So, you want to start roasting your own coffee at home, have got a roaster, learned as much as you can about how to roast coffee, and want to get started. But there’s one thing missing – the coffee. When roasting your own coffee at home, you have the ability to choose which green coffee beans you roast and bring out their best characteristics and flavors, all ready for you to brew using your favorite method. However, purchasing green coffee beans can seem like an overwhelming process at first, and it might be tricky to figure out how to find the right coffee beans for you.
About Green Coffee Beans
The first step to buying the right green coffee beans for you is to understand that not all green coffee is the same. Whether it’s the origin, the processing method, or the blend, there are several differences between green coffee beans, and they come in different types that will have an impact on the taste of the coffee and how it should be roasted. When buying green coffee beans, some of the most important factors to keep in mind include:
Origin: Where the beans are grown is important, since the conditions in which the coffee beans are grown - including the soil, humidity, and climate - will have an impact on the flavor and aroma of the coffee. Before you choose the right beans for you, it’s a good idea to taste coffee that originates from different countries and then different regions to compare them and find the one that you like the most.
Varieties: The variety and species of the coffee will have a significant impact on how the brewed coffee tastes. Along with this, whether you go for Arabica or Robusta beans, or smaller species and varieties within these categories, will impact how the beans should be roasted.
Altitude: Another key factor to consider when thinking about where the beans are grown is the altitude that the coffee beans are grown at. In general, the higher the elevation, the lower the temperatures. And lower temperatures can lead to the coffee growing slower, which causes the sugars to develop more and leads to a brew with a more complex taste profile, more sweetness, and more acidity compared to beans grown at lower altitude and therefore higher temperatures. However, it’s important to consider the different temperatures across regions when considering altitude.
Processing Method: This refers to how the coffee seeds are removed from the fruit before they are ready for roasting. The type of processing used will have an effect on the final taste and aroma of the coffee. In dry or natural processing, the entire coffee cherry will be dried before removing the outer fruit, which leads to a fruitier, sweeter flavor. On the other hand, coffee that has been prepared using wet or washed processing tends to be less sweet but is cleaner, since the fruit is fully removed from the bean before drying. These are the two most common coffee bean processing types, but you may come across some other less commonly used ones, including honey processing, wet hulled processing, monsoon processing, and other experimental methods that are often specific to one region or individual farm.
Finding the Right Green Coffee Beans
When it comes to buying the right green coffee beans for you, you need to start with a lot of tasting. Try several different coffees and take notes on how each one tastes, rating each cup that you try. Note the body or mouthfeel, the sweetness, acidity, and the aftertaste of the coffee, along with any flavors and aromas in the cup that you either liked or didn’t like. Keep track of the origin, elevation, species, and processing method used. After a while, you will probably start to see some patterns and get an idea about the coffees that you like and the coffees that aren’t for you.
If you are tasting coffee that has already been roasted in your quest to find the right green coffee beans for you, bear in mind that the roast can also change the flavors of the coffee. Take some time to look at the beans and take some notes about the roast degree. Generally, the lighter the roast, the easier it will be for you to taste the unique flavor profile of the coffee beans, including any acidity or fruitiness. On the other hand, darker coffee roasts tend to be less acidic, and more body, along with having an oilier surface.
How Green Coffee Beans are Sold
There are several different ways that green coffee beans are bought and sold, including:
Importer/Exporter: This is a common practice when selling and buying green coffee beans. Exporters may be farmers, farmer cooperatives, or third parties. They trade either with importers or directly with roasters. Importers tend to be a popular choice since they have contacts and the financial means to buy beans in large quantities. They purchase large quantities and store them to sell to roasters.
Direct Trade: This is a model where producers sell green coffee beans directly to roasters, either through a cooperative or individually. With no intermediaries such as importers, this means that there will usually be more traceability and transparency involved. The buyer is able to visit the source of the coffee, establish a relationship with the farmer, and spend time evaluating the produce before buying.
Spot Buying or Forward Contracts: These are the two main ways that roasters buy green coffee beans. Spot buying refers to when roasters purchase coffee from an importer ‘on the spot’, with no previous commitment. Beans are typically stored in a warehouse and ready to ship immediately. However, the price of the coffee may be higher as the importer needs to accommodate their cost of storing and shipping the beans. On the other hand, forward contracts are when the roaster buys coffee from a certain producer and plans to do this in advance. There may be an importer, or the roaster might go to the producer directly. This method leads to more traceability, more security for farmers, and fresher beans for roasters.
Things to Consider When Buying Green Coffee Beans
When finding green coffee beans for sale, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Where to buy green coffee beans for roasting? The internet is typically the best place to buy green coffee beans since there are lots of online suppliers that offer worldwide shipping. However, it’s worth considering the cost, availability, and other practical factors before you commit to ordering certain beans.
It is also worth remembering that some green coffee beans might be harder to find compared to others during certain seasons, since coffee is an agricultural product with a harvest season. However, different countries have different harvests. If you buy a certain type of coffee out of season, it might be old coffee – and just like with other freshly grown food products, the freshness of the coffee impacts is quality.
You will also want to bear the cost in mind – some coffees might just be too expensive for your daily beverage, and some suppliers may only sell bulk green coffee beans, so it’s worth considering if you have room to store all the beans, and if you are even going to be able to roast and consume them all.
After Buying Your Green Coffee Beans
Once you have learned more about green coffee beans, tasted quite a few samples of different coffees, and taken notes about the different types and flavors, you’re ready to go ahead and buy some green coffee beans to roast.
Once you have your green coffee beans, start by experimenting. This will usually look like taking one lot of beans and roasting it with between three and five different profiles. Then, take some different beans and roast them with exactly the same profile. This will get you ready for a taste test where you can get a better understanding of how the different roast profiles impact the different coffee beans.
A cupping session is also a great way to learn more about a type of coffee in a short amount of time. You can either do this at home or attend an in-person or virtual cupping event where you can try a lot of different coffees in one session and take notes on how they taste. And getting the cupping technique right will make it easier for you in the future when you want to evaluate the quality of your own coffee beans.
To find cupping events that you might be able to attend, keep a look out for coffee festivals, follow coffee schools and specialty coffee shops online, and watch for updates from your country’s Specialty Coffee Association website. The Specialty Coffee Association offers a range of courses that you may be interested in to improve your skills including roasting courses and coffee sensory skills programs, which may be useful for home roasters.
If you want to get started with roasting your own coffee, knowing how and where to buy green coffee beans is an important first step.