Guide to Coffee Beans

To brew a perfect cup of coffee you need to understand how coffee is harvested and processed. This will help you buy green coffee beans perfect for home coffee roasting. This short guide takes you through how raw coffee beans are processed into green coffee beans.

We also make recommendations for green coffee beans to buy as well a number of things you should bear in mind when buying.

topics Covered

From Raw Coffee Beans to Green Coffee Beans

Learn more about how raw coffee beans are processed and how it impacts on flavour. 

Tips for Buying Green Coffee Beans

Our top tips for when you’re thinking of buying unroasted coffee beans, and then what to do with them.

Green Coffee Beans - Our Buying Recommendations

Not sure which green coffee beans to buy? We pick 5 of our favourites from around the world. 

From Raw Coffee Beans to Green Coffee Beans

Strictly speaking raw coffee beans aren’t actually green. When coffee is harvested it is the red coffee cherries that are picked and the coffee bean is actually within this cherry under a small amount of fruit flesh.

How raw coffee beans are processed has a large impact on the final flavour and texture of the coffee. There are three main ways of processing coffee and each of them have a different impact on flavour. The dry/natural process, the pulped/natural process, and the washed process. Most importantly remember that mass producers don’t necessarily adopt the process that’s best for flavour because they are also concerned about efficiency and speed. All processes have a number of common stages;

1. Sorting

After the harvest the beans are sorted to remove those berries that are either unripe (green) or overripe (black). This can be done manually or in a flotation tank. In a flotation tank ripe berries sink to the bottom and are removed and unripe berries float to the surface. 

2. Stripping

The outer skin and flesh of the coffee cherry has to be removed and traditionally this is done by letting the cherries dry naturally before the flesh is removed.  However, a quicker method is for the coffee cherries to be pulped and this is used regularly by commercial coffee processors. 

3. Drying

Next, the raw coffee beans are allowed to dry. This is for two reasons. Firstly, because the drying increases the sweetness and body of the bean. Secondly, reducing water content from just over 40% to 10%-12% because this makes them easier to transport without degradation.

4. Resting

The coffee beans are then rested for 1-2 months which allows the raw coffee beans to age and develop in flavour.

5. Hulling

The coffee beans at this stage retain a protective skin known as parchment which has to be removed. This is done by mechanical hulling.

6. Grading

Finally, the coffee is graded, and defective beans removed. Grading is based on size and colour. The unroasted coffee beans are now ready for packing and shipping to all corners of the globe. 

Top Tips for Buying Green Beans

You can’t buy unroasted coffee beans in the supermarket or anywhere on the high street that are suitable for home coffee roasting. Don’t be tempted to buy beans that are being marketed as a health supplement because they will invariably be of poor quality and not suitable for home coffee roasting.

If you are lucky enough to live near a coffee wholesaler then you may be able to buy unroasted coffee beans in small batches. However, for most of us, the best way to buy is online because there are only a few of us into roasting our own coffee.  There are variety of different suppliers here in the UK so a quick Google should give you lots of options.

Before you buy make sure you have a basic understanding of the types of coffee beans available. The variety of the bean as well as where and how it was grown has an enormous impact on the final flavour of the coffee. A bad choice of unroasted coffee beans will result in a bad roast and a bad brew.

Unlike roasted coffee beans green coffee beans can be kept for months without going stale or losing flavour. Ideally, they need to be kept in cool and dark place inside the house. In such conditions they can be stored for up to 2 years. This means you can buy green coffee beans in bulk and store it. 

Green Coffee Beans - our recommendations

There is so much choice but here are 5 recommendations. There should be something here for everyone.

These Malaysian coffee beans have a great provenance and come from the Kayamas estate. The coffee is hand picked and is particularly suited for a dark roast where is develops a strong flavour reminiscent of mocha. 

Bag Size

500g

Price per KG

£17.00

These beans are from a single family farm Nicaragua and we think are exceptionally special. It is perfect for a medium roast and has medium body, low acidity, smooth and sweet with citrus notes. Wonderful, a must buy. 

Bag Size

1.36 kg

Price per KG

£11.75

Grown in the San Paulo region of Brazil and this coffee has smooth flavour, moderate acidity, and is medium in body. 

Bag Size

1 kg

Price per KG

£11.50

A fine Ethopian coffee which has a velvet body, medium acidity with notes of fruit. Has loads of good reviews and is noted for giving off an amazing aroma during roasting. 

Bag Size

500g

Price per KG

£10.60

This coffee has a chocolate taste and is full bodied with low to medium acidity. The beans are grown in the south west region of Columbia and are farmed using traditional methods. Generally gets very good reviews. 

Bag Size

1 kg

Price per KG

£10.50