4 Passes in a Coffee Harvest

4 Passes in a Coffee Harvest

March 11, 2023

Did you know the majority of the world's coffee is harvested manually?

The benefits of selective hand harvesting are frequently extolled in marketing materials for coffee from various areas and farms. Everyone argues that they only select ripe red cherries. How ripe, though? How ripe is it all over? Despite what marketing promises, most coffee is not harvested at its optimal ripeness.

Does the cherry's level of ripeness matter? Yes, I believe the majority of coffee industry professionals and myself would answer. I've personally conducted a number of studies and have come to the unpleasant conclusion that it is a crucial requirement for outstanding coffee. I use the word unlucky because, in most circumstances, selecting coffee at the height of ripeness is neither simple nor inexpensive.

The harvesting process is a crucial step in producing high-quality coffee as it affects the taste and quality of the final product. In a harvest season, the coffee cherries are typically picked four times, known as the four passes.


First Pass: At the start of the harvest season, the coffee cherries are plucked during the first pass, which is the primary harvesting stage. The cherries are still not entirely ripe at this point, and the beans inside the cherries are still growing. Due of this, low-quality coffee is produced, which is typically used in blends rather than being sold as speciality coffee.

Second Pass: The majority of the cherry are ripe at the time of the second pass, which typically happens a few weeks following the first pass. The cherry pickers are more choosy at this point and try to only collect the ripe cherries, leaving the unripe ones on the trees. The well-developed beans inside the ripe cherries provide higher-quality coffee.

Third Pass: The third pass is frequently referred to as the "sweet spot" of the harvest season since the beans inside the majority of the cherries are at their most developed stage. The third pass produces the highest-quality coffee, and the beans from this pass are frequently offered for sale at speciality coffee shops.


Fourth Pass: Since the majority of the cherry have been taken and are only left are the overripe ones, the fourth and final pass of the harvest season is often the least fruitful. The coffee's flavour and quality have been impacted by the fermentation of the beans inside the overripe cherries. As a lower-grade coffee or in blends, this coffee is frequently used.


In conclusion, the quality of the finished product is greatly influenced by the four passes of coffee picking during a harvest season. In the second and third passes, the coffee pickers strive to select just the ripe cherries, producing coffee of a better caliber. Lower-quality coffee from the first and fourth passes is typically used in blends or as a lower-grade coffee. For coffee producers, roasters, and customers seeking high-quality coffee, understanding the four passes of coffee picking is crucial. This is how we ensure you are drinking a luxurious cup of coffee with each cup of Road Coffee.