An Insider Look at SFBC's Milling Process

Meet Hans!

Hans has been working with us for almost ten years and is one of our talented engineers.  If he's not here in Lincoln, he's traveling to one of our farms all over the world working with local farmers to increase their green coffee efficiency. Last year, Hans and our green coffee team began building a new wet mill processing facility for our property in Rwanda. As products unavailable in Rwanda had to be shipped in, planning and preparation was imperative as shipping times could jump up to 9 months.

As a country, Rwanda has gone through few changes after the genocide that ended in 1994. Eighty-percent of the country still lives without electricity and the main source of fuel is coal and eucalyptus. As a safety means, the country is filled with car checks and roadblocks to prevent crime but Hans told us that this doesn't stop the people of Rwanda from enjoying their beautiful country. There are hardworking, joyful individuals to be found wherever you look.

Not only do they know how to enjoy life, but the coffee that comes from this region is exquisite and has notes of chocolate, citrus, spices, and raisin.

Fast forward to January 2018, Hans was off to Rwanda with his project to set up the mill.

What is a wet mill?

A wet mill is the first stage in the milling process. After picking ripe, red cherries from the trees, we are tasked with separating this cherry from delicious coffee beans.

During the wet mill process, water is first used to rinse and clean the cherries to ensure rocks and sticks that could have made their way into the bag of cherry are removed.

Next, what Hans calls the "cheese grater" removes the cherry skin from the seed. Then, the pulp is dropped in one bin, while the beans fall into another. The beans go on to becoming your delicious coffee, while the pulp has delicious qualities of its own that we are enjoying innovating with. (Stay tuned!)

All wet mills require water, hence the name, but the procedure that has been used for hundreds of years requires a filter process with many pool-sized water vats. These large vats accumulate a significant amount of water wastage which can be costly and inefficient, especially in countries where water access can be limited.

As quality and freshness is important to the production of coffee, this process happens within 24 hours of the cherries being picked. And the beans are swiftly moved to their next location, the  dry mill process.

So, just how much did we cut down on our water usage?

Before: The cherries would be dumped into pools of water. Once full, the water would move the cherries through canals. For every pound of coffee, 300 gallons of water was used.

The standard milling process uses 300 gallons per pound of coffee. We've managed to cut that down to .33 gallons per pound of coffee.

The process we use now uses gravity to push the beans through production instead of using more water. So, not only have we worked hard to bring a more eco friendly option to the industry, but we have made a more efficent process as well.

For all this to work to be achievable in this new location, we still needed water. The nearest water source was close to 5 kilometers away, which posed as an issue. The solution was to bring it to us! After some innovation and hard work, we were able to provide water to our milling area and the surrounding neighborhood.

The finished product is a running, beautiful, clean mill that washes the cherry fruit and provides the farmer with those beautiful coffee beans we know and love.

Have any questions about the milling process? Comment below!

4 comments

    • Laura Rogers 10 August, 2018 at 08:26 Reply

      Hi Becca, we keep our coffee in a temperature and humidity controlled room here at our facility. Please reach out if you have any other questions!

  1. Lynn 5 April, 2018 at 06:17 Reply

    I am new to SFBC. I usually walk past it at Costco warehouse when I buy my K Cups. I ordered a box online of your Organic Rainforest Blend. Let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint! I love it. I love that it can be recycled too. Keep up the good work.

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