After flowering, which only lasts a few days, the ovary of the fertilised flower rapidly develops into a fruit that is initially green; at 6-12 weeks from full maturation the cherry has already grown to full size.
In the final weeks the fruits change colour, becoming first yellow and then bright red, except for some varieties, like bourbon, whose mature fruits are yellow. If they are not picked in time the fruits become red-brown and then brown, and the kernel and shell dry out and become hard. Sometimes they drop to the ground. The best but most expensive harvesting method is picking.
This involves moving repeatedly between the plants, some weeks apart, hand-picking just the red-coloured cherries one by one and leaving the others to mature. This is the system adopted in countries which produce coffee of the arabica species and which are most concerned about the quality of their harvests. Another system sometimes used, particularly in countries where rainfall is concentrated in one or more periods of the year, is stripping.
This consists in waiting until most of the fruits are mature, and then harvesting them by removing all the fruits from the branches at the same time. The work is done by grasping the branch between the fingers down by the trunk and pulling outwards. The cherries come out of their shells and are left to fall into a basket or onto the floor, from where they are collected.