Take the time to cover moving parts in your mill. It is very easy to lose a finger and never worth the time saved by leaving pulleys and wheels exposed.
The optimum ripeness is different for each variety, as is the corresponding proxy of cherry colour and amount of mucilage. To choose your target maturity level and learn what that looks like, first identify the varieties of tree you have growing and mark them (use a ribbon or similar). Collect cherry from them separately and keep them apart. Separate further each variety’s cherries into several colour bands (e.g. from light red to the deepest purple-red). Measure and note the average °Bx * of each band, the average corresponding colour, and the amount of mucilage.
Process each band separately following the steps above. Mill, sort, roast, and cup them. Repeat this process a few times. Choose the desired flavour for each variety and refer to your notes to find the colour of the cherries that corresponds to your chosen ripeness for each variety. Going forward, use this colour as the measure of ripeness because it is fast and practical. Make bracelets or paint sticks of the chosen colour for each variety and give them to those in charge of collecting the cherry for quick reference.
None of these five essential steps will be carried out unless the financial systems change alongside to support their dissemination. Start with a stratified payment system at the wet mill based on the ripeness and freshness of cherries delivered.
Most importanly, have fun.
* 1°Bx is 1g of sucrose in 100g of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass. As a starting point (experiment with this) we are aiming for the Brix to be around 20° to 23° at harvest time. However, several factors, including the weather and ambient conditions prior to measurement can have a major impact on the results. Following rain, the sugars become very diluted inside the cherry due to the capacity of ripe cherries to absorb water. Directly following rain, ripe cherries can measure at only 9°Bx, so we must take the measurement of sugar content with a grain of salt so to speak.