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Once you’ve decided to roast your own coffee at home, your next decision will be what kind of unroasted coffee beans to buy. If you live in a city with many local coffee roasters, you can ask advice and often buy green coffee beans from them. If you’re buying green coffee beans online, though, these pointers can help you choose the right unroasted coffee beans.
Get to Know Green Coffee Bean Vendors
Many coffee roasters who sell their coffees online also sell unroasted coffee beans to their home roasting customers. In addition, there are many vendors who exclusively sell green coffee beans to individuals, as well as brokers who sell in larger amounts to coffee roasters and cafés. There are even several green coffee vendors who sell on Amazon. Check out the vendors’ websites and get to know their buying philosophy. Do they buy through third-party brokers? Do they have direct buying relationships with farmers and coops? How do they judge quality? Are their descriptions of the coffees for sale cut-and-pasted from other sources or are they clearly written by people who know and understand the coffee and coffee roasting? It only takes a little research to come up with a list of vendors who deal with high quality specialty unroasted coffee beans, and who source their coffees in ways that are ethical and fair to everyone involved.
Consider What You Like in a Coffee
Get to know your tastes in coffee. Just about any single origin coffee you can buy roasted can also be bought green to roast at home. Many well-known roasters even sell their most popular coffee blends as unroasted beans. The more you know about which origin coffees you particularly like and dislike, the easier it will be for you to choose green coffees to roast at home. Choosing coffees you know gives you a benchmark for flavor – you know how they’re supposed to taste, so you’ll have a target for which to shoot.
Try a Coffee Sampler
Many vendors who sell green coffee beans offer coffee samplers with smaller amounts of several different coffees for you to try. Samplers will help you get a feel for the idiosyncrasies of different coffee beans. There are some things you can learn by reading, but a lot of those idiosyncrasies – like the tendency of many Indonesian coffees to roast “light” – are something you only really learn with experience.
Learn About Coffee Harvest Times
Different coffee growing regions harvest coffee beans at different times of the year. It will help you time your green coffee purchases for optimal freshness and availability. Some of the most popular coffees sell out quickly, especially if they’re small lots or micro lots. One of the best ways to keep tabs on the arrival of specialty coffees from regions you like is to sign up for the newsletter from your favorite vendor, or just keep your eye on what’s becoming available in your favorite independent coffee shop.
When you find a coffee that you particularly like, make a note of when and where you purchased it and what the variety and origin was. You’ll slowly build a repertoire of coffees and roast profiles that you most enjoy.