Cherry Sorting Plays A Crucial Role In Elevating The Improving Coffee Quality

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Improving Coffee Quality

Improving Coffee Quality : Quality Producing top-tier coffee demands meticulous expertise and attention to detail. Apart from adhering to farming best practices, the harvesting and sorting of cherries stand as pivotal stages in the process.

Many coffee farms opt for manual cherry picking and sorting, while some are constrained to solely hand-harvesting methods. However, these approaches can be labor-intensive, time-consuming, and often incur higher costs for producers.

Consequently, an increasing number of coffee farmers are turning to mechanized solutions for harvesting and sorting cherries, aiming to enhance overall Improving Coffee Quality

To delve deeper into this trend, I engaged in discussions with Carlos Henrique Palini, Commercial Director at Palinialves, and Felipe Fernandes Vilhena Faleiros, Operational Manager at Eldorado Specialty Coffees.

What methods do pickers employ to harvest and Improving Coffee Quality

Harvesting and sorting cherries are fundamental processes in coffee production, with farm workers employing various methods ranging from manual to semi-mechanised and fully mechanised techniques.

Carlos, associated with Palinialves, a prominent Brazilian agricultural equipment manufacturer, stresses the significance of cherry ripeness across all three harvesting and sorting approaches.

“It’s crucial to harvest coffee cherries at their optimal stage of ripeness and uniformity, prioritizing a higher percentage of fully ripe fruits, or red cherries,” he explains.

Selective picking emerges as a preferred method, wherein laborers meticulously hand-select only the ripest cherries, contributing to improved quality and the development of sweeter, more complex flavors. However, this technique demands significant labor input.

Conversely, some farms opt for hand strip picking, where laborers manually harvest all cherries from the branches, presenting an alternative labor-intensive approach.

Mechanized Harvesting Techniques

A prevalent semi-mechanized method involves farm workers utilizing hand-held tools known as derricadeiras to shake and strip cherries from branches. These cherries then descend onto tarps strategically placed beneath the plants, simplifying the collection process.

Felipe, associated with Eldorado Specialty Coffees—a conglomerate of farms in Brazil—notes that their producers typically wait for cherries to attain approximately 75% full ripeness before employing mechanized systems for harvesting.

On larger farms situated on flatter terrain, such as those in Brazil, specialized machinery is utilized for strip picking cherries. Laborers operate large mechanical harvesters equipped with vibrating, rotating rods that dislodge cherries, subsequently collected in containers by pickers.

Regardless of whether harvested manually or by machine, strip picking offers efficiency benefits, although the task of separating unripe cherries from the harvested lots remains labor-intensive.Improving Coffee Quality

During harvesting, it’s customary for pickers to discern and remove both underripe and overripe cherries, alongside ripe ones. This meticulous sorting is vital to uphold coffee quality standards.

“Through post-harvest processing, we segregate the ripe cherries,” explains Carlos. “This practice enhances ripeness uniformity, thereby elevating overall quality.”

What About Coffee Cherry Sorting

Carlos elaborates on the cherry sorting process, highlighting the utilization of various equipment and techniques to achieve optimal ripeness. Many farms commence by placing harvested cherries on a tarp, Improving Coffee Quality meticulously removing any unripe ones. Alternatively, automated systems are employed to sort cherries based on size, color, and density.

In certain instances, cherries undergo submersion in water tanks. Improving Coffee Quality This step aims to identify defective, underdeveloped, or overripe cherries, discernible as they float to the surface and are subsequently discarded.

Subsequently, farm workers conduct visual inspections of the drying coffee on raised beds or patios, identifying and eliminating any damaged, insect-infested, discolored, or underripe beans.

Following a drying period of approximately two months, producers utilize a density sorter and gravity separator to differentiate between high-density and low-density beans. Higher density beans are typically associated with superior quality and command higher prices.

Ultimately, green beans undergo color sorting to eliminate any defective beans, a task accomplished either manually or using sensor machines. This meticulous step is essential to ensure the coffee meets specialty-grade standards.

Challenges with Manual Sorting Methods

While manual coffee sorting aids in quality control, it’s typically time-consuming and lacks precision.

“Given the scale of our farms and the daily coffee harvest volume, manual sorting proves inefficient and costly,”Improving Coffee Quality Felipe notes.

The manual sorting process, often requiring hours of meticulous work, poses risks of overripening and spoilage as time passes. Selective picking exacerbates the time constraint, given the varying ripening rates of cherries,Improving Coffee Quality necessitating multiple harvesting sessions.

To bolster productivity, coffee farms must maintain sizable labor teams, resulting in substantial costs.

“Many coffee-producing regions in Brazil grapple with labor shortages,” Felipe explains, leading to issues like overripe cherries and inadequately sorted coffee, ultimately translating into diminished yields and profit losses.

Moreover, pickers often rely on visual assessment of color as a primary indicator of ripeness, which can be subjective. Sorting yellow cherries presents a particular challenge due to the ambiguity surrounding optimal ripeness.Improving Coffee Quality

“Manual sorting poses even greater challenges for larger producers,” Carlos observes, citing the extensive planted areas and varied ripeness stages of coffee. Consequently, larger farms necessitate robust post-harvest infrastructure to effectively separate and sort coffee cherries.

Increasing Adoption of Mechanized Sorting Systems

As producers deliberate over manual versus mechanized sorting solutions, the evolving challenge of securing a stable workforce prompts a growing reliance on automated alternatives.

One such innovation is Palinialves’ FullSelect optical sorter, set to debut at the company’s booth during the 2024 International Coffee Week event in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, from November 8 to 10.

Carlos elaborates on the machine’s functionality. “The FullSelect is an electronic optical sorter designed to segregate coffee cherries based on color,” he explains. “Harvested cherries, varying in ripeness, are fed through a hopper and conveyed to the optical sorting machine.”

“The machine employs high-resolution cameras to capture images of the cherries,Improving Coffee Quality discerning them based on color sensitivity,” he continues. “Red or yellow cherries are accepted, while green and black ones are rejected.”

Upon identifying defective cherries, a precise stream of compressed air swiftly separates them from ripe ones.

Felipe underscores the sorter’s advanced capabilities. “The FullSelect integrates a suite of full-color cameras capable of detecting green coffee within ripe red cherries,” he adds. “These highly sensitive cameras can differentiate cherries based on subtle variations in color tone with exceptional precision.”

In which scenarios are manual sorting methods preferable

It’s essential to recognize that not every farmer requires mechanized harvesting or sorting machinery. For instance, it may be more economically viable for smallholder farmers cultivating coffee across one or two hectares to manually harvest and sort cherries,Improving Coffee Quality  primarily due to their lower coffee production volumes.

Furthermore, certain farms situated at higher altitudes or in mountainous terrain may encounter challenges in operating harvesting machines. However, more significantly, some producers may lack the capital or access to loans necessary to invest in these solutions.

How Sorting Machines Benefit Producers

Improving Coffee Quality : The most evident advantage of utilizing mechanized sorting solutions lies in their ability to save both time and money. By employing machines instead of manual labor for cherry sorting, producers can redirect their focus to other essential aspects of their farm.

“Mechanized sorters like the FullSelect offer far greater reliability compared to manual methods, enabling me to allocate my time more efficiently,” explains Felipe.

Moreover, these machines can significantly enhance production volumes.

“Manual sorting methods incur high operational costs and often result in lower yields,” Carlos points out. “Optical sorters, on the other hand, can process between 6,000 and 10,000 kilograms of coffee cherries per hour, a remarkable improvement over the volume achievable by hand sorting.”

Carlos emphasizes that sorting machines provide several additional benefits for producers, particularly those aiming for higher-quality coffee.

“For instance, Palinialves’ FullSelect machine efficiently and precisely sorts high volumes of cherries,” Carlos highlights. “Producers can then focus solely on processing the ripest cherries, thereby elevating the overall quality of their coffee.”

A Heightened Emphasis on Quality

For producers equipped to invest in mechanized sorting solutions, post-harvest processing methods become more accessible and streamlined.

“The FullSelect machine offers straightforward operation, featuring an intuitive touchscreen panel and automatic sensitivity adjustment,” explains Carlos.Moreover, this advanced technology allows farmers to allocate more time and energy to enhancing other aspects of their business, further improving coffee quality.

“With mechanized sorters, Improving Coffee Quality I can confidently ensure that only red ripe cherries without defects are processed,” Felipe concludes.

From seed planting to implementing diverse processing methods, producers committed to cultivating high-quality coffee meticulously attend to every step of the process.Improving Coffee Quality While many rely on manual harvesting and sorting methods—sometimes out of necessity—an increasing number are recognizing the advantages of mechanized sorting solutions. For coffee farms equipped with the infrastructure and resources to invest in these machines, they offer a myriad of benefits.