1. Growing

In Ethiopia, coffee is produced under four different systems. These are:

  • Forest coffee: Also known as "wild coffee," this type of coffee is grown from seeds scattered in the forest.
  • Semi-forest coffee: These coffee plants are generated from seedlings cultivated in nurseries and placed in thinned forests. Farmers clear weeds annually to facilitate harvesting.
  • Garden coffee: This method involves farmers cultivating coffee in their own vicinity at modest densities, primarily using organic fertilizers.
  • Plantation coffee: Large commercial farms grow plantation coffee using recommended agronomic practices, including better seedlings, spacing, mulching, manuring, weeding, shade regulation, and pruning. Plantation coffee is cultivated on previously cleared land, with seedlings raised in nurseries and routinely planted alongside shade plants.
The coffee harvest season, spans from October to December and the peak of the season is November. Harvesting usually continues throughout the entire harvest season for most farms because coffee beans don’t ripen together at one time; hence farmers practice selective harvesting by picking ripe red cherries.

2. Processing

The most widely used coffee processing methods In Ethiopia are Dry processing and Wet processing. Other processing types like Honey processing and Anaerobic processing are also sometimes used.

2.1 Dry Processing

This is the oldest and simplest coffee processing method. Coffee processed through this method is known as “Unwashed”, “Dry Processed”, “Sun-Dried” or "Natural" coffee. Dry processing method involves Primary and Secondary phases described below:

  • Dry: Primary Processing

The dry primary processing of coffee cherries begins with the delivery of cherries to the primary processing station, where they undergo cleaning and sorting to separate ripe cherries from unripe, overripe, and damaged ones, as well as any dirt or twigs. The cleaned and sorted ripe cherries are then spread out in a thin layer in the drying bed to sun dry. Once the cherries have dried, they are stored until they are needed for hulling, a process that involves removing the dried husk and parchment layer surrounding the coffee beans. After hulling, the coffee beans are placed in bags for delivery to a Secondary processing facility.

  • Dry: Secondary Processing

At Secondary processing facility the beans first undergo a hulling process which removes the parchment layer from the beans followed by a cleaning process which involves polishing, sorting, and grading based on size, color, and quality, with the aim of removing impurities and defects as per the required quality and grade standard. Then after the beans are packed and made ready for export.

2.2 Wet Processing

This processing method is relatively more sophisticated. Coffee processed through this method is known as "Washed" or "Wet Processed" coffee. Wet processing, like Dry processing, involves Primary and Secondary phases described below:

  • Wet: Primary Processing

Wet Primary processing, like Dry processing, begins with the delivery of selectively picked coffee cherries to the primary processing station. Here, the cherries undergo cleaning and sorting to separate ripe cherries from unripe, overripe, and damaged ones, along with any dirt or twigs. This is typically followed by a flotation process on washing channels to separate cherries with defects from the desired ripe cherries. The next step involves de-pulping, where the outer skin or fruit pulp is removed from the coffee beans, usually within 8-12 hours after harvest. The de-pulped beans, still covered in a sticky mucilage layer, are placed in fermentation tanks to undergo fermentation to remove the mucilage. Following fermentation, the coffee beans are moved to washing channels for a thorough wash, removing the remaining mucilage, and leaving the beans with the parchment layer. Subsequently, the beans are spread out in a thin layer in the drying area to sun dry. Once dried, they are stored with the parchment layer in bags for delivery to a Secondary processing facility.

  • Wet: Secondary Processing

Wet Primary processing, like Dry processing, begins with the delivery of selectively picked coffee cherries to the primary processing station. Here, the cherries undergo cleaning and sorting to separate ripe cherries from unripe, overripe, and damaged ones, along with any dirt or twigs. This is typically followed by a flotation process on washing channels to separate cherries with defects from the desired ripe cherries. The next step involves de-pulping, where the outer skin or fruit pulp is removed from the coffee beans, usually within 8-12 hours after harvest. The de-pulped beans, still covered in a sticky mucilage layer, are placed in fermentation tanks to undergo fermentation to remove the mucilage. Following fermentation, the coffee beans are moved to washing channels for a thorough wash, removing the remaining mucilage, and leaving the beans with the parchment layer. Subsequently, the beans are spread out in a thin layer in the drying area to sun dry. Once dried, they are stored with the parchment layer in bags for delivery to a Secondary processing facility.