Raised beds are a cost-effective solution that can provide outstanding results in drying coffee. They are often referred to as ‘African’ or ‘Ethiopian’ raised beds because their use is thought to have originated in Ethiopia. Over the last two decades, they have been adopted around the world, particularly in Central America. Their popularity has increased because they simplify the process of drying coffee, even on very hilly terrain, compared with the considerable labour and expense required to make level drying patios. Raised beds are usually very simple constructions made of timber or bamboo.
The media that is stretched out to create the tops of the beds, upon which the cherries or wet parchment are laid, is the most essential part of the design. In well-funded operations, this will usually be a food-safe geotextile mesh, but it may be as simple as galvanised chicken wire or palm leaves. Many producers we have interviewed agree that this material must be odourless and breathable. Plastic sheets or tarpaulins are not appropriate for this job because air should be able to circulate around the coffee laid on the beds. However, plastic covers are needed in humid areas where dew or rain is expected overnight or when storms come through. In those instances, coffee beans must be wrapped up and covered.