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How To Buy Green Coffee Beans – Raw and Read To Roast!

Coffee Cherry Seed and Cherry

Some people buy their coffee green. And we aren’t talking about those who especially care about the environment. 

Actual green beans! Unroasted.

The vast majority of coffee drinkers buy coffee already roasted and pre-ground. Some instead prefer to buy coffee that is in the rawest form possible.  

The beans coming straight from the process that removes the coffee cherry around them, and nothing else. They are green coffee beans then. 

But why?

First of all, technically green coffee beans aren’t green at all. The beans before being roasted are usually a yellowish/light brown color, not green. 

That’s the natural color of the beans, which are the seeds of the coffee plant growing inside the fruit, the coffee cherry. 

The cherries, once ripened, become a lively red and are picked by the farmers. Then they are usually either washed with water or left to dry under the sun, according to different traditions and cultures. 

The choice of how the cherries are treated after the harvest has a great effect on the final taste of the coffee. Whatever the processing is done to the cherries, the beans inside them are in the end exposed, with no remains of the pulp from the coffee cherry fruit. These are called green coffee beans.

coffee cherries on a tree

Green” is thus not an indication of the color of the beans but of the status in which they are: green as in raw, untouched, and unburnt. 

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Any coffee you drink goes through this state and it’s usually how coffee beans are shipped around the world to the roasteries, where the roasting phase happens.

A short disclaimer is needed here: we are not going to talk about the recent years’ trend of making a green coffee extract. This is not technically what most people would consider coffee. It is a brew of the green coffee beans and has little similarities with the actual coffee that is roasted. 

In this article, we will be talking about green coffee beans for sale that are meant to be roasted at home. In the end that is the intended use for those who buy green coffee beans: roasting them at home in order to have maximum control over the process of making a cup of coffee. 

This allows coffee fans to choose the coffee beans’ origin that most closely matches their tastes. Roast them to their liking and grinding according to their preferred brewing method.

Green coffee beans make it possible to exert the greatest control possible over the resulting coffee you’ll drink at the price of much trial and error. 

And lots of time to tinker about what to change next time. For some, it’s definitely worth it.

How to Roast Green Coffee Beans

The main step a buyer of green coffee beans has to master is the actual roasting. At home, there are quite a few possibilities to roast coffee beans. 

roasted coffee beans

On the market, there are dedicated devices for roasting coffee. If you are serious about roasting at home, investing in one will give you the smoothest learning curve and quicker results.

Air Popper

For anybody else not willing to splurge for a device that, after all, is going to be used for a single task, alternatives exist. If you have an air popper at home to make popcorns, it can be used to roast green coffee beans as well. To do so, a basic method is as follows:

  • Slowly pour the beans until there’s enough in the chamber that they almost stop moving around
  • Replace the lid
  • Place a large bowl underneath the chute and line it with damp paper towels
  • Listen, and watch, for the first crack, the moment the first coffee beans begin to crack open
  • Calculate the time from this first crack: it will be indispensable for replicating the optimal roasting levels next time
  • Monitor the color of the beans at regular intervals. Stop the air popper once the color is very close but not quite the one you desire. Some residual heat in the beans will prolong the roasting, naturally, and they will reach exactly the color you were aiming for
  • Let the beans cool for about 4 hours before storing them for later use

This is the basic proceeding for roasting green coffee beans in an air popper. It is probably the simplest and most straightforward to use. 

All other roasting methods work in a similar way, as the principle is the same. Applying heat to the green coffee beans long enough to become as roasted as you want them to be.

Pan

If you have a large pan, like one for making a wok, you can roast your green coffee beans with it. It is the hardest method to get right but also the one available to pretty much everybody, nearly anywhere you are. 

pan roasting coffee beans

It will give you a great sense of accomplishment once you master the technique. And also very cheap. Roasting with a pan can be summed up in these steps:

  • Preheat the pan
  • Pour enough beans to cover completely the bottom of the pan, but no more than that. The objective is to fit as many beans in as you can but still keep them easy to stir
  • Start stirring the green coffee beans as soon as you add them to the pan. Keep stirring, so they will roast as uniformly as possible
  • Calculate the time from the first crack as in the air popper method
  • Once close to the desired color, remove the beans from the pan and let them cool for about 4 hours

Oven

As you have imagined by now, another possibility to roast green coffee beans is simply your oven. The method is the same as with the pan. 

Preheat the oven. Pour enough beans in to cover the bottom of the sheet and occasionally stir, so as to let them be uniformly roasted on all sides. There’s not much difference between the pan and oven methods, just a matter of preferences and time. 

With the pan, you need to keep stirring the beans throughout the roasting while you don’t need to do it when using the oven.

Grill

It’s also possible to roast green coffee beans on a grill, preferably a gas-fueled one. The main advantage of this technique is that the grill is outside your home as roasting generates a lot of smoke. 

You will avoid a strong smoke odor in your house for a few hours (and not trigger your fire alarm). 

Grilling outside solves this issue but do make sure to use a gas grill. With a carbon/wood one the taste of the burned material will permeate the beans, influencing the taste of the coffee. Some may find this desirable but most won’t. 

A gas grill is neutral in this regard and allows you to set the precise operational temperature. This a key element to be able to reproduce the perfect roasting each time.

Buying Green Coffee Beans

coffee cherry seeds

Regardless of the method of your choosing for roasting, what green coffee beans to buy is of extreme importance! 

The biggest component of a successful roasting is finding the right green coffee beans. Two parameters have to be taken especially well into consideration: color and size.

Choose green coffee beans that are the most consistent between themselves in both color and size. The reason for this is that beans of the same color mean they have been treated and ripened in similar ways. Making them reach the same level of roast at the same time. That is important to have repeatable and homogeneous results when roasting. 

Green coffee beans of very similar size are even more important as they will greatly facilitate roasting. 

Same-sized beans will roast at the same speed. 

If you end up instead with medium and big green coffee beans, for instance, that will mean that by the time the medium beans are dark roasted, the larger beans aren’t yet. This will create a difference in the final taste. You definitely want homogeneous in color and size beans.

Review

In the beginning, it is worth trying different green coffee beans to learn their differences. How they get roasted and find out about your personal preferences. Various coffee companies offer sample packs so you can get a good idea of what they taste like.

Two solid choices to start are an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe or a Colombian natural processed Geisha. Both are highly reputed coffee origins. The former working great with light to medium roast levels and the latter being capable of awesome taste also when dark roasted. 

Colombia Geisha

Colombia GESHA / GEISHA Unroasted Green Coffee Beans for Roasting - Specialty Grade Arabica Raw Coffee (1 LB)

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

3 LB Unroasted Green Coffee Beans - Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Grade 1 (Natural Process) Single Origin - Specialty Arabica - Direct Trade - Fair Trade

One will be floral, acidic, and sweet while the second clean and sweet, with a fuller body. 

No matter your choice, buying green coffee beans is a fun way to get initiated to the world of roasting. It will open up a large number of possibilities to play with your coffee!

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