How to Grow Coffee Beans: Surprisingly Easy Tips for Success!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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If you’re an amateur gardener, coffee enthusiast or just curious about how to grow coffee beans, I’m here to tell you it’s possible!

If you’re an amateur gardener, coffee enthusiast or just curious about how to grow coffee beans, I’m here to tell you it’s possible!

But hey, it’s not guaranteed that your coffee plant will always produce beans for the perfect cup! That’s not the main aim here, though. With the right guidance you cangrow your very own coffee plant to add to your indoor collection.

In this comprehensive (but simple) guide, I’ll take you through the journey of growing a coffee plant at home. I’ll focus on simple, applicable tips, from choosing the best coffee varieties to maintaining the right growing conditions.

Let’s do this!

Growing Coffee Beans at Home: Is it Possible?

You betcha! Anyone can grow coffee beans at home! But here’s the deal – the process requires the right information, some skill and lots of patience.

If you live in the US or Canada and are wondering how to grow coffee beans outdoors, it might not be possible. In these regions, coffee plants grow best as house plants.

Remember, only tropical Coffee Belt countries have the ideal conditions for coffee farms. The high temperatures, high humidity levels and abundant rainfall year-round help coffee to thrive.

Coffee Cherries in Minas Region of Brazil

In temperate regions outside the USDA hardiness zones 10-11 (like in Hawaii where Kona coffee grows), coffee plants just won’t do well.

So, let’s answer this question once and for all: Can coffee plants grow in North America? The answer is, yes!

As long as you ensure the following indoor conditions, you’re good to grow a coffee plant at home anywhere in North America:

  • Temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 24 degrees Celsius).

  • Humidity levels of 60 to 80 percent.

  • Moist, nitrogen-rich and acidic soil with good drainage.

  • Plenty of water.

  • Indirect light rather than direct sun.

Different Types of Coffee Bean Plants

Coffee plants fall in the Coffea genus of flowering plants under the Rubiaceae family. They are native to tropical African and Asian countries in the Coffee Belt. The fruit (coffee cherry) of the coffee plant is sweet and high in caffeine content. Inside this fruit are two coffee beans (seeds).

However, there are exceptions. Peaberry coffee, a type of specialty coffee, has one instead of two seeds inside each coffee cherry.

Coffee trees generally bloom 3 to 4 years after planting. Each coffee plant produces highly-scented white flowers a few months before they bear fruit. These green fruits ripen turning yellow, orange, crimson and finally, a deep red. At this point, they’re ready for harvest.

Coffee beans must undergo coffee processing to yield green beans ready for roasting. They are either wet-processed, dry-processed, honey-processed or semi-washed to produce parchment coffee. This coffee dries further before being roasted.

In its native habitat, a coffee plant can grow up to an incredible 26 feet (8 meters) tall. But in a plantation, farmers prune coffee trees to between 4.9 and 6.5 feet (1.5 and 2 meters). This makes it easier for them to prune and harvest ripe coffee cherries.

Common Coffee Plant Species

It may surprise you to know that there are several species that make up coffee plants. According to Kew Science, botanists have identified an incredible 124 species so far!

Arabica Coffee Beans
Robusta Coffeebeans

There are four main commercialized species:

Coffea arabica is the most consumed coffee globally. This species accounts for over 70 percent of world coffee production. It produces what many consider the best-quality beans and makes up the bulk of single-origin specialty coffees, including Geisha and Kopi Luwak.

Arabica plants need higher altitudes, cooler climates and high annual rainfall to thrive. Top producers of Arabica beans include Ethiopia, Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia.

Coffea canephora (Robusta) is the second-most cultivated coffee worldwide. It’s renowned for its strong, earthy and bitter taste, perfect for blends or instant coffee.

These coffees thrive in warmer climates with less annual rainfall. They’re also highly resistant to disease and pests.

Top-producing countries include Vietnam, Thailand, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras and Tanzania.

This species is popular in Southeast Asia and West Africa. It has an exceptional fruity flavor profile, smoky aroma and lower acidity. Its characteristics make Liberica a popular addition in espresso and coffee blends.

First considered a variation of Liberica, botanists now acknowledge Excelsa as a distinct species. It originated in Central Africa and now grows abundantly in Southeast Asia.

These coffees have a complex fruity, spicy flavor profile. The beans are popular in coffee blends as they give the final cup more oomph.

Choosing the Best Coffee Plant Species for Your Home

When thinking about how to grow coffee beans for harvesting, you should first consider your preferred flavor profile and tasting notes in the final cup. In this case, an Arabica plant would be ideal. However, if you don’t intend to brew coffee and just want an indoor plant, the world’s your oyster!

Consider planting the dwarf variety, Coffea arabica ‘Nana’, which peaks at a mere 12 inches. Alternatively, choose the aesthetic shrub-like Coffea magnistipula. These look good, fit nicely inside your home and are easier to maintain. You may also consider the caffeine-free Coffea charrieriana if you have caffeine sensitivities.

How to Grow Coffee Beans: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now to the crux of this post: how to grow coffee beans from seed.

The ideal way to do this is to harvest your coffee seeds directly from the fruit, pulp these cherries and harvest the seeds inside. Of course, you’ll need to dry these beans in the sun for a few weeks before you can grow them.

However, harvesting seed from coffee cherries may not be possible outside coffee-growing regions. If you live in the US, you could source green beans online from certified seed suppliers.

How to Grow a Coffee Plant at Home from Seed

Once you receive your coffee seeds:

  1. Soak your seeds in clean water for 24 hours. Toss any defective seeds that float.

  2. Next, drain the seeds. Sow them in wet vermiculite or damp, well-drained sand.

  3. Fresh seeds (from the fruit) take anywhere from six weeks to four months to sprout. Older seeds may take as long as six months.

  4. As soon as your coffee tree seeds have sprouted, remove them and place them flat side down in loamy soil. This soil should have high humus content. Add about half an inch (1 centimeter) of grass mulch to retain moisture.

  5. Water these sprouts daily using a plant sprayer. Leave them in place for approximately three months to allow them to grow into coffee seedlings.

  6. Then, transplant them to a small pot. The soil or potting mix in this pot should be nitrogen-rich and slightly acidic.

  7. Make sure you use a grow light to give your plants all the light they need. Coffee plants are also very thirsty, so don’t forget to water them once or twice weekly.

  8. Another important consideration is fertilizer. Orchid fertilizer is ideal here. It contains the trace elements nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which acid-loving plants like coffee love. You could also use coffee grounds and castor oil to keep the soil acidic.

  9. From now on, as any master gardener will tell you, it’s a waiting game. It can take three to four years for your coffee tree to bloom.

  10. To encourage blooming when your tree matures, reduce the water intake at the start of winter. Once spring arrives, shock your plant into bloom. Water it well, expose it to plenty of sunlight and maintain daytime temperatures of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius). Your plant should bear fruit two to three months after it blooms.

Home Grow Coffee Beans

How to Grow Coffee Plants at Home from Seedlings

Other than growing a coffee plant from seed, you can buy certified seedlings and grow a coffee plant from them. Find seedlings at reputable supermarkets or gardening centers, such as Lowes or Home Depot. Alternatively, source seedlings from certified suppliers online.

Let’s now look at how to grow coffee beans from seedlings:

  1. Unbox your seedlings and leave them in room temperature water overnight. 

  2. Then, separate the seedlings and plant each in a 4-inch (10-centimeter) pot with potting mix and lots of bottom holes for good drainage.

  3. Keep your seedlings in indirect sunlight near an east, south or west-facing window for the best exposure to light. If you don’t have enough light where you live, invest in a grow light.

  4. Water the seedlings daily using a plant sprayer to keep soil moist but not waterlogged.

  5. Once your seedlings are around three months old, re-pot them. Re-pot each coffee plant again after one year. By this time your seedling should be 24 inches (61 centimeters) tall.

  6. Care for your plant (see below) until it reaches maturity and blooms.

How to Propagate a Coffee Plant at Home

Before we look at coffee propagation, we should first ask: why propagate coffee plants in the first place?

Coffee propagation is a cost-effective way to get more coffee plants. It’s also useful for creating new coffee varieties and disease-resistant hybrids every few years.

You can propagate coffee plants from seed, stem-cutting, grafting or in-vitro propagation. In most cases, coffee experts propagate Arabica plants from seed. 

To propagate coffee plants at home, I’ll discuss the simpler stem-cutting method. 

You’ll need the following items:

  • Coffee plant(s)

  • Small pots with fresh potting mix or soil

  • Ziploc bags

  • Knife, scissors or small gardening shears

  • Disinfectant

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Clean your equipment using disinfectant to avoid spreading disease.

  2. Cut multiple stem cuttings from your coffee plant at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.

  3. Place each fresh cutting into its own pot and cover with a Ziploc bag. This creates a humid environment in which the cuttings will thrive.

  4. Place the cuttings in a bright, warm, draft-free spot with indirect sunlight. 

  5. Regularly moisten the leaves using a spray bottle, watering each plant once every two weeks.

  6. As soon as the cut stems have roots 1.9 – 3.8 inches (5 – 10 centimeters) long, remove the Ziploc bags and re-pot the cuttings. Care for your cuttings as you would coffee seedlings.

Caring for a Coffee Plant: Useful Tips and Tricks

Now that you’ve grown your own coffee plant, what’s next? Naturally, your priority will be to care for your coffee. With the right amount of love, you may be lucky enough to nurture a coffee plant that produces cherries and – hey presto – coffee beans!

Let’s go through some essential tips on how to care for your coffee plant at home.

Coffee tree branch in Costa Rica

Light 

Always place a coffee plant in a bright, draft-free spot with indirect light. An east, south or west-facing window with filtered sunlight in your living room is ideal. You may also place your coffee plant in a conservatory or greenhouse.

It’s perfectly okay to take your coffee plant outside in the spring and summer months, but only at temperatures exceeding 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).

Place your plant in full shade for at least two weeks before exposing it to full sun to acclimate it.

I must caution you here, though: too much direct sunlight will make the glossy green leaves turn brown. What’s more, too much sun may also cause plant-killing leaf scorch or leaf burn.

Soil Conditions

Ideally, you should choose a soil or potting mix formulated for tropical plants. Alternatively, add sphagnum peat moss to a regular houseplant mix. This will help create the acidic soil conditions that coffee plants love.

Water your plants every fortnight, but don’t do so blindly. Feel your plant’s soil or potting mix and only water when the top layer or 25 percent of your potting mix feels dry.

Temperature and Humidity Levels

Coffee plants love warm and humidity-stable conditions that mimic their native habitat. Keep temperatures at 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 24 degrees Celsius) and humidity of between 60 and 80 percent. Consider using a humidifier or placing a pebble tray filled with water near your plant to maintain humidity levels.

Fertilizing Your Coffee Plant

Feed your coffee plant with a balanced liquid feed, preferably an organic 30-10-10 foliar. Apply this fertilizer every fortnight to maintain your plant’s growth in the March to September growing season.

You may also apply coffee grounds to your plant twice a year (once in spring and once in winter). To do this, take 1 – 2 teaspoons of used coffee grounds and work it into the soil or potting mix. Don’t forget to mulch your coffee plant as well. Rice straw, pine bark or compost mulch will help keep the soil moist.

Reasons Coffee Grounds are Good for Plants

Pruning

Pruning your coffee plant in the spring before fertilizing it encourages healthy growth. Plus, it’s vital for controlling your plant’s size and shape. It also promotes coffee cherry production, enhances sunlight penetration and improves air circulation.

When pruning coffee plants, remove damaged and yellow leaves, lower leaves and suckers. Also, do away with dead or diseased branches and if you want a bushier plant, prune the top of the main shoot.

Pollination

An important thing to know is that Arabica plants are self-pollinating. In contrast, Robusta flowers are self-infertile and will need hand-pollination.

Potted Coffee Plants

You should re-pot an indoor coffee plant every couple of years. The best time to do this is in spring or early summer. Always re-pot a single plant from a smaller to a larger pot size to accommodate the new growth in the roots.

Pest Management

Finally, and most importantly, keep an eye out for pests. Common coffee pests include:

  • Aphids

  • Coffee leaf miner

  • Coffee berry borer

  • Mealy bugs

  • Scale insects

  • Spider mites

Most coffee farmers use conventional pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that aren’t organic. However, in the home, this may not be your jam. I’d recommend going fully organic.

70% neem oil in a gallon of water or caffeine from used coffee grounds (yes, caffeine) are excellent natural insecticides. An organic store-bought fungicide like triadimefon is also useful.

Remember, although coffee plants are a good addition to the home, they are also toxic to humans and pets. This is due to their solanine content, which is also present in deadly nightshade. Because of this, be careful with your coffee plant around children and pets in the home.

Final Thoughts: Growing Your Own Coffee Plant Is More About the Process

In conclusion, growing coffee plants at home isn’t just for those lucky enough to have a green thumb. Anyone with a passion for coffee can learn how to grow coffee beans at home.

Select the right coffee varieties and nurture your coffee plants and you may just strike the jackpot and harvest ripe cherries. At the very least, your coffee plant will be a beautiful addition to your indoor plant collection.

Fair Trade Kona Coffee

Ready to grow your own coffee plants at home? I’m here to answer any questions you may have! I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

Growing Coffee FAQ

It can take anywhere from three to four years for a coffee plant to flower and produce coffee cherries (fruit) and coffee beans (seeds).

Yes, you can grow your own coffee outdoors in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. In other areas, coffee plants are better grown indoors.

Coffee plants don’t smell like coffee. That distinctive coffee aroma comes from roasting harvested and processed green coffee beans.

Yes. Coffee beans are actually coffee seeds. You can plant and grow them into coffee bean plants. Don’t use store-bought beans, though, as these won’t sprout.

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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