If you have been following along with our Tools of the Trade blogs, you’ve probably realized that coffee quality is positively or negatively affected at every step along the supply chain from the time a seed is planted until the coffee is sipped from your favorite mug.
One of the most crucial steps along the way is the coffee drying process, which happens between harvest and export.
There are several ways to dry coffee beans, each yielding a different cupping result. These can range from sun drying on a patio or on the ground in front of a smallholder farmer’s house to a mechanical dryer much like you would use for laundry, to a raised bed above the surface of the ground.
Some say the raised bed is the most perfect way to dry coffee. This method is often referred to as an African drying bed because of its origin among East African coffee-producing countries. Over time, this method spread from East Africa and was adopted by farmers in many other coffee-producing countries around the world.
These drying beds are constructed from wood and screened mesh and usually stand around waist height for ease of use. These materials are particularly conducive to small or remote farms because they are inexpensive and easy to transport. Many coffee farms are located in mountainous terrain with limited road access, making this an attractive, practical option.
The screen allows fresh air to easily flow from beneath and above the coffee. This promotes more uniform drying and prevents the coffee from fermenting. The drying beans are frequently ‘stirred’ about in the raised bed using hands or some other gentle tool to aid in the drying process.
The raised drying bed is an example of how a simple method integrating both practicality and attention to the delicate needs of coffee in a volatile stage can produce measurable results in the final cup. It is also one more example of the many necessary steps involved in producing an excellent, quality coffee long before it arrives to your favorite coffee shop or grocery store.
You might recognize these beds from our video on SloDry from the Bloom collection, which builds on this traditional drying method, allowing sugars to develop over time. SloDry is available as part of the THRIVE Farmers Bloom Collection, roasted on-demand especially for you.