Coffee from the Kopakaki-Dutegure Cooperative in Rwanda – The Process from Plant to Export

This is an article about coffee from the cooperative in Kopakaki-Dutegure where we mainly explain the handling process up to export.

This text is written together with Per Nordby, founder of the roastery Kafferäven Per Nordby and who has visited several coffee farms around the world during his years. The coffee yard is not only a roastery, but also an importer and wholesaler of green coffee.

Basic facts about the coffee selected by Per Nordby:

LAND Rwanda
REGION Karongi District
PRODUCERS 15 farms in the village of Gitarama
CERTIFICATE: Fairtrade & Rainforest Alliance

FLAVOURING TONES FOR 2020: red grapefruit, almond, black tea.

TYPICAL FLAVOURS FOR COFFEE FROM RWANDA: Herbs, Earl Grey / Black tea, grapefruit.

2020 is the third year that the Kafferäven is buying a selected lot from the village of Gitarama. The 15 producers who grew the coffee are all members of the Kopakaki-Dutegure cooperative. Kafferäven has been working with Kopakaki since its inception in 2013. Kopakaki-Dutegure has about 850-1000 members/producers and by separating daily lots like this, the Coffee Fair can locate and reward the producers who create the highest quality. Gitarama is located on Karongi Hill and the green rolling hills of a valley that reaches all the way down to Lake Kivu.


When Per buys, he buys from specific “villages”. The coffee server cups coffee from different days and can trace back which producers delivered that coffee to the washing station. It’s not from just one farm because it’s too small a volume to separate, but usually people come from the same village at the same time so the trace can still be led to that village and you can get names of producers who are in it.

Different batches from Kopakaki were cupped and traced to villages the coffee came from. This has been done by Kafferäven for the last three years but they have returned to the same three villages each year as they are the ones that have delivered the high quality that is sought.


Banana plants are used which provide shade, food and timber as it grows fast as well as some different trees growing in the area. Farmers also grow maize and beans nearby for their own consumption.

In Kopakaki-Dutegure, as mentioned above, there are about 850-1000 members/producers, most of whom are working families. The number of trees each farmer has varies from 100 trees up to 1000 or 5000 trees. One coffee tree in Rwanda produces about 3kg of berries and it takes about 7kg of berries to produce 1kg of dried coffee for export.

The berries on the trees ripen in batches. A quality-conscious farmer picks only ripe berries, and thus has to go out several times to pick, while a “hungry” farmer picks everything at once because it puts food on the table faster, since even unripe berries can be sold, but are classified as lower quality in the process.

Utsikt från Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure
Utsikt över Karongi Hill och Kivusjön från en kaffegård. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure



  1. The producers pick the ripe coffee berries.
  2. They are then taken to the laundry station and paid per kg returned.
    1. If a producer turns up with badly sorted berries, i.e. very unripe berries, they have to sit down and sort them out before they can hand them in.
  1. Here, the cooperative takes over ownership of the berries/beans and manages the rest of the process. Once the coffee is sold and exported, the cooperative decides how to use the money, such as: paying more to the producers, investing or paying off loans.
Kaffebär bland Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure
Kaffebär bland Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure


  1. The berries are put in a water bath, the berries that float up are picked off as they are bad.
    1. The bad ones are sorted out, either sold as inferior quality or to industries that can convert substandard coffee beans into useful material.
  2. The berries then go through “depulping”, i.e. the pulp is peeled off with water through a rasp.
    1. Those that sink are classified as grade 1, those that are not as heavy are grade 2, the rest are grade 3. From each grade it can then be sorted by size into AA, AB, PB, etc.
  3. The berries then go through a fermentation process. Fermentation takes place in open basins overhead. Most common is dry fermentation, i.e. the beans are not under water but lie as a moist clump of beans with pulp. The fermentation time depends on the temperature of the air and water. The colder it is, the longer it takes. So the weather controls the time for fermentation, and the workers determine when the process is complete by feeling the beans with their hand or with a stick. When the pulp is completely released from the bean, the goal of the process is achieved and thus the fermentation is complete.
  4. After fermentation, the beans are washed and then graded again based on density. This is done by moving the coffee along with water, those that sink in the water are heavier and therefore have higher density and those that float up are lighter and therefore lower density, again it is the ones that float up that are sorted out while the ones that sink go on as better quality.
  5. The beans are then dried. This is where hand sorting comes in. Beans that stand out in colour, shape or are damaged are sorted out.
    1. First, they are surface-dried on separate tables under a roof to cool them down and prevent them from going too fast. The beans are left there for 1-2 days before being moved. Drying under the sun on standard drying tables then takes 10-14 days.
      1. When it rains, the beans are covered so they don’t get wet, in the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest, the beans are covered so they don’t fry and at night the beans are covered so they don’t get damp.
  6. Once the coffee has dried to a moisture content of around 10.5-11.5%, the beans are removed from the tables, collected in bags and placed in a dry, cold layer in the washing station.
  7. There it is in its pergamonohinna, waiting to be sold. The pergamin skin is well protected and therefore not removed before the coffee is exported.

After the harvest, when the coffee is fully dried and has the right moisture content, the producer can take a sample, peel off the parchment skin and otherwise do the same process as the final sorting (see next steps), but with simpler tools, and partly by hand. The sample is prepared at Kopakaki, taken to the exporter’s office in Kigali, which then sends it to Per Nordby, the coffee founder. 300g is the standard size of a sample. The harvest is ready around May-June, but the sample is ready about 2 months after harvest.

Tvättstationen på Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure
Tvättstationen på Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure
Torkbäddar på Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure
Torkbäddar på Kopakaki-Dutegure. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure


  1. Once the purchase contract is signed with Kopakaki, the sacks are moved to a central mill located in Kigali and owned by the State of Rwanda, all coffee in the whole of Rwanda goes through this process.
  2. In the state mill, the coffee goes through several different sorting and grading processes, while the pergamino membrane is removed.
  3. Sorting is done partly by machines and partly by hand. First, the pergamino membrane is removed in a mill, a large grinder that basically crumbles the dry membrane.
  4. The beans are then moved via pipes to different machines that divide the coffee by size, weight and colour. At the same time, beans with discolouration and other obvious defects, as well as stones, sticks and other objects that are not coffee, are sorted out.
  5. The beans are then sorted again by hand by the workers in Rwanda and in most parts of the world it is exclusively women who do this part of the work as it is said that they have smoother hands and are more meticulous, however this job is not as well paid as carrying sacks or operating the machines so this may also be a reason why it is only women who are in those jobs.
  6. When all the coffee is sorted and ready, it is weighed into bags as ordered by the buyer, then stored until it is ready to be exported or until all the coffee to go in the same container is ready to be shipped.

The step where the coffee is moved to a central mill is not unique to Kopakaki, but it applies to virtually all coffee in the world as it is very rare that the farm has its own mill, that part of the work is usually external to an exporter or as in Rwanda to the state.

Kaffesäckar till Kafferäven Per Nordby. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure
Kaffesäckar till Kafferäven Per Nordby. Bild från instagram @kopakakidutegure