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Feb 13, 2014 03:11 PM

What coffee beans should I try next for home roasting?

My wife travels to Ethiopia regularly and brings me back green beans. I don't know anything about what region they come from, I only know that they taste great. I've never tried other beans other than some decaf beans and I'm interested in exploring. I roast as close as I can get to the second crack without going past it. I mainly drink lattes. What beans have you tried, how dark do you roast, and what coffee drink are you roasting for?

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    Answer Selected

    I've been home roasting for about three years, and I get nearly all my green coffee from Sweet Maria's. Among other things they have a fantastic "coffee library" that has all sorts of great articles on roasting and brewing:

    The important thing to remember when you roast is that different coffee "wants" to be roasted to different levels. Most Ethiopian Yirgacheffe seems to taste the best right at first crack, a City or City+, but loses a lot of the nuance as you push to Full City or beyond. Brazil and Sumatra varietals often taste grassy or sharp if roasted too light, but really shine when you go darker, exuding all those great chocolate and caramel notes. Another nice thing about Sweet Maria's is that they have detailed tasting notes for everything they sell, including the roasting range that they found to work best for the coffee in question.

    Personally, I started roasting specifically because it's so hard to find good store-bought light roast coffee where I live (it's getting easier -- we have a couple of 3rd wave coffeehouses around town now). Consequently almost all the green coffee I buy is from the handful of locales that produce coffee that wants to roast lighter: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, and sometimes Costa Rica and Colombia, although the last two see a great deal of variation depending on the altitude at which the beans are grown.

    I should also say that although I love a good latte and have been known to add a little milk to my pourover, milk and sugar have a tendency to mask a lot of the nuance and uniqueness of the coffee you brew. Even if adding milk is your preference, you might consider at least sampling your coffee black to help you hone your roasting craft.

    • + 2 CHOW users

    I'm not the roaster in the family (I just reap the benefits) but if you are looking to source green beans, we've had really good results from Sweet Maria's in Oakland, CA. We also bring home beans from the excellently named Mr Greenbeans in Portland, OR, which is also where we bought our current roaster, the FreshRoast 500. The SO is eyeing a HotTop for our March trip :-).

    He prepares mainly cappuccinos and lattes, though since we have a Baratza Vario grinder, he is also able to make me up my beloved cold brew, following the Blue Bottle coffee recipe for New Orleans iced (I am, in fact, sipping one right now!). I would say he goes for a medium roast (forgive me, I don't recall which crack he goes for).

    He was on a Mexican bean kick for a while, having bought some from the roaster at Spielman's in Pdx, but lately he's been really enjoying some Costa Rican beans we got from Sweet Maria's.

    I'm jealous of your direct line to Ethiopian beans. I was having a run of Yirgacheffe for a while when getting coffees out (I prefer a pourover)


    I use Sweet Maria's and Burmans. Both very good.