Farms that have been growing coffee for years, sometimes as long as two centuries, have the growth, cultivation and processing of coffee down to a fine art. But some coffee lovers like the challenge of do-it-yourself, or their interest in coffee leads them to try their hand at growing their own coffee plants. You can grow coffee from seed or purchase small plants, if you want to give this growing hobby a try.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll grow enough to keep yourself in coffee year round, growing coffee can be a fun and rewarding hobby. Unlike fruits and vegetables, you can’t simply pick the coffee and drink it. When coffee growing, your satisfaction will come more in that you actually grew a beautiful coffee plant, than the coffee it produces. And it is a hobby that requires a great deal of patience, as it can be years before the coffee berries appear.
Growing coffee isn’t difficult once you coax the seed to germinate, so even someone who hasn’t quite developed a green thumb can probably produce a lush and beautiful coffee plant. Coffee is easy to take care of, and is quite a lovely and dramatic plant to grow. The most ideal way to start is with a freshly picked coffee cherry, but it’s unlikely that most of us will ever have to access to one. Instead, purchase green coffee beans, the freshest and most recently picked as possible.
The reason the beans need to be fresh is that coffee can only be germinated from about 4 months after picking. While it can happen after that, it’s unlikely. Fresh seeds generally take between 2 and 3 months, so it’s a lengthy process that requires patience, even if you manage to find fresh beans.
To start growing coffee, soak the seeds in water for about a day then put them in damp sand or even vermiculite which you can find anywhere you can buy seeds. Make sure it’s wet but well-drained with no standing water. After the seed has germinated you can replant it in good soil that will drain well, and fertilize it. Water it every day to make sure that the soil is moist, but beware it staying too wet. A little too much water, or too less, and the seed will die.
When you first begin growing coffee, germinate several seeds and keep track of your watering each one so you can get a feel for the right amount of water—and you’re more likely to end up with a plant instead of just a few dead seeds! Artificial indoor lighting works great for coffee plants. Once you have a plant, water about twice a week and fertilize once. In two to three years, if you care for the plant properly you can expect flowering and cherries, and if you choose, you can learn the rather detailed process required to allow you to drink the coffee your plants provide. If not, a coffee plant makes a wonderful conversation piece.