3 Post-Harvest Challenges that Affect Green Coffee Beans
Keeping the irresistible taste and aroma of coffee intact—from farm to cup—is challenging to say the least. Before green coffee beans reach the roasters or during the post-harvest stage alone, there are multiple factors that can cause them harm or damage. In this article, let’s take a look at some of these hurdles to preserving coffee quality and learn how to overcome them.
There are two types of green coffee bean processing after harvest: the dry and wet methods. For the first approach, as the name implies, the beans are dried immediately after harvest until the moisture content is at about 10.5 to 12%. The wet process, meanwhile, involves removing the fruit that covers the seeds before finally sending them for drying. While the first step varies for different methods, all green coffee beans undergo drying, a critical stage that will determine the quality of coffee.
In this stage, however, there is a big roadblock: the ever-changing and unpredictable weather. During the cold season, for instance, it takes long periods for coffee beans to dry, which makes them more susceptible to reabsorb moisture. This, in turn, encourages mold growth which can also lead to fungal contamination.
During the dry season, the challenge comes in the form of intermittent rain which leave handlers unprepared, as these cause the rewetting of beans. It results in the dissolution of soluble compounds in the seeds, which drastically affect the flavor and aroma of coffee.
To solve this problem, farmers or handlers can use advanced drying facilities instead of manual sun drying. These ensure that their commodities are safe, in spite of the unpredictability of weather conditions.
Poor storage conditions
Apart from the unpredictability of weather during the drying process, storage is also a challenge, especially for smallholder farmers. Typically, smallholder farmers store green coffee beans in jute sacks or polypropylene (PP) sacks as these are more affordable. An added side benefit is that jute sacks are also organic, which make them environment-friendly.
But although jute and PP bags have been trusted by farmers for decades, they do not guarantee commodity protection from all factors that can cause damage or loss. These bags are still vulnerable to insect infestation and changes in moisture, as some are permeable to water vapor and gases in ambient air. Since jute bags and PP sacks are not hermetic or air-tight, they allow moisture into coffee, particularly when these are stored in humid environments such as warehouses. The result then, is that these sacks attract fungal contaminants.
Fortunately, farmers and handlers can easily solve this problem by turning to jute bags with hermetically-sealed liners or hermetic bags that are air-and-moisture tight. These types of storage are more reliable when it comes to protecting the precious green coffee beans from insect infestation, changes in moisture, and ultimately, damage and loss.
Problems during transport or shipment
The coffee beans’ challenging journey does not end in storage. There too, is the challenge of shipping these beans all over the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), coffee beans are the second major traded commodity next to oil. More than 50 developing countries grow and export them to major consumers such as the United States of America, Europe, and Japan.
Normally, the transportation of coffee beans is by sea. This exposes the beans to two challenges that can affect the flavor and aroma: reabsorption of moisture and condensation. The first one occurs when beans are exposed to warm and humid conditions during transport. Condensation, meanwhile, happens as the container of coffee beans moves from warm to cooler climates.
To maintain the right moisture content of coffee beans, it is recommended that handlers also use air-and-moisture tight or hermetic bags. Using transport solutions such as the TranSafeliner, which is a hermetic liner designed for shipping containers, is also recommended. This will ensure the quality of coffee beans as it moves from any climate.
GrainPro specializes in using Ultra Hermetic™ Technology in drying, storing, and transporting green coffee beans and other commodities. These solutions protect the crops against insect infestation, mold growth, inclement weather and more.
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