'How to' Guides

Guide: How to Grow Coffee in the US

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The majority of coffee drinkers are quite happy buying their coffee without ever having the desire to grow their own coffee plants.  Perhaps it’s because they don’t have the time, space or simply the inclination.  

If however you are a coffee lover and also happen to be a little green fingered, then you might be wondering if you can grow coffee in the US.  With a bit of care and attention you certainly can grow your own coffee plant in the US.  Even in you live in an area with freezing temperatures in the winter, this tropical plant is great for both beginner and more experienced gardener.

Can you grow coffee in the United States

Coffee plants typically grow in tropical climates just above and below the Equator.  Knowing this could make people automatically assume that they will be unable to grow their own if they live anywhere else in the world.  

Luckily this isn’t true and there are many who have successfully grown their own coffee plants, harvested coffee berries and roasted the beans themselves, even in places like New Jersey!  All you need is the correct equipment and patience in order to grow your own coffee in the US or even other countries outside the tropics.

Coffee growing conditions

Coffee needs the following in order to grow successfully:

  • Warm temperatures
  • High humidity
  • Bright, indirect light
  • Rich soil
  • Good drainage
Luckily for us, we can recreate these conditions indoors and in a few years time, you should have thriving coffee plants that will flower (usually around April – July).  These will then produce berries that you can harvest, dry out, roast and grind into your very own homegrown coffee.  
Can you grow coffee in the US?

Things to remember when growing coffee

Coffee plants can be tricky to grow from seed indoors.  They can be quite finicky little things depending on the environment.  

  1. As we use dry, but not brown, coffee seeds, we give them their best chance of succeeding by soaking the seeds in an antiseptic to kill any fungi or spores that may be lurking on the seeds.  We use potassium permanganate, which is actually recommended for skin conditions such as eczema.

    You do need to be careful though as it needs to be well diluted (more on this below).  If however you are using fresh beans then you just need to inspect the seeds for any damage, discarding those that are and plant the rest.

  2. Too much humidity will cause rot so it is essential to provide good air flow.  The other thing is not to use organic matter in the soil you will be germinating your seeds.  This creates the perfect environment for mold to grow..  Other than that, they aren’t too fussy about the type of soil they’re germinated in.

  3. Coffee seeds need a temperature of approximately 80 – 84° degrees F (27 – 29° C) to germinate.  If you have no way of reaching this temperature indoors and it is too cold outdoors, then you will need a heat mat or other heat source to provide warmth.

  4. Some seeds take a long time to germinate.  They can take anywhere from 1 to 6 months to germinate so this is where patience comes in.

  5. Growing coffee plants to fruition can take between 3 and 5 years so if you are growing from seed, it will take longer than if buying an already established plant.
how long does it take to grow coffee beans

What you will need to grow coffee from seed

Growing coffee in the United States

To get started, you will need:

  • Coffee seeds (green seeds, not the roasted type you get in stores) 
  • Potassium Permanganate (optional)
  • Plant tray or pot – even a yogurt container will suffice
  • Soil 
  • Heat mat, if starting in winter
  • Grow lamp

Coffee planting instructions

How to grow coffee from seed

1.  Purchase good quality coffee seeds from a garden centre or online here.  The fresher the better.  (You will need green coffee beans to grow a coffee plant – not the brown already roasted beans you find in the grocery store ;-).)

2.  Mix potassium permanganate and water at a dilution rate of 1 to 10 000 and soak seeds for 12 hours.  This is optional however advised if the seeds aren’t very fresh.

3.  Fill your pot or plant tray with soil and wet thoroughly.

4.  Push the seeds around 1cm into the soil and cover with extra soil. 

5.  Place the pot or plant tray on a heat mat with a clear plastic cover to provide a humid environment overnight.  This should be removed during the warmer part of the day to allow air flow and prevent mould from forming.   

6.  Once the seeds have sprouted, place a grow lamp over the seedlings in order to prevent them becoming too leggy.  If they’re too tall and thin they will not produce strong plants.  You shouldn’t need to do this if the seedlings are in a sun room or a conservatory where it will get ample lighting from all sides. 

7.  Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.  Once they are large enough to handle, they can then be moved into a slightly bigger pot of their own.

grow coffee from seed

Coffee plant care instructions

Looking after your coffee plant

Environment:

These coffee plants with their dark glossy leaves love bright, indirect light so a sunroom or other bright area is ideal.  If not, keep them near a window that gets the most light.  Over winter you may need to use a grow lamp in early mornings and late afternoons in order to extend the amount of time they are exposed to bright light.  You may have to turn the plant occasionally to ensure that all parts of the plant is exposed to light.

Remember that in order to successfully grow a coffee plant to fruition, it will also need to be kept warm.  Temperatures should not go below 80° degrees F although they may be alright at slightly lower temperatures for a very short period of time.  Plants can temporarily be moved outside into the shade in the summer as long as they aren’t exposed to cold temperatures overnight.  If it is too cold overnight they will need to be brought inside.

Watering:

Water regularly, once to twice a week, ensuring that the plants are not waterlogged.  Watering should be reduced in winter when they are not actively growing.

They also need a humid environment so if a bathroom is not bright or warm enough, then you will regularly need to mist your coffee plant with water.  

Feeding:

Coffee plants should be fed with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season.  

Repotting:

Plants should be repotted every 2 years in the spring.  Use a slightly larger pot filled with a peat-free compost and your coffee plant will extend it’s roots creating a stronger, lusher plant.

Good drainage:

It is important that plants aren’t water logged so in order to provide good drainage, place a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot (inside) when repotting.

Coffee plant growing tips

By using the following tips, you will greatly improve your chances of successfully growing a coffee plant to fruition. 

  • Keep out of drafts
  • Do not subject the coffee plant to temperatures less than 18 degrees C for long periods
  • Keep soil moist but not soaking wet
  • Provide good drainage
  • Keep humid
  • Water less in winter, more in summer
how to grow coffee beans

Coffee growing FAQ's:

Can you grow coffee in New Jersey?

New Jersey in the United States falls under the United States Plant Hardiness Map Zones 6 – 7.  Coffee plants thrive at temperatures between 64°–70°F in tropical climates which means that if you wish to grow coffee in New Jersey, you will need a grow lamp for the coffee plant to be grown indoors during winter.

In the summer and when temperatures reach above around 64°F outdoors, then plants can slowly be acclimated by moving them into a partly shaded area in morning and late afternoon sun.  They will burn if left exposed to to the sun in hot weather so you may need to keep an eye on them.  

Fertilize every two weeks in the summer keep the plant healthy.  If kept within the above range, you should be lucky enough to yield around 1 – 1.5lbs of coffee per year per plant after 3 – 5 years.  

Coffee plants can grow to around 6 – 8ft tall so if kept indoors, you may wish to prune back the branches in spring.  Remember to provide a larger pot as your plant grows bigger, approximately every 2 years.

Can you grow coffee in a greenhouse?

Yes you can definitely grow coffee in a greenhouse however there are a few things to note:

  • You will need a heat mat to germinate seeds if temperatures are not between 27 – 29° C at the time of sowing.

  • The leaves of the coffee plant will burn if left exposed to the sun so ensure the plant is placed in a shaded part of the greenhouse, under the shade of a larger plant for example or by using shade cloth or greenhouse shade paint.

  • Temperatures may still be too low in Spring and Autumn, depending on where you live, to leave the plant in the greenhouse all day.  They may need to be brought indoors overnight.
The coffee plant below has been grown in a greenhouse successfully in the UK.  It does have a few burnt leaves due to strong sun exposure however it certainly is doing well enough to produce coffee berries!
grow coffee plant

So there you have it!

By using the tips above you’ve hopefully discovered that you can indeed grow coffee plants in the US whether you’re in New Jersey, Texas or California!  

Let me know how you get on. 

References:

DermNet

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