How to grow the coffee plant in your apartment

The coffee plant is a perfect addition to every home. This sturdy little plant is easy to keep and maintain. And after a few years, you might even gather enough beans to make yourself a small pot of coffee. Imagine that!

What is the coffee plant?

Coffee beans are, believe it or not, beans. They are the central part of the coffee cherry, the fruit of the coffee plant. The coffee plant grows only in a coffee belt, an area around the equator. So you won’t be planting your coffee plant on your balcony any time now. However, you can place one inside your house or apartment.

Coffee has more than 100 varieties, but Coffee Arabica is the most popular choice for growing coffee inside the house. The leaves are dark green, shiny and eye-pleasant, especially in the wintertime.

Coffee Arabica is also the first cultivated coffee species that humans cultivated.

Why plant a coffee plant?

First, it is a plant. It will clean your air, serve as a resting point for your eyes and will generally make you happier.  This is crucial during the long winter days when everything seems to be grey and dull. The coffee plant is evergreen, so it will give you a dash of freshness.

Also, it will serve as a living monument to your love of coffee. Everyone can buy some fancy beans or a hi-tech espresso machine. But not everyone has a coffee plant.  

In the end, the coffee plant is sturdy a.k.a. hard to kill. So, it makes a perfect gift to all coffee aficionados. Even the ones that don’t have a green thumb.

Coffee plant with ripe cherries
Photo by Michael Burrows from Pexels

What equipment do you need to grow a coffee plant indoors?

Pot 

Nothing fancy, please. A pot is a container for soil. You can use the cheapest plastic ones, as well as the more unusual options, from clay to terracotta. The plant grows proportionally with the pot, so you can start with a smaller one and work your way every year. Hence the “no fancy” part.

When the soil starts to drain too fast, and you notice roots sticking out, it is time to repot your coffee plant. Even without these signs, once a year you should repot your plant.

Temperature

Coffee plants grow near the equator. Hence, they need a warmer climate. The temperature should never fall below zero. Also, they will get sick if the temperature is below 18 C for more prolonged periods. Any temperature from 18 C to 24 C will be great. We assume the temperature in your home doesn’t go below 18 C.

Water

The soil should be moist all the time but never soaking wet. If you have more tropical plants, it is a great idea to make a tropical corner in your house for plants with increased humidity needs. In wintertime, you can cut on the water intake slightly. Remember to always use lukewarm water when watering your coffee plant.

Soil

Default soil mix, fit for every plant. The perfect choice would be slightly acidic soil with a pH level of 6. If your soil doesn’t drain good, add pumice, perlite, or similar ingredients to achieve better drainage.

Plant food

The usual NPK 10-10-10. Equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Use it once every couple of months, in the first half of the year.

If your coffee plant leaves turn yellow, it means your green pet is lacking iron.

Lamp

Coffee is a tropical plant. It will need some extra light for growing, especially in Estonia. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your budget too much.

How to start planting your coffee

Growing coffee from coffee seeds

Coffee isn’t usually grown from seeds. If you grow coffee from the seed, your new plant will be a cross of different varieties, not the clone of the mother plant. And usually, it won’t taste any good. But sometimes it is easier to find the coffee seeds than to shop for a younger plant.

In any case, your chances for a fruitful coffee harvest are slim, so we say: go for it. Plant coffee seeds in moist ground and arm yourself with patience. The seeds take up to 6 months to germinate. After the germination, they will require a morning source of light.

Cloning the coffee tree

This is the perfect method if you already have a fellow gardener. The process is simple. You take pair of sharp scissors (or an equally sharp knife) and cut a couple of new growth from the coffee plant, 15-20 cm long. When you have these new little branches, remove the lower leaves and make sure you are left with at least 8 cm of stem. Place the branches in a glass full of clean water, and place the glass on a window that receives a lot of sunlight. Change water every few days. After 2-4 weeks (sometimes more), you will see the roots emerging from the stem. Now is the right time to move your coffee plant to a pot.

Buying the young plant

To be honest, the easiest way. You can always order one from Amazon or take a walk to your nearest gardening centre and see the offers. Pick a healthy-looking plant, without any visible damage on the leaves. Check the plant for bugs and parasites.

Coffee plant: Light requirements

The source of light

The coffee plant doesn’t need a lot of sunlight. However, it does need at least 4 hours of indirect sunshine every day. Don’t we all? Given the fact that Estonian winter doesn’t guarantee 4 hours of sunlight to anyone or anything, your best bet is to use a grow light.

Day/Night

The coffee plant needs its beauty sleep to progress. This plant grows faster if it has a simulation of day/night changes in light. The best choice would be to give your plant a full 12 hours of darkness.

Coffee plant: Pruning

How and why

If you don’t want to make a jungle in your apartment, pruning is the thing you might want to consider. Even the tiniest coffee plants can grow up to 5 meters, which is higher than any roof I have ever seen in any house/apartment in my life.

The best time to prune your plant is early in the spring. Besides keeping your roof safe and secure, pruning allows your coffee plant to focus its energy on quality growth. And to gain a form of bush, rather than tree. The basics of pruning are simple. If you remove the tip of your plant, it will develop more side branches. Coffee bush is durable, so it will recover even after hard pruning.

Open centre pruning

Open centre pruning is the rule of thumb for most fruit trees, coffee included. You should have three to five main branches. This arrangement allows the air, humidity and light to shower evenly in every part of your coffee plant. 

You should wait until your coffee plant is at least 50 cm high before removing the tip. Remove the tip just above the horizontal branch or above a new bud. This method will encourage new branches to appear faster. Your goal is to have three, four or five main branches, so just remove the excess ones.

Coffee plant: Flowering

If your new coffee plant is happy, it might reward you with beautiful, star-shaped white coffee flowers. However, you will usually have to wait a couple of years. Coffee flowers are self-pollinating, so you don’t have to pollinate them if you don’t want to. The flowering phase lasts about a month. You will be thrilled the first few days. After that, the sweet scent can become too much.

How to harvest your coffee plant

Six or seven months after the flowers disappear, coffee cherries will be ripe. Depending on the fruiting phase, coffee cherries can be red, yellow, orange or pink. When the cherries become dark red, you should harvest them.

You can eat the cherry and preserve the beans. You will need only 200 cherries (400 beans inside) to make a proper cup of coffee. 

Squeeze out the seeds from cherries. Then, put the seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove the beans from the water. Then remove the pulp. Put the wet beans on paper, like newspapers or kitchen towels. Allow the beans to dry slowly and naturally. 

Coffee plant  - harvesting the ripe cherries
Photo by Michael Burrows from Pexels

How long can coffee plants live?

Coffee plants can live for around 100 years, but not many live to be that old. Coffee plants are in their prime between 7 and 20 years. 

Conclusion

As you see, getting the coffee seeds or the young plant is the most of the problem. After that, the coffee plant is one of the simplest house plants you can have. Don’t wait! Get one for your apartment.

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