Have you ever been curious about how the coffee you drink every morning is produced? According to legend, a goat herder in Ethiopia named Kaldi first discovered the potential of coffee beans centuries ago. People began growing and trading coffee on the Arabian Peninsula, with coffee consumption rapidly expanding in the 15th and 16th centuries. In modern times, coffee is enjoyed worldwide, and the methods of production and harvesting have had to be upgraded to an industrial scale. According to the United Nations’ FAOSTAT, the top 3 biggest producers of coffee in the world are Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
From seed to plant
A coffee seed is planted, and five years later, it produces cherries, which have coffee beans inside. The average of the plant is around 20 years. When the cherries become ripe, in larger plantations, mechanical coffee harvesters are used to shake them from the plant, during a process called stripping.
The harvesting process
The ingenious coffee harvesters work in a similar way to citrus and grape harvesters, as the harvester encases the coffee plant, after which vertical spindles produce cyclical motions, causing the plants to move and the fruit to be stripped. Traditionally, the ripest cherries have also been picked by hand, and this method is still used today to produce more exclusive coffee. The dropped fruits are either collected with a tarp under the plants, or are moved along a conveyor, similar to grape harvesting. Stripping is a cheaper method of harvesting, with the downside of removing both ripe and unripe cherries, while selective picking is more labour-intensive, but produces a better yield in terms of quality. The chosen method is also dependent on landscape, as in countries such as Brazil, where the land is generally more flat, mechanical coffee bean harvesters are able to be used more often.
The plant machinery
One such machine is the Oxbo 9220. As the new-generation machine replacing the 9200 model after almost two decades of service, it is gentler than its predecessor, providing greater cherry retention and less damage to plants.
Here are some statistics about this ingenious machine.
|Length (same as shipping length)||18ft 2in (5.54m)|
|Width||10ft 6in (3.20m)|
|Tunnel width||55in (140cm)|
|Overall height (machine set to lowest position)||14ft 5in (4.39m)|
|Tunnel height minimum||110in (279cm)|
|Effective catching length||142in (360cm)|
|Inside catchers||20.75in (53cm)|
|Standard rear tires||500/45-22.5|
|Optional rear tires||600/55-26.5|
|Engine||MWM 4 cylinder|
|Fuel||48 gallons (180 litres)|
|Hydraulic oil||34 gallons (130 litres)|
Then, the beans are transported with dumper trucks to either be dried in the sunlight or processed via a wet method. The drying process takes 2-3 weeks and is the oldest and cheapest method, where workers distribute and move the fruit with rakes multiple times a day, to ensure they dry fully. In larger coffee plantations, the final stage of drying is sped up via machinery. After this, the beans are milled and then exported around the world.
The increasing use of coffee harvesters has enabled the world’s thirst for coffee to be sated, making the process less labour intensive and profitable. Two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day worldwide, and coffee harvesters have become an essential tool to meet this incredible demand.