Though it sounds excessive, picking the ripe coffee cherry is critical to the quality of any coffee. Even if only 15% of the cherry are under ripe, it will show up as a slightly sour flavor in the coffee.
It is a challenge to the producers on a different number of levels:
- handpicking is the only method of selectively picking only ripe cherries
- pickers are typically paid by volume or weight and want to get as much in their basket as possible
- cherry ripens gradually on the branch and so the same plants must be picked a number of times.
The desired sugar content of ripped cherry ranges between 15 to 21%. If we don’t have a scientific meter, we measure it by the color and uniformity of the cherry on the branch. We use terms like ‘sangre de toro’ (blood of the bull), ‘red wine’ and ‘burgundy’ to help farmers recognize the perfect level of maturity.