A Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Coffee At Home!
For the more experienced gardeners out there that are looking for a challenge, why not try growing your own coffee beans?
Even though they are relatively resistant, they require consistent attention to ensure proper growth and creating the correct environment for them to thrive can be difficult, especially if you live the UK. But that shouldn’t put you off. As you probably know home grown produce is fresher and healthier than that found in local supermarkets, so your final product will taste better than anything you ever could purchase. Not only that but the feeling of achievement and satisfaction you’ll get after sipping a cup of coffee that you made from scratch will feel immense, and taking on a challenge like this is a great way to showcase your skills as a gardener.
There may be a tough road ahead but by the end, I’m sure it’ll be totally worth it!
Considering how long it could take (up to 4 years) and that there are many factors you will need to keep on top of, I’m going to take you through the entire process in this post. All the way from first planting the seed to grinding the coffee bean.
Growing the Beans
If you know a little about growing coffee then you are probably aware that they are most commonly grown in places like Kenya, Indonesia and Ethiopia, specifically in cool, mountainous areas. The conditions here are difficult to replicate which is why your plant will need constant attention.
To ensure you create the correct environment for the plant, you will need to take into account the following factors.
The Bean or Berry?
Okay so this doesn’t affect the plants environment but it’s still very important.
Even though green coffee beans are available from many suppliers, it’s better to purchase the coffee berry instead because the beans inside will germinate and sprout much quicker. This is because the green beans have been dried out and transported for who knows how long which means they’ll have much less moisture.
The quality of the bean should still be the same, the only big difference is how long the berry beans take to germinate (it could be up to 4X as fast). Considering how long this process already is, you want to be saving yourself as much time as possible.
Unlike most plants, you need to gradually upgrade the size of the pot you use as the coffee plant grows. This is done to replicate its ideal environment, in places like Kenya the plant has to fight for space and nutrients in the soil because the rainforests are so crowded.
It may seem tedious and not worth doing but you could kill the plant if you don’t.
Now there is a way to do this correctly so make sure you follow the steps below:
- Place one coffee bean in a 3 inch pot and wait until the plant has grown to about 5-6 inches in height before transplanting.
- Move the 5-6 inch plant to a 5 inch pot and leave it there for about a year and a half.
- Move it to a 10 inch pot for another year.
- Move it to a 12 inch pot until it reaches the size needed to begin fruiting.
- Move it to an even bigger pot(say 5 gallons) which can sustain this fruiting.
When storing the plant in the different sized pots, it’s very important that you make sure you get the water levels right. You want to water it to the point where the soil is completely soaked through without any flowing out from the bottom, so all water is held within.
You also need to give the water time to evaporate as well as the plant is also use to this. Don’t overwater, allow time for excess to evaporate, you need to give it few days drying out period. If you don’t give the plant time to dry out you could cause root rot which causes the leaves to turn yellow and fall off (which could lead to plant death).
Once your seed as fully germinated make sure you move it to a porous, nutrient-packed soil with low-acidic content, a good amount of organic matter and very good drainage – adding in a layer of sand to the mix can promote better drainage.
You also want to add in one extra ingredient,crushed volcanic rock (you can get this on Amazon). This not only helps to replicate the plants ideal environment but also provides them with minerals which are essential to their life – so if you don’t apply it you could kill the plant.
As you can tell with the type of soil required for them to grow, coffee plants love a healthy supply of nutrients so you’re going to need to fertilise every two months. Make sure you go with a fertiliser that’s high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and extremely high in micro-nutrients.
If your plant is lacking in nutrients then you could see signs of disease such as yellow leaf and leaf drop. The main cause of these are an iron deficiency and even though lava rock is high in iron, it may still not be enough. To ensure you reach the plants nutrient requirements try adding Chelated Iron to the soil when fertilising.
To ensure that the plant is kept warm enough, between 15 and 24 degrees C, you will want to make use of a heat lamp. Although if you don’t have one of these, or don’t want to invest in one, then an area within your house or a greenhouse will lots of natural sunlight will suffice.
Seeing as we don’t get the best weather in the UK, if you intend to make use of a greenhouse then do so during the late spring, summer and early autumn, if you use it outside of these periods then it’s likely the plant won’t survive due to frost.
During the late autumn, winter and early spring, or whenever the temperature outside gets below 15 degrees C, bring the plant indoors.
Things to Watch Out For
- If you notice any of the following signs or ailments in your plant then you need to treat it ASAP with the appropriate supplement.
- If your leaves are turning yellow at the stem and green around the edges then this is usually a sign of iron deficiency, so treat with an iron supplement.
- If your leaves are turning entirely yellow then this is usually a sign of nitrogen deficiency so you might to use a fertiliser higher in nitrogen.
- If your plant is halting in growth and the leaves are getting smaller then you want to supplement it with magnesium and nitrogen as this will give it a little boost.
- If the point of your leaves are turning brown then this is a sign of a lack of humidity. To treat this you can either buy a humidifier or spray the plant with warm water (not hot, not cold, and right in the middle – about 30 degrees C). This is also a very useful thing to do during winter.
The entire growing process will take time and delicate care but be patient, I’m sure the reward at the end will be well worth it.
Not only do you get great coffee but you’ll also get some beautiful flowers as well!
Making the Actual Cup of Coffee
Once the beans are fully grown there are just another few steps for you to go through before it’s ready to drink.
After removing the beans from the berries you need to let them dry for a few days. All you need to do is spread them out evenly across a baking tray and leave them out in the sun.
I know this will be difficult to do in the UK so try your best to time it during June/July. Hopefully some decent weather will come along!
But if this isn’t possible then leave them inside with lots of space next to a heat lamp or radiator. Just make sure you don’t create humid conditions otherwise the beans will go mouldy.
After a few days your beans should have fully dried out and will feel like little stones/pebbles.
After you’re finished drying you will notice that there is this thin layer of tan coloured skin called parchment. This needs to be removed before roasting your beans.
Of course big commercial farms will have machinery to do this for them, which I’d imagine you don’t have access to, but don’t worry there are a few different ways to remove the parchments yourself at home.
- Method #1
You can lightly grind those (about three spins) with a coffee grinder to take off the parchments. But you must be careful as you don’t want to crack the unroasted bean. Then place them in a tray and pick out the green coffee beans.
- Method #2
With a set of ping pong paddles, rub the beans together. The grip of the rubber on the paddles holds onto the parchments which allows you to tear them off.
Do this into a bucket and pick out the green beans.
- Method #3
Cut an old bike tire so it’s just one long piece of rubber and tie it at one end. Place the coffee beans inside and rub them against the floor (more effective if done on pavement) to break off the parchments.
Like the paddle, the rubber holds onto the parchments.
- Method #4
The traditional way (I’d imagine) is to place a small dose of beans in both hands and push them against one another to break apart the parchments.
This is more difficult and you need to be quite strong to pull it off but feel free to give it a go!
Just like parchment removal, there are several ways to roast your beans without the use of some type of commercial machinery. But from all the methods I’ve seen, the easiest seems to be using a popcorn popper.
They’re like big soup pots with a handle at the side which allows you to keep the popcorn (or in this case, coffee beans) moving – which is essential. It’s a fairly easy process to carry out but instead of reading about it, you’re probably better watching so check out the video below!
Of course if you don’t want to invest in a popcorn popper (which I actually believe are quite inexpensive) then a simple pan and spatula will do just fine.
Degrees of Roast
I know this ties in with the section above but I feel it deserves one of its own because of how important it is.
To make sure you roast your coffee how you like it, you are going to need to understand how the roast affects the taste of the coffee – not that it’s all that complicated, I’d imagine you’ve already got a good idea.
To make it easier to understand, I’ve tied it in with the video above:
- The City Roast Stage (stage 5) is a light roast and gives you a sweet, grassy taste.
- The City Roast Plus Stage (stage 6) is a medium roast and gives you the best mix of sweet and acidic flavours (most common)
- The Full City Roast (stage 7) is a medium dark roast and gives you more of a burnt sensation with less sweetness.
- The Dark Roast Stage (Stage 9) is a dark roast and in most cases it gives you just a burnt taste that overshadows all sugar caramelisation, although not always!
Once you’ve finished roasting you need to cool the beans down as quickly as possible, otherwise they could burn further. All you need to do is spread them out evenly on a baking tray and give them a little shake. This can be done inside but it helps to do so indoors.
With your beans roasted to your liking you can now store them away to be enjoyed another day or reward yourself with a warm cup of Joe, after all your hard work it’ll be well deserved! Check out Blackheart’s guide to coffee grinders here.
Thanks for reading, I hope this inspires you to start your own coffee plant!
Many thanks to Lyle from tassimocoffeereview.com for this fantastic guide! – Roger Blackheart