Did you know you could grown your own coffee on the Gold Coast? Local couple Sophie and James detail their experience of growing, harvesting and roasting their own coffee.
Buying The Coffee Tree
We bought three coffee plants from a roadside stall somewhere in the Currumbin Valley. To be honest, we don’t know what sort of tree we bought. It was probably a robusta, because they’re known to grow better on the coast, but it could equally have been an arabica.
We started off with three, planting them down with our chickens and then pretty much forgetting they existed. Two perished but one survived long dry periods and being dug by chickens. It was perhaps 6 years before our first real harvest was possible.
What we can’t tell you, based on our experience, is how to care for your coffee plants. We can suggest that they’re probably pretty hardy, though we did have something of a survival of the fittest approach to our coffee trees. Starting with three, we ended up with one good tree.
Processing The Coffee
Our second season of coffee yielded something close to two cups of coffee fruit from our first pick. Seen below.
There are more still ripening on the tree and I expect we’ll get about the same again in another week or so.
We squeezed the seed from the coffee fruit and put them aside. (It’s the seed that is the actual coffee, which you probably understand already.) It’s not ready for roasting yet though because it’s got a skin on it that needs to be removed.
According to the internet, we had to ferment the coffee by leaving it in water for several days. This didn’t really go to plan for us and after a few days we removed it from the water. We were going on holidays and couldn’t leave it there any longer. We spread it out to dry.
Roasting The Coffee
We’ve tried two was of roasting green coffee. The first was in a hot wok, shaking and roasting until they turned a chocolate brown. The coffee needs to crack so you have to give it a certain amount of heat to get it roasted properly. Roasting in a wok resulted in a good even roast. It also allowed us to watch the coffee closely and remove it when we were happy with the level of roast. It does mean standing in front of the oven shaking a pan for about ten minutes though.
The second way was in the oven. We put on a timer, every two minutes removing the tray to shake the coffee. The results were a bit more haphazard than the wok method. You can see our results below.
You can probably see that some coffee is darker than others. It was close enough though for a home job.
The failed fermentation step came back to bite us then. The roasted coffee still had a skin on it. We had to remove this from every bean, one at a time. But the good news was, we now had about 90 grammes of coffee ready to grind and drink.
Brewing And Drinking The Coffee
We brewed the coffee in an Aeropress coffee maker. We used about 30 grammes of coffee, added the water and let it rest for about two minutes. We then tried the coffee black and with milk. And the results…
Pretty damned good!
As good as some bought coffee. It was better than most supermarket coffee, for instance. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste but otherwise it was very acceptable brew. We were so excited!
Summing Up Our Experience Of Growing Coffee On The Gold Coast
It’s a fun exercise and I’d highly recommend doing it. It gave me a new respect for how much work goes into making a good cuppa. And we were super thrilled to have produced our own cup of coffee (and that it was decent too).
If you’ve ever tried growing and processing your own olives, you’ll know it can be a tonne of work and you still might not like what you’ve made. Compared with that, growing, processing and roasting our own coffee has been a blast. We look forward to roasting our next batch of Labrador coffee.