GROW COFFEE PLANTS IN YOUR HOME OR GARDEN
There are few luxuries that are more enjoyable in life than a good cup of coffee. Well, maybe a good cup of coffee while sitting in the garden. So it’s more than intriguing that you can possibly grow coffee plants in your own garden, both outside and inside. Coffee plants are native to tropical Africa, Asia, and Central America, so successfully growing them in climates outside of those is a bit tricky — tricky, but not impossible.
So, intrepid and adventurous gardeners, gather ‘round if you’re interested in learning how to grow your own to brew your own. Just be aware and set your expectations accordingly — growing enough coffee plants to keep your entire household supplied with coffee beans is not completely realistic. But, hey, it’s fun and quirky. Can’t argue with that.
3 Common Types of Coffee Plants
Coffee plants typically have green, glossy leaves and, after 3-4 years, will produce fruit that ripens to red in the fall. Inside the fruit, a sweet pulp surrounds the bean, which is then dried, roasted, cooled, ground, and brewed.
1. Coffea arabica: Arguably the most common type of coffee plant, C. arabica beans tends to have a sweet taste with undertones of sugar, berries, and fruit. The tree grows from 8 – 14’ tall, but can be controlled with careful pruning.
2. Coffea robusta: These beans have a stronger, and bit harsher, taste and almost double the caffeine as C. arabica beans. It’s most commonly used in instant coffees and Italian-style espresso blends. The beans are a bit more circular in shape, and the plant itself grows to about 14’ – 19’ tall, but like C. arabica, can be controlled with pruning.
3. Coffea arabica pacas: Pacas is a dwarf variety coffee plant, growing up to just 4’ tall and with a moderate growth rate. However, if it really likes its location it can grow from 5 – 10’, and easily controlled with pruning. This species is the major source of some of the world’s highest quality coffee, and fairly easy to grow.
General Growing Guide
• Sun/Light Exposure: Bright, indirect light inside/dappled sun to full sun outside (less sun in hot, harsh climates)
• Soil: Rich and moist soil, with pH that is acidic to neutral, and well-drained
• Bloom Time: White spring flowers
• Watering: Regular (1-2x a week) with high humidity
• Fertilizer: Regular weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season, monthly during the winter season
• Hardiness Zones: 9 – 11
Conditions that Impact Flavor
Most home gardeners don’t have the space or the inclination to grow a full crop of coffee trees, so if you want beans from just a few coffee plants, you’ll want to get the best taste possible out of those beans, right? Here are some growing conditions that impact flavor.
• Soil: Fertile, rich, and well-drained soil is key to tasty coffee beans. Don’t skimp here.
• Water: Remember, coffee plants typically grow in tropical or sub-tropical regions, with plenty of water and humidity. Aim to reproduce, as closely as you can, the plant’s native habitat in order to get the best bean flavor.
• Ripeness: Harvest only fruits that are perfectly ripe, when they are dark red to almost black (read up on your particular coffee plant’s ripeness).
• Processing: The outer part of the fruit needs to dry before being removed to expose the two coffee beans inside. Incorrect processing can lead to mold. From there, you’ll have to do some additional reading on processing your beans (dry/natural processing, pulp natural/semi-washed, or wet/washing processing).
• Roasting: Correct measurements and roasting times greatly impact your beans’ flavor for the final product.
Note: You cannot use coffee beans that are roasted to grow a coffee plant. You must start with a transplant or seeds purchased from a trusted supplier or grower.
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