Coffee Knowledge Base

15 February 2024

From picking to processing: explore the secrets of the coffee bean transformation

From picking to processing: explore the secrets of the coffee bean transformation

Before you can enjoy the rich and soothing flavours of your coffee, there's a fascinating journey that begins at origin. Let's take a step back and explore the fundamental stages of picking and processing coffee beans. From the hands of skilled pickers to the meticulous processing methods, this introduction sets the stage for understanding the origins and craftsmanship behind every delightful cup of coffee. Join us as we discover the essential steps that bring your favourite brew from bean to cup.

1. Picking Coffee

There are three methods of harvesting, or actually picking, coffee berries: hand-picking, stripping, or mechanical. As mentioned above, ripe coffee berries usually have a reddish colour. Only berries with this colour will produce exceptional-quality coffee. It is, in fact, a little unfortunate that not all berries become ripe at the same time. A single branch on a coffee bush can bear ripe red berries as well as greener unripe ones. The growers’ choice of picking method is determined by whether they are opting for a balanced top-quality coffee or a lower-quality product.


Pickers only select the ripe berries, one by one, and pick them by hand. They go through the plantation row by row, seeking out only the deep red berries. That takes a lot of time and manpower but it delivers the absolutely best coffee, although it is obviously the most expensive method. Week after week pickers search the entire plantation for ripe berries. Since not all berries are ripe at the same time, (because some are on the sunny side, some the north side, or top or bottom), the picking takes a total of two to three months.

Picking method coffee beans: Hand picking


This is also a manual method of picking the berries but they are stripped from the branches along with the unripe berries and some leaves too. Thus it is in fact a faster method than picking berries individually by hand, but doing it this way involves damage to budding blossoms, so the stripping actually harms the subsequent harvest. Also there is no possibility of selection between ripe and unripe berries during stripping.

Picking method coffee beans: Stripping

Mechanical picking

Mechanical picking is only applicable on plantations that cover large areas. The machines or the tractors need wide alleyways between the plants so that they can drive along the rows. Once on site, the picking machine straddles the coffee plants, and its ‘vibrating fingers’ shake the berries off the plant so that they fall into a catch net. Naturally, once again both ripe and unripe berries end up in the net and you cannot select them out. This method is mainly used on plantations geared to mass production.

Picking method coffee beans: Mechanical picking

2. Processing the Beans

After harvest, the beans must be removed from the berry. There are four different methods, but each may vary from country to country and between regions. There is the dry method, the wet processing or washed method, the semi-dry method, which may also be called the semi-washed, pulped natural or the honey method depending on the country, and there is the fairly new anaerobic method

The processing method is very important for the flavor in the cup, but no particular method is better or worse than another. Each method, dry or wet, produces a completely different flavor spectrum, and growers often use different methods to create different flavor profiles. After processing – and regardless of the method –the beans are always dried.


This method of processing originated in Ethiopia, where a lack of water led to a quest for an alternative. Dry dehusking means simply letting the berries dry in the sun. We’ll tell you all about this process in our blog: ‘The dry processing method’.


With this method, the berries are washed until all the fruit flesh is removed, and it is done as early as possible, no later than twelve hours after picking. To know how this is done, you can read our blog: ‘The washed processing method’.

Pulped Natural

The pulped natural, semi-washed (or semi-dry) or honey process is a combination of the dry and the wet methods. How they do this is all explained in our blog ‘The pulped natural processing method’.


The anaerobic method is a very interesting and fairly new one, and a very particular fermentation method. If you want to know how this method works, we recommend you to read our blog ‘The anaerobic processing method’.