The collection of the berries is the busiest process in the fazendas, and has to be performed with considerable care, for some of the berries are already ripe and dried when others hidden under the branches have not yet reached the required degree of maturity. An experienced hand can collect from 400 to 450 litres of coffee berries per day. It takes an average of 100 litres of coffee berries to produce 15 kilos of prepared coffee beans ready to be shipped. The crop is not the same every year. After one plentiful crop there generally succeeds one year, sometimes two or three, of poor—almost insignificant—collections, varying according to the care that is taken of the trees and the soil.
When once the coffee has been collected and transported to the fazenda in baskets, blankets and sheets, it is necessary to remove the skin and viscous pulpy matter which envelop the beans. This is done partly by maceration in water tanks, and afterwards by drying upon extensive flat terraces, tiled or cemented, and locally called terreiro. The process of drying by machinery has not been adopted in Brazil; principally because of its high cost. The coffee is first placed for some days in mounds on the terraces, until fermentation of the outer skin begins, which afterwards hastens desiccation when coffee is spread flat in a thin layer on the terraces. When once the coffee berries have been freed from their pulpy envelope and skin, the desiccation—if the weather is propitious—takes place in a few days. Care must be taken to move the berries constantly, so that they dry evenly on all sides, as perfect desiccation is necessary in order to preserve the coffee in good condition after it is packed for shipment.
There are two ways of preparing coffee for export—the humid and the dry. In the humid process the berries are placed in a special machine called despolpadore, which leaves the beans merely covered and held together in couples by the membrane immediately enclosing them after the skin and viscous sugary coating have been removed. Those coffees are called in commerce, lavados, or washed.
The dry process consists, after the berries have been skinned and dried, in removing part of the pulp and membrane in a special machine and a series of ventilators. They are then quite ready for export.
The preparation of coffee from the drying terraces is slightly more complicated. The coffee passes through a first ventilator, which frees it from impurities such as earth, stems, stones, filaments, etc.; from this it is conveyed by means of an elevator into the descascador, where the membrane is removed. Subsequently it passes through a series of other ventilators, which eliminate whatever impurities have remained and convey the coffee into a polishing machine (brunidor). There the coffee is subjected to violent friction, which not only removes the last atoms of impurity but gives the beans a finishing polish. The coffee is then ready for the market.