in a container of water and let them ferment for 12-48 hours. This process helps to remove the mucilage (a sticky layer) from the beans.

  3. Washing: After fermentation, wash the beans thoroughly to remove any remaining mucilage. Clean beans are essential for high-quality coffee.

  4. Drying: Spread the beans out in a thin layer on a drying rack or a clean surface. Let them dry in the sun for 7-10 days, turning them regularly to ensure even drying. The beans are ready when they reach a moisture content of about 10-12%.

  5. Hulling: Once dried, remove the parchment layer (a thin, papery shell) from the beans. This can be done by hand or using a hulling machine.

  6. Storing: Store the processed beans in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to roast them. Proper storage is crucial to maintain the quality and flavor of your beans.

By carefully harvesting and processing your coffee cherries, you’ll ensure that your homegrown beans are of the highest quality, ready to be roasted and brewed into a delicious cup of coffee.

Roasting and Grinding Your Coffee Beans

Roasting coffee beans

Roasting and grinding are the final steps in your at-home coffee bean growing experience. This is where you’ll release the delicious flavors and aromas from those raw green beans.

Roasting is the second-to-last major step in preparing your coffee for drinking.

It’s a dramatic change from raw to roasted, and you’ll likely smell the aromas coming from your roaster as the chaff (the fluffy skin of the coffee bean) is released.

Roasting at home is an art that you can easily practice and perfect in the future if you’d like. You’ll be able to control how “light” or how “dark” you roast your beans.

Some people like the bright, acidic flavors of a light roast, while others prefer the intense, robust flavors of a dark roast. The choice is yours.

As for grinding, the more fresh, the better. You’ll grind your beans just before you brew them to enjoy the fullest range of flavors in a truly personalized, fresh cup of coffee.

Roasting Process

It may sound complicated to roast your own coffee beans at home, but it’s actually quite an exciting process that you’ll get to enjoy in full freshness from start to finish. Here’s the process:

  1. Heat your oven or popcorn machine.

  2. Lay green beans out in a single layer.

  3. The beans will shift from green to golden to dark brown as they accumulate more flavors and depth during the roasting process. Around this time, you’ll likely hear the “first crack” which signifies that your beans are actively roasting. When your beans are sufficiently roasted, turn off the heat and quickly pull the beans out of the oven to stop the cooking. Good things come to those who wait, so you’ll want to wait at least overnight for the roasted beans to degas before grinding and brewing.

Grinding and Brewing

The last thing you’ll need to do before enjoying the coffee that you grew yourself is grind.

Using a burr grinder, you’ll be able to produce the most consistent results, whether you prefer a very fine powder-like espresso grind or a coarse grind for your French press.

The size of your grind will determine how long your coffee will brew during the actual brewing process, as well as which flavors are extracted quickly.

You’ll be able to experiment with your own grinds to discover the perfect grind size for your taste and brewing method.

Conclusion

You’ve gone from the beginning dream of growing your own coffee to the final delicious reality of brewing it.

In between, you’ve discovered that growing coffee in your home won’t supply your pantry, but it will fill your life with the wonders and smells of coffee plants.

From selecting the correct coffee species to patiently raising your plant to finally waiting for the first blossom to celebrating the harvest, every step is a part of the one-of-a-kind experience growing coffee provides.

So, here’s to the coffee lovers who want more from life than a daily caffeine fix—to those who desire a deeper relationship with their favorite beverage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for a coffee plant to start producing beans?

It usually takes a coffee plant about 3 to 5 years to start producing beans when grown indoors.

Can I grow a coffee plant outdoors?

It’s best to grow coffee plants indoors in most areas due to their sensitivity to temperature and humidity fluctuations unless you live in a climate similar to their native environment.

How often should I water my indoor coffee plant?

Water your indoor coffee plant once a week or when the top layer of soil feels dry. You can adjust the frequency based on the soil’s moisture level and the environment.

What kind of fertilizer should I use for my coffee plant?

For your coffee plant, use a high-nitrogen, water-soluble fertilizer, and consider organic options like compost or fish emulsion for best results. Fertilize every two weeks during the growing season.

When is the right time to harvest coffee cherries?

The right time to harvest coffee cherries is when they are deep red and slightly soft to the touch, which indicates full ripeness. Avoid picking green, unripe cherries.

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