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Sep 18, 2009 11:41 PM

Buying Good Coffee Beans

I use about a pound of green beans every week.
Usually city roast, and drip grind, to get my day started well.
I buy beans online from
but occaisionally . Either way, the effective price is $5-$6/lb and 20% is lost after roasting.
Many geeks swear by but I haven't used them

I'm somewhat annoyed by the professional tastings, ratings, and rankings. Lots of flowery descriptions and nuances that I cannot discern. It's as if Robert Parker has influenced the entire coffee tasting genre.

However, I have found one descriptor that works for me: Chocolate. If I see that several times in a tasting, I'm likely to buy, if the price is good.
This morning I'll have Oaxaca high grown, bird friendly, fair traded coffee that to me is almost as good as Blue Mountain, but less than one-quarter the price.
i've also had good results from Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and have heard that Sumatra would be good for me. I didn't like Bali that much.

Does anyone have buying tips for green beans to share?

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  1. I don't know jayt, I've been roasting for around 7 years and buying from the coop and the buying club. Previous to that it was sweetmarias and coffee bean corral. I don't have as refined a palate as the people writing the cupping notes in coffee or for that matter the tasting notes for spirits and cigars. I think I have a pretty good palate but I think there is some literary freedom in some of these tasting notes or maybe I just have the palate of a billy goat.

    Back to buying green beans. I find the buying club a fine place to buy green. I am a coop member but coffee availability is so sporadic and when it's in, sells out in minutes. I think they both get coffee from similar sources at times. I have not found a big difference between beans from these sources and places like sweetmaria and coffee bean corral. We burn through about a pound a week so I like buying in larger quantities that the buying group and coop offer.

    For varietals I like most everything. I get into Ethiopian and Yemen coffees for their fruit flavors but then gravitate to Central and South American coffees as well as the Mexican Oaxacas. I'll often to 2-3 different beans and then blend them. I try not to get too scientific and anal about the whole thing. Just try different beans and see what you like. Can you tell the difference between a bean that sells for 6/lb and one that is 3/lb? Sounds like you are doing just fine in your coffee pursuits. I just know I'm drinking better coffee than I can get locally.

    1. I've been roasting for a little over a year. I have always liked Colombian Supremo so that is what I buy. This is the place I get it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: grampart

        Do you only roast Colombian Supremo now? Certainly roast what you like but there is so many beans and blends to try. For me variety keeps it fun

        1. re: scubadoo97

          When I first started, I tried all the sample packs provided by SweetMarias and Coffee Bean Direct at different roasts and my wife and I decided we still prefer the Colombian roasted just past the 2nd crack. Neither of us were fond of the light roasts but would sure like to be able to keep the higher caffein content.

      2. Could someone explain to someone else who has never done what the benefit to roasting your beans yourself is? Is the coffee fresher in taste, etc.? Are you more able to get fair trade beans if you do this? And how do you do it? Do you need special equipment?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Normandie

          Yes, the taste of freshly roasted beans is fresh, bright, and has more depth than beans roasted and stored. Fair trade beans are available green or roasted, but there is a wider variety in green, although supplies may be small. Read through Sweetmaria's site and you'll get an idea of what is available.
          There are some simple low cost ways to roast: 1: cast iron pan over a gas flame, constantly stirring. This is smoky and somewhat uneven.
          2: An air popper preferably Sunbeam, for small 2 to3 oz batches
          3. A Whirly popccorn device, stove top. Sweetmarias has this.

          Most of us graduate to dedicated roasters, available from $100 on up.
          I keep an air-popcorn maker as a back up (still unopened in the box after 18 months),
          and occaisionally I do a batch over charcoal in a wok

          1. re: jayt90

            Thank you so much for the orientation, jay. We love coffee in my house, but I never really knew or thought about roasting my own beans. It seemed like an involved and exotic process, but now that you've explained it, it doesn't sound so overwhelming, after all. I will go check out sweetmaria's and some of these other sites. Thanks again. :-)