Growing coffee beans does not need a tropical plantation, a small bush can provide enough beans for your own coffee, but maybe not enough to feed a coffee addiction.
The coffee bean grows on the coffee arabica tree, a bushy evergreen that needs a frost free climate. The coffee plant prefers a steady warm temperature and a fertile soil. In dry areas it will need regular water, but good drainage. Coffee grows best naturally in the cooler uplands of tropical regions, such as Kenya and Columbia. There are several varieties which are differentiated by numbers , such as KM35. The original variety can become very tall (over forty feet) if left unchecked but several dwarf varieties are available that are suitable for a backyard or container. Pruning will keep larger varieties in check if the smaller ones are unavailable.
To grow your own plants you need a naturally warm garden or an enclosed porch. Coffee will not survive a frost. The soil needs to be kept fertile with regular applications of worm-castings, worm tea or compost. Keep the soil damp, container plants need watering twice a week. In very sunny areas provide the plant with shade. I live in the tropics and keep mine as an “understory” plant, with several bushes growing under trees dotted throughout the garden.
The plants have small but very fragrant white flowers which then develop into green berries. In cooler climates, where the plant is grown indoors, it may be necessary to shock the bush into flowering by reducing watering for a few months and then increasing it again. This mimics the natural wet and dry seasons of the tropics. Fruit is produced on lateral branches and regular pruning of the bush encourages the growth of these.
Coffee bushes will crop continuously throughout the year in a suitable climate with fruit and flowers at different stages present on the same bush.
The berries ripen to a bright red colour and are then ready for picking. Beans will not ripen if you pick them too early. After picking de-pulp the beans by hand. Soak them in fresh water to remove any remaining pulp and rinse in fresh water. At this point some beans may float and they should be discarded. Once the beans are clean they can be dried in a commercial roaster, on a wire rack in a warm place, or in a warm oven. If you are using your home oven it is necessary to keep stirring them to ensure an even roast and prevent burning. They are ready when they “crackle” or are hard on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle. (The bite test.)
Coffee beans will germinate fairly readily, but slowly, at home and even beans bought from an organic coffee shop may germinateafter being soaked in water for twenty-four hours. Home germinated bushes can take up to seven years to produce fruit; for this reason it is usually better to buy a plant that is a few years old and increase your stock with cuttings.