Hand picking or machine harvesting, which is the best way for coffee quality?
Brazil is an unusual place in terms of arabica coffee production of higher quality. Why is Brazil coffee different?
First is the large scale of the agriculture in Brazil. There are huge huge farms of 800 or even 1200 hectares. This is unheard of in many arbica producing countries.
There is the unique terrain – unique because much coffee comes from absolutely flat land, and when it’s grown on hills, these are soft rolling hills generally. A farmer from Guatemala would not even think it was a hill, or steep.
Then there is climate, places where the coffee all ripens, or even overdries on the tree. Most places coffee doesn’t dry on the tree, there simply isn’t that level of dry weather as Brazil experiences.
Lastly there is the labor situation. There is not enough labor in Brazil to hand pick all the coffee, and labor costs are high.
All this leads to the use of mechanical and semi-mechanical methods of harvest. And which of those are better? Generally hand picking is best of course. That is the process used in every country. Yet in Brazil’s unique set of circumstances, you might do as well or even better with mechanical harvesting, then relying on equipment at the wet mill and dry mill to “clean up” the lack of selection in picking.
The fact is, we aren’t talking about 90+ coffees when we are discussing standard lots from 1100-1200 meters in Brazil. Not with these altitudes and not with these varieties of coffee shrubs. These will be nice basic coffees, mild acidity, not super sweet. They aren’t going to rate next to super find Ethiopia or Guatemala for example. That’s just being honest … and also not saying they aren’t delicious in their own right.
Check out my video please! I shot this in 2013 and updated commentary 2020 – Thompson