Coffee sun drying; The most tiresome stage in coffee value chain
By Chris Mugasha
As I have always updated you about our coffee enterprise at Muga Eco Village farm right away from flowering, pollination, fruiting, ripening….. and now harvesting; another interesting stage we are engaged in currently is drying.
Coffee drying is a hectic exercise to dry the red cherries up to the level of between 11%-12% which is the required moisture by exporters.
This stage involves a lot whereby; you spread your tarpaulins on ground that is; if you have the compound! and then the wet cherries are removed from the store, poured/spread on the tarpaulins for every bean to access the sun. The coffee must be frequently stirred/turned to achieve uniform drying. One needs to keep on stirring/turning coffee several times. In the evening, the coffee must be taken back to the store because once it keeps outside at night it increases on the moisture. For coffee to dry well, it takes about 8-10 sun days. You can only succeed in this if you are handling this process/stage yourself or by your most trusted wife/son/daughter or any… otherwise you find your store empty at the end of the day!!!
We and other many rural coffee farmers in Uganda depend largely on this rudimentary means of sun drying since there is still lack of technology to do coffee pulping at the farm level and then dry the seed directly.
With sun drying, a lot of time is spent on drying the outer skin/cover (outer layer of the coffee bean) which is less ‘important’ in the coffee value chain. Sun drying remains the best as it maintains the quality of coffee.
We thank God because he timed well seasons whereby during the coffee harvesting season it is when we are having a dry season with a lot of sun shine otherwise what would be happening if we were harvesting this coffee in a rainy season? We would end up with moulded coffee thus Mycotoxins.
Coffee experts like at Ankole Coffee Producers Co-operative Union (ACPCU) one of the leading coffee exporters in Uganda advise that drying regime should begin immediately after harvest to avoid the development of undesirable taints and moulds.
Although this method of sun drying is hectic, drying coffee with its outer layer/skin on; it prevents some ingredients from evaporation.
Many coffee farmers run out of patience and fail to reach this cycle because of what is involved and they end up selling the red cherries/wet coffee immediately after harvesting.
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