Tom posted a video about choosing Green Coffee for home roasting that goes over all the basics - so it might be worth a view. -Maria
Green Coffee FAQ
Q: What coffee should I choose?
A: For beginning home roasters, I think it is best to start with a Green Coffee Sampler which gives you a range of origins and processing methods so you can start to hone in on what you like. While the type of roast you use will greatly influence the flavor (all coffees come with roast recommendations on the label), origin flavor sets the parameters for the flavors in the cup.
Coffees produced around the world can have an incredible variety of flavors; there are, however, some general characteristics to different regions. This is why we organize our coffee offerings by country, not some other factor.
- For mild coffees, focus on Central American or Island coffees.
- For espresso, try an espresso blend or use Brazil as single origin espresso; you can also use the drop down menu at the top of listings on the Green Coffee Offerings page to look for coffees recommended for espresso.
- For darker roasts and coffees with lots of body, check out Indonesian or Brazilian coffees; these tend to have more body, less acidity and take a dark roast well.
- For bright, flavorful coffees, try Kenyan coffees which can tend to be more acidic, more citrus, or Ethiopian coffees which can be fruited or bittersweet chocolate.
These are only generalizations and cannot be taken as true in all cases, especially if it's a slightly unusual processing method or varietal!
Q: Where do you guys get your coffee from?
A: Our coffee buyer travels to different coffee farms and mills around the world looking for good quality coffee, and checking our suppliers. We buy coffee from importers who are bring in containers of coffee, usually buying fairly small lots, usually 40 to 60 bags from one farm. In many cases we have direct contact with the farm or coop that produced the coffee.
Q: I am looking for only organic coffees. What do you have?
A: As mentioned above, we have a drop down menu at the top of listings on the Green Coffee Offerings that allows you to view only those coffees that are organic, farm gate, recommended for espresso, wet or dry processed. This helps if you are looking for a particular type of coffee.
Q: Help! My favorite coffee is no longer available! What do I do?
A: (Tom addresses this question in the video linked above but here are some additional notes.) This happens all the time – mostly because we are dealing with small, specific lots of coffee. We carry not just coffee from a specific farm, but very often a specific cultivar (i.e. Bourbon, pacamara, etc) or picking or processing method. These are very limited lots of coffee, sometimes just a few bags, and often very unique, so we can sell out within two months or less.
When this happens, in most cases you want to look for a coffee from the same region or a nearby region as the cultivar and climate is most likely similar. Then consider the processing method – this will greatly impact the flavor. A dry processed Ethiopian coffee will taste more like a dry processed Yemen than a wet processed Ethiopian.
All the coffee reviews are archived so you can compare the out-of-stock coffee with coffees we currently have in stock. Please read through the descriptions of both coffees, not just the cupping scores. Overall score will tell you how exceptional a coffee is but not much else. Here is the list of factors to consider when searching for a comparable coffee, in order of importance: 1. Origin 2. Varietal 3. Processing 4. Region 5. Prime Attributes/Spider Graph 6. Score. Also check out Tom's "Compare to" notes at bottom of review. The archives can also be helpful when comparing the coffee of the same origin to past years' offerings. The archives are organized alphabetically by origin name; if it is a coffee older than the past few years, you can look it up by the year/date that we had it in stock.
Q: I had a certain coffee in years past that I really liked– when will it be available again?
A: The answer can be complicated. Whether or not we will have a coffee from the exact same origin next year depends on variables such as weather, processing, shipping, and competition. Since we strive to provide the best green coffee available, if there is an amazing coffee one year from a newer farm, we will try to get it. Tried and true coffees, origins or estates we have had year in and year out, can be good but not at the expense of ignoring quality and new flavors that are out there.
In small coffee producing areas and/or with a very stable and well-run farms/estates, we can sometimes count on having a particular coffee every year. These tend to be producers who are really striving to increase quality and shifting production methods to reflect tastes in the market, such as special preparations or special pickings. In these cases, if all goes well, we will get the coffee around the same time that we got it the year before so consult the review in the archive (see above) and look for the Arrival Date under the "Crop" heading. We also see year-to-year consistency in the offerings that are not farm or co-op specific, but represent a pooled coffee produced by a certain mill. This is the case often times in Sumatra or Sulawesi with coffees sold under the Lake Tawar, Toraja, or Mandheling name. Kona is also an origin that we see more consistency since we are working with certain farmers.
In some very large coffee production areas, like Ethiopia or Kenya, with a huge number of individual co-operatives, or in Costa Rica with so many individual farmers, it is less likely that we will get the same coffee from one year to the next. If we do not have your favorite coffee, you would follow the advice outlined above on finding a comparable coffee.
Also of interest may be the Coffee Production Timetable This chart gives a rough idea of the production cycles for the origin countries we carry. Please note that certain coffee like decafs and monsooned or aged coffee have go through additional processing that are not reflected in the time line. Also note that the coffee is a crop (not a can of pop!) and dates are approximate, depending on the harvest, etc. etc.
Q: How long does unroasted coffee last for?
A: The flavor of unroasted coffee is fairly stable when stored in a cool, dry place. Green coffee will not have a drop in cup quality from about 6 months up to 1 year from arrival date (every coffee we sell has an arrival date in the review).
Q: How do I store my green coffee?
A: All green coffee beans should be kept cool and dry at room temperature, and away from direct sunlight. The refrigerator is too moist for green beans and the freezer is too dry. In the trade, the general rule in terms of climate for green coffee storage is this: if it's comfortable for you, then your coffee is happy too.
Q: Where can I buy green, unroasted coffee?
A: Sweet Maria’s of course! : ) There are other online sellers of green coffee, and sometimes your local coffee roaster will sell you some unroasted.
Q: Can I come by your shop/cafe’/roastery and buy my coffee there?
A: Sweet Maria’s has a warehouse where we ship our mail orders and we are open 5 days a week. Our shop is located at 1115 21st Street, Oakland CA 94607. More info is here. It does help us if you place an order ahead of time and choose “Customer Pick Up” as the shipping option. That way we can get the order ready ahead of time.
For more discussion of choosing coffees, you might want to check the Sweet Maria's Forum.