Most people like coffee - whether for the flavor, the energy boost, or both. Some people far surpass “liking” coffee, however, and are much more serious about their dedication to the drink. For some, this means going so far as to grow their own coffee plant! It’s not the most common practice, however, so learning how to grow a coffee plant is quite the process.
How to Grow a Coffee Plant
There are many places to buy an indoor coffee plant, or you can get seeds and start from scratch. What you can’t do is grow coffee beans that have already been processed, like the ones you buy in the store. This is a common misconception that wastes a lot of time and energy if you try it!
Coffee plants are happiest when grown under circumstances like that of their natural environment - mid-elevation tropical mountainsides. This is what you must replicate. Whether you’ve bought a sprouted plant or some seeds, there are several key elements of coffee plant care you must consider:
Coffee plants thrive in cool temperatures and high humidity, around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and a little cooler at night. They prefer about 50 percent humidity. If this isn’t your natural habitat, it’s better to keep the coffee plant inside - like if you want to grow coffee in Canada, for instance.
You want rich, acidic, peat-based soil with ample drainage. The ideal acidity level is 6-6.5, though they can grow in anything from 4 to 7.
Water your coffee plant frequently without water-logging the soil. The soil should be evenly moist at all times without being soaked - it’s a precarious balance that requires careful attention.
To fertilize, use a weak liquid fertilizer every two weeks in the summer and once a month in the winter.
Keep the plant close to a window, not in direct sunlight but with plenty of access.
If you wish to prune the plant, do so in early spring. This encourages more leaves to grow back and gives it a fuller, bushier appearance.
Coffee plants continue growing for several years so you’ll need to re-pot in the spring, moving up a size each year until fully matured.
How Long Does It take to grow a coffee plant?
If you’ve planted from seeds, you’re in for a wait. Coffee plants take between three and five years to mature, at which point you’ll notice your first coffee flower.
This is why many choose to buy an indoor coffee plant that’s already matured - still lots of work involved but not as much waiting. The plant sprouts large, glossy green leaves that appear before the flowers. Aside from the coffee, it’s a rather attractive plant!
Once you have your coffee flowering, you’ll soon notice cherry-like fruit. It’s inside these fruits where you’ll find your beans. Each fruit has two beans - collect enough and you’ll brew the freshest coffee you’ve ever tasted!
However, it’s important to note that one plant is not enough. It looks pretty, but a single, fully mature coffee plant only produces about a pound of coffee each year. To be self-sufficient, you’ll need an estimated 15-20 coffee plants to last through the year, depending on how much you tend to drink.
Can you eat the coffee berry? How to Process Your Coffee Beans
So you’ve got your plant growing and thriving, what now? Follow a simple process for the best at-home coffee experience:
Pick the cherries off the coffee leaves when ripe enough. You’ll know it’s time when they turn bright red.
Pull the beans out of the harvested cherries. Do this immediately with a little force, or soak the fruits overnight to loosen their hold on the beans.
Once separated, let the beans sit in water for one or two days. This rids them of their slimy outer layer. They’re ready when they no longer feel slick, but rough.
Dry the beans. This is important to prevent mold and is essential if you wish to store the beans for any length of time. A few hours should suffice if you’re roasting right away. If not, let them dry completely - about four to five days in the sun.
Next, remove the final tan-colored, parchment-like layer that remains.
Now it’s time to roast. This can be done on your stovetop - use a stainless steel pot and place over medium heat, always stirring, for eight to ten minutes. There are alternative ways to roast the beans, but this is the easiest for most.
You can grind right away or store the beans, it’s up to you. Waiting to grind them right before brewing produces the freshest, best-tasting coffee.
Choosing a Coffee Plant
If you’re a coffee enthusiast, you’re likely familiar with the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans.
Quick crash course: Arabica beans are of higher quality and sweet-tasting, while Robusta is bitter and nutty with higher caffeine content. While Arabica is more difficult to produce and therefore expensive, it’s far more popular.
Ultimately, it comes down to preference. Do you want to experience more complex flavors, or is caffeine content more important? It’s a legitimate question because robusta coffee certainly has its place.
If it’s an arabica coffee plant you’re after, though, consider the “Nana” variety if you’re short on space. This is a dwarf variety that only grows to around 12 inches tall, making it perfect for apartments or other small spaces. A regular-sized arabica coffee plant can turn into more of a coffee tree with a potential height of six feet when fully grown.
Are coffee plants poisonous?
Learning how to grow a coffee plant is fun and rewarding, but it’s not without risk. You must understand that the plant itself, including leaves and flowers, is toxic to both humans and animals.
If you’re growing a single plant, keep it far away from kids and pets. If you’re growing multiple, consider using a greenhouse. Don’t let this dissuade you from the experience, but take appropriate precautions.
Now that you know how to grow a coffee plant, a whole new world of opportunity is available. Try different varieties, tinker with the roasting process, and make it your own. Growing a coffee plant indoors and from scratch is a long and involved process, but the pay-off is worth it if you commit.