Coffee Taste Evaluation of Green Bean Samples Prior to Purchase & Use by Michael Sivetz


Taste Evaluation of Green Coffee Bean Samples Prior to Purchase & Use

Presenter: Michael Sivetz, from his SCAA presentation



With so many new small retail and wholesale roasters coming into the trade in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it has become pertinent to review the factors influencing green coffee bean purchasing decisions.

The small roaster who buys 10, 20 or 30 bags at a time, or even 50 to 100 bags at a time, bases his decisions on factors quite different from the large roasters who buy container loads (250 bags) or ship loads. These large roasters mass package cans, and now valve bags, or pouches of R&G coffee. They look to lowest prices first and quality second (end product is stale). It is intended here to discuss how and why buying decisions are arrived at and how they should be arrived at, and not to discuss the careless methods often used by both new and old roasters.

The buyer has certain ideas about what he would like to purchase at a particular time. The buyer’s choices are limited to those green coffee brokers he is currently using, presumably with stocks within a few hundred miles of his roaster. The stocks available maynot be as broad as desired, have the quality levels desired, or the amounts sought.

So, the ability to fulfill one’s needs may require larger purchases of a particular type so that inventories will carry over into periods when those types of coffees are not available. Or the prospective buyer, may have to go to brokers located several thousand miles away. Perhaps a substitute coffee may have to be used. Price per pound may be a consideration, but it is usually secondary to quality for most small roasting operations, depending on their competitive market.

In the USA, unfortunately, most green coffee imports in the past have been oriented to volume, and to the standards of large buyers like General Foods or Folger, who are price oriented. Until recently, very few green coffee brokers took the time and effort to go to growing countries to seek out “better than average” quality prepared green coffee beans.

The local small roaster is also pressured by his customers to get dozens of green coffees from various countries, under the false impression that each source will taste different. This is an unfortunate idea, that must be controlled and the buyer educated to the fact that coffee qualities are not designated by national/political boundaries. For example, one can take high grown coffees with good “washed” preparation and patio drying from Colombia, Central America and even from Kenya, Tanzania or Zimbabwe, and neither the public nor most small roasters could tell any significant taste difference. What is being dealt with is psychological, and not factual.

In my view, coffees from Kona for example, carry a high price (like $5/lb), not because they are better tasting than Colombian Supremos, but because there are only 20,000 bags produced per year, with highcost of labor, and hype related to nostalgia of palms, grass skirts and romanticism. Based on green coffee quality alone, most Kona coffees today are not even as good as-a good Colombian coffee, and are largely blended off with $1/lb Colombians at a 10% level and are sold as Hawaiian “blend” by the exploiters. In so far as green beans from the other islands of Hawaii, those beans, in many cases, are tainted by Rioy taste, which most buyers will not use.

Knowing the origin of the green coffee beans, is only the beginning of a long list of properties needed to be known about the coffee beans being considered for purchase. Although, history and tradition can be important factors in the purchase of this agricultural commodity; in the final analysis, it is the roasted bean taste that finalizes the purchase decision. There are so many intervening factors that can alter a potentially sound choice, e.g. weather, processing, politics, age, storage, shipping conditions, diseases, etc.

To control the quality of your purchases, you must always get a representative green coffee bean sample for your own roasting and taste evaluation. What the broker tells you is secondary.


The more one knows about the history of coffee growth, species, processing methods, current events, trade information, etc., the better equipped one is to have insight into coffee buying. For example, with two broad statements, one can discount 2/3 of world production as not being suitable for “gourmet” quality coffees.

Namely, Brazils which are harsh non-aromatic, low yielding coffees, are of no interest. There are a few limited production Brazilian coffees that are excellent, but they are exceptions and in any case these are very difficult to obtain. Robustas are the other 1/3 of world production which beans have a burnt rubbery taste, and usually wind up in the manufacture of instant coffees or are blended in substantial amounts in Hotel & Institutional coffees in the USA. Ironically, in France, the culinary nation, politics has dictated about 75% Robusta use.

Of the 1/3 balance of exports, are coffees referred to as mild . Most of these are “washed” beans, but some like Sumatra are naturally dried in the cherry. All these “milds” are not of the same quality. For example, Mexican coffees, have a characteristic taste that is not desirable, so that could discount 4 million (60 Kg) bags a year from the 1/3 world exports of 25 million bags. Half the milds grown in Central America, are not high grown, so that could be another 4 million bags of thinner quality beans. The rapid growth in the use of mechanical drying in Central America and elsewhere, as carried out, has a down-grading effect on coffee taste quality, and that can be another 4 million bags.

Processing damage can occur from the time the ripe cherry is picked until it is wet processed. For example, fermentation, rotting, mold growth, over-heating, improper storage and handling, droughts, excessive rains, diseases, pestilence, labor shortages, civil unrest, poor infrastructure (roads), excessive taxation, lack of capital, etc.

Often mechanical drying of the beans results in product quality inferior to patio drying. Many “beneficios” do not have complete nor up to date maintained machinery for removing defects, for bean size classification, for bean shape classification, cleaning out foreign matter, etc. Many “beneficios” do not have the silos and transport machinery to prepare 250 bag uniform lots. This is a most serious deficiency because, if all 250 bags are not uniform, how do you get a uniform sample?

If a “lot” of coffee beans (250 bags) is tainted with mold, fermented taste, Rioiness, or foreign contamination, how much taint is there in each bag, each pound?

Labor wages are very low in the coffee growing countries, and often theft occurs by removing all or part of wholesome export quality beans from a bag and substituting reject coffee beans. The outer bag stenciling and appearance are normal, but the contents are not. Coffee beans have been known to be dyed green, because, that gives a better new crop appearance. Stones and foreign matter have been placed in green coffee bags, as good beans are stolen.

In many countries, notably Colombia, there is an astonishingly little amount of tasting done. Further, when tasting is done, it is done by people who have little understanding of what the consuming country buyer wants; reject low grade “dirty” tasting beans stay and are used in the growing countries, by the public.

Misrepresentation and theft are not just in the growing country, but occur in the consuming countries, e.g. green coffee brokers are often less than candid about what they are selling, and are prone to take advantage of the new roaster. Also there are strict sampling standards for 250 bag lots of coffee shipments, requiring taking samples from 10% of the bags at random, examining these samples relative to each other, and using the composite for sales samples. Needless to say this is hard drudge-like work, which is often not done properly or at all. The discovery of a non-uniform lot of bags, is a devastating situation for all concerned.


I feel most comfortable and safe with using “milds” from the traditionally sound producing countries whose general product is about 1 million bags/year or more, and to select their best. For example, a safe selection can be Colombian Supremos as opposed to Excelsos.

This does not mean that a problem won’t occur in such a selection, it only means that a problem is less likely. As good as Colombian coffee beans and bagged shipments can be in general, I personally have run into various deficiencies. For example, some shipments will taste better than others. Some shipments will have too many defects. When I asked the Colombian Federation management about this specific problem, they said they did not control the quality of what was exported by brokers. I’ve purchased coffee from Huila, and gotten beans from Medellin. The moistures on Colombian beans invariably run higher than from other countries, e.g. 13 to 14%.

I look for a green bean color. Jade color is ideal, but seldom obtained. Faded green to gray colors mean that some deterioration has occurred in the shipment. A gray color means serious quality deterioration, e.g. over heated and prolonged storage.

A non-uniform bean appearance is an indication of poor preparation, and/or blending of different lots of beans. If this has occurred, it will reveal itself even more after the beans are roasted. Non-uniform bean sizes and shapes show a lackof proper preparation. Presence of many defects, definitely shows a coffee that has not been “benefacted”. Many black beans will give a “dirty” taste, resulting in a low grade coffee. Many white beans are not as bad as black beans, but white beans are defects that weaken flavor.

If I have traveled in the country of origin of the beans purchased, I can sometimes relate conditions there with green bean product quality. An axiom worth remembering, is that if the country is having political, economic, or climatic problems, this will reveal itself in a lower grade quality of exports.

So, it pays to keep abreast of droughts, rain storms, revolutions, executions, oppressive administrations, excessive taxation, floods, volcano eruptions, and inflation.

Green coffee bean shipments from countries with large stocks, can often result in receipt of faded poor tasting lots.

When Colombia applies excessive export taxes, smuggling occurs. Although these could be “good” buys, there is always an element of risk in quality and quantity.

There are always “new” suppliers from the coffee growing countries with “good” deals. These buys are usually very risky . It is safer to deal with established importers who are on USA soil and with whom you can have recourse on any unsatisfactory purchases.

Smell the green beans. Examine their appearance for good green color, uniform size, shape & color. There should be no defects. Are the roast bean colors uniform? If not, that is an indication that the batch is non-uniform. The prevalence of lighter color beans after roasting means that immature beans are present. This results in a weaker, poorer and less uniform taste.

Always compare the freshly roasted sample to acomparable standard of your choice, e.g. last buy. Observe cup strength using the standard beverage preparation method. Some top quality beans can be 10 to 20% stronger than other good quality beans. On the other hand, poorer quality beans can be 20 to 30% weaker than other good quality beans.

The tasting should be done in aquiet, clean, pleasant environment free of distractions. It is essential to keep at least 1/4 lb. of the green bean sample until the actual bags arrive to confirm that the bagged coffee is the same as the sample furnished and taste tested.



There is a tendency to believe that “cupping” is an isolated academic examination of the taste and aroma of green or roast coffee samples. In general it is “THE TEST” that helps one make the decision to buy or not to buy an offering. In the case where there is a production problem, taste testing can often pin point the start/end and scope of a taste variation, associated either with the raw commodity or with the processing of that commodity.

Therefore taste-testing encompasses a personal capability of tasting sensitivity combined with other technical knowledge about the coffee’s processing conditions. For example, one might be able to discriminate between the material and the process as the source of variation The ability to discriminate can translate either into solving a quality variation problem and/or upgrading the quality of the finished product.

Since there are many types of coffees, and even more modes of preparation, the ability to see into these circumstances becomes a valuable skill acquired over time.

The point is that “CUPPING” abilities and skills are largely related to real life circumstances. Each experience punctuates our memory about that “problem” with that taste.

I shall attempt to illustrate this with several examples:

    1. Rioy Taste
    2. : As a consultant to a major hotel chain, on evaluating their varied sources of coffees, I discovered that one hotel was using an objectionable tasting R&G coffee with medicinal taste. The specific supplier/green coffee buyer refused to discuss the nature of his blend and would not admit to using “RIOY” beans. They lost the major hotel account.

    1. Acid Tasting Coffees
    2. : A Kenya bean was offered for sale. It was not typical, and was very acid even at a dark roast. Having examined many types of coffees in a pH beverage study, I knew that this was abnormal. We do not buy abnormal tasting coffee beans.

    1. Misrepresentation of Sample
    2. : A sample may not represent the bag contents, either because the broker deliberately sent a “better” sample than the shipment, or the 250 bag lot was not uniform. We have encountered both circumstances from several brokers.

    1. Moldy Taste
    2. : We received a preliminary Sumatra sample. I found it had a small, but definite, moldy taste. When I rejected this proposed purchase, then only did the broker agree that indeed it did have a moldy taste. Otherwise I would have had 20 moldy bags of coffee.

    1. Flat Taste
    2. : I had been buying on a repeated basis, Kona coffee beans at $5/lb + transportation. A new shipment arrived that was not consistent with the previous shipments; it was flat. I immediately inquired with the Kona supplier. In this case he was honest and admitted to having the “beneficio” over-heat the beans during de-husking/polishing.

    1. Weakening Taste
    2. : We bought some fine quality Tanzanian beans, however, we observed over a two month period, that the taste was weakening and the bean color was fading from a fair green to a very pale. Our storage conditions were the same for all our beans, others of which did not fade. Since then we have discovered that improperly prepared green coffee beans, will have a weakening taste.

    1. Caramelized Taste
    2. : This pertains to the processing of the green bean. In brew from R&G coffee held too hot or too long on a warmer or overheated extracts in instant coffee processing.

  1. Robusta Taste
  2. : A customer tells his roaster supplier that he wants more creme (foam) on his espresso drinks. He furnishes a competitor’s sample of R&G coffee. You taste it, and recognize a definite strong burnt rubber/bitey objectionable taste. Said sample has perhaps 33% Robusta in blend.

Getting started is hard. But nature has given each of us an exceptionally sensitive nose andtongue, wherein we can taste minute as well as gross differences in our coffee beverages.





    1. Beverage Preparations
    2. : It had become impossible to compare various coffee samples because of differences in roasting, grinding, weighing, and water temperature. Comparisons must be made with consistency in the preparations, since variations to the routine can show considerable differences in cup strength.

    1. Cup Strengths
    2. : What was attributed to be a SHG (strictly high grown) central American bean, when cupped against a reference of known integrity, showed that the sample was noticeably weaker. This could have been because the bean was not SHG, but came from an elevation of 1,500 feet, and/or the bean was washed excessively causing it to lose most of its solubles.

    1. Dirty Taste
    2. : This taste is usually associated with samples containing large amounts of black beans (e.g. 1 wt. %) It can also occur in green coffee samples that appear to be clean, uniform, and with few defects. This is not an acceptable taste.

    1. Fermented Taste
    2. : From 20 bags of coffee received, there were varied levels and types of fermentation. A small amount of fermented taste can be sometimes desirable, however, the danger is whether all 20 bags are uniform. Since a fermented bean is an isolated contributor, it is unlikely that the same level and type of fermented taste will occur in every bag.

    1. Broker Misrepresentation
    2. : I purchased some Sumatra for my shop. The broker sent me a #6 grade, loaded with defects, which he claimed fervently was a #1 grade. I have not bought a bean from this broker since.

    1. Roaster Operator- Not following Instructions
    2. : A new roaster operator complained to us that his roasted beans had lost favor with his prior customers. I roasted his green beans and the resulting beverage was excellent, but the beverage from his beans was not. It turned out that he was not cooling the roasted beans upon discharge from the roast chamber. This variance in roasting procedures caused the difference in taste.

    1. Panamanian Coffee
    2. : Located just south of the Costa Rican border at near 5,000 feet, Boquete, grows and exports green beans. These can be very good or very bad, and it is risky to buy them, although tempting. A major problem is that as a small area producer, they don’t have the proper equipment for classification or grading and silo preparation of 250 bag lots. The procedure is to pile the green beans on the concrete patio, and have six men manually shovel that pile into another pile, thereby effecting some mixing. This kind of mixing is not very good, especially when the bean lots mixed are not equal quality. The net result is that no sample from any one bag is representative of the whole. Detailed examination of the beans from each bag revealed wide variation in defects and was non uniform in color after roasting.

    1. Herbal Kenya
    2. : After receiving 18 bags of Kenya, we noticed an herbal odor. Before paying for the beans or transport, I sampled and taste-tested the shipment. No herbal taste was present in these beverages. Upon investigation, we discovered that the trucker had a warehouse occupied by spices and herbs. The dust had settled on the bags of Kenya coffee. We were relieved, but spent a good deal of time and worry until this matter was investigated and found to be non-threatening.

    1. Contract Purchases of Green Beans
    2. : Normally, I buy beans based on samples furnished, and not by contract, as many brokers like to do. One San Francisco broker refused to write in contract that the beans would have “NO” defects or not more than 4 defects per 300 grams. When the coffee arrived, it had 22 defects per 300 grams. Upon presentation of this disparity, the broker said he would rebate for the deficiency. However, he did not, and I never purchased beans from him again.

  1. Past Crops
  2. : Most brokers offer beans, and the buyer assumes (often wrongly) that this is a new crop. Past crops can be one, two, or more years old. The beans are no longer green, but gray. The taste of past crops can be satisfactory or progressively lacking in aroma as the years go by, depending on conditions of storage. It is important to have the broker-seller commit to when the crop was harvested. Older coffees not only have poor aroma, but can also lose body, flavor and character.

TASTE TESTING PROCEDURES: Traditional Green Coffee Broker vs. Gourmet Roaster

Traditional green coffee seller/buyer beverage preparations leave a great deal to be desired relativeto gourmet coffee consumer preparations.

It is my opinion and practice, to not use the techniques of the traditional green bean buyer, for several reasons:

    1. The sample drum roasters used are too expensive and take too long to roast. They do not bring out the most and best flavors from the beans being examined. For example, a 4 barrel gas or electrically heated bank of sample roasters installed can cost US$ 10,000.00, whereas a heat gun spouting bed roaster can cost $80.00. The later takes 2.5 minutes to roast 30 grams of green beans which is enough to make 3 cups of coffee.

  1. The traditional evaluation roast uses a light roast (perhaps 14 wt % loss). This is so light and short of optimum flavor development and the flavors developed are not what the consumer uses. Light roasts are believed to be used to highlight off-tastes. In my opinion “OFF” tastes can also be readily observed at 15 to 16 wt. % losses, which is close to degrees of roast used commercially today in gourmet operations. The lighter roasts may have been more comparable to 50 years ago when canned coffees were made with less weight losses, and less consideration of what is a properly developed flavor profile.
  2. The traditional evaluator also used a relatively coarse grind , “regular,” certainly coarser than drip, more equivalent to the grind of canned coffees in the USA 50 years ago. Such coarse grinds produce a weak insipid drink, whose taste profile is unnatural to what is going on in the market place today.
  3. The coarse granulation and light roast produces granules that are not readily wetted, hence they float and are under-extracted. These form a barrier to the taster trying to evaluate the beverage. The taster has to skim off the floating granules, which is usually a messy procedure and often incomplete. The presence of grounds interferes with the taster’s ability to accurately evaluate the coffee beverage.


Today in the 1990’s we have a broader selection of beans, degrees of roasts, fineness of grinds and cultural uses than ever before. We are not limited to the canned, stale, lightly roasted, or coarsely ground commercial coffees.

  1. We use the heat gun spouting roaster that takes 2.5 minutes for 30 grams of green beans.
  2. We use a middle European roast with a 15 to 16 wt. % loss and optimum flavor development. The once thru fluid bed roaster does not deposit organic tars on the beans. These tars are an obstruction to proper evaluation of the basic tastes derived from the green beans.
  3. We use a “fine” grind, almost espresso grind, so that wetting and extraction are quick and thorough. We separate the spent grounds from the beverage with a fine mesh Nylon strainer or “gold” strainer. There are no floating coarse grounds to “break” & wipe off.
  4. This rapid procedure, consistent with today’s coffee consumption, is more economical, quicker, and closer to what gourmet consumers are consuming


With the growth of coffee retailing and roasting, those who do not have a chemical education, in regards to coffee, will find it difficult to appreciate the chemistry of roasting, the chemical compositions of aromas, and the chemical and physical changes and contents of the bean, grounds and beverages.

I will simply illustrate this point as follows:

In 1956, when gas chromatic analysis was in its infancy, I contracted Professor Zlatkis of the University of Houston to do analyses of the coffee aromas we were collecting at the Folger roasting and instant plant in Houston. We were exposed to one of the marvels of a science that was only beginning.

We took the condensed aromas from ice water traps, dry ice traps (-760C), and liquid nitrogen traps (-273 0 C), for gas chromatic analysis. In such analyses, an absorbent column slowly releases the individual components of aroma as an inert purge gas passes over the absorbent.

By smelling each component as it was purged, we could appreciate its contribution to the overall aroma of coffee. Many of these components were very volatile and unstable, so the elapsed time overall was critical to getting a genuine impression. We could smell acet-aldehyde, acetone, ethyl-ester, propyl-aldehyde, diacetal, acetic acid, etc. Many of these mentioned represented large percentages of the aroma. However, their sensing threshold concentrations were relatively high. There were other aromatics which were much more potent to our senses, a thousand fold, e.g. di-methyl sulfide.

We not only confirmed these chemicals by smell but also by mass spectroscopy , which combined with gas chromatography formed a very sophisticated analytical procedure. Subsequently other investigators at the SW Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, the QMC research laboratories in Massachusetts, and by the Tenco Division of Coca Cola Corporation. expanded these studies and reported around 100 major chemicals and around 300 minor chemicals in the coffee aroma. Needless to say the range of concentrations found on the numerous individual chemicals varied with green bean type, source, processing as green, processing to roasted, degree of roast, etc. As chemists who recognize many of these components individually, it was very educational and impressive to relate and identify each in the complex mixtures evolved.

To this extent a chemist, chemical engineer, or food technologist, is better able to see the chemical compositions that make up coffee aroma

Also related to this, was a program in the 1950’s and early 60’s to aromatize instant coffees. I had the opportunity to add back many of these components to coffee extracts and powders and had personal taste experiences with upgradings made with diacetyl (butter-like), aldehydes, esters, sulfides, etc. We could taste these components and their contributions to the coffee, and the concentrations required for positive taste benefits. This was exciting applied science.

The green coffee bean buyers worked on an empirical tasting program tied to low priced canned coffees, and even then resented the intrusion of scientific method as applied by chemists, engineers and food technologists.


Lingle, Ted, SCAA Coffee Cupper’s Handbook & Basics of Cupping Coffee 1990

Elkin, M., SCAA Cupping 100, Houston, Texas, 1994

Sivetz, M., AVI Coffee Technology & Coffee , Origin & Use, 1979

Sivetz, M., Coffee Quality, 1995

Food Technology, V26 No. 5 p70-77, Acidity & Coffee Flavor, 1972




  1. Sample Roasters:
    • 1 Kw Heat Gun: 30 gram, 2.5 min, $100; 70 gram, 5 min, $165
    • 1.2 Kw Modified Corn Popper: 1/4 lb. in 5 min., $185
  1. 8″D Brass screen to inspect roasted beans.
  2. In tray, green coffee bean evaluations-preliminary.
    • Color, odor, size & shapes and general appearance in uniformity.
    • Odors and amount of popping sounds during roasting.
    • Visual examination of roasted beans, colors, sizes & shapes.
  1. Fine Grind:, uniform granulation. Smell freshly ground coffee.
  2. Proportion of R&G coffee to near boiling water. 10 grams/200 ml.
  3. Separation of spent grounds from beverage (fast). We use and prefer a Nylon 60 mesh screen. Steeping time 10 sec.
  4. Number of cups evaluated at a time. Five maximum. Use top quality white porcelain cups of 6 fl oz capacity.
  5. Water must be free of chlorine and excessive alkalinity or solubles. The water must be a joy to drink in itself.
  6. Timing in Preparation of beverage samples: To be done by others (trusted), as quickly as possible for uniform temp.
  7. Use silver or silver plated spoon, your personal one, for tasting only.
  8. Tasting Environment: Quiet, undisturbed atmosphere, with clean utensils and air, to allow for concentration and reflection. No phones, no messages, no distracting conversations.
  9. Slurping & Spitting out samples: Do not swallow the coffee beverage. You may even have to rinse your mouth out with tepid water between tastes. In extreme cases, you may have to eat a saltine cracker to eliminate the last taste.
  10. Spitting Bowl: To minimize the social abhorrence of spitting out the coffee beverage, a dentists’ water whirling bowl is recommended, or water running in a sink with periodic water spray wash down. I personally find the use of a spittoon today unacceptable, and objectionable.
  11. Documenting Taste Impressions: Write down your taste impressions of each cup both at initial tasting temperatures of 125 to 130 degrees F, and then again at 100 degrees F. Frequently tasting at both temperatures is better and more instructive.
  12. Taste Communications: Compare your own taste impressions with one or two other skilled tasters to confirm your reactions collectively from the “same cup.” Such discussions after all have tasted are often very helpful in decisions.


One of the greatest apprehensions a person has, when considering entering the coffee business, is the anticipated training and education required for tasting different origins and different defects in coffees.

Fortunately, most people have the natural facilities for smelling and tasting, and it is simply orientation and experience that are required.

Most coffee “cuppers” and buyers have learned their skills under the tutelage of a senior person in a large coffee company.


Knowledge of tasting terminology makes it possible to effectively communicate with exporters, brokers, peers, and customers. COFFEE TASTING has a language all its own. It is not very difficult, but it encompasses a breadth and depth of experience that cannot be learned overnight.

Without a grasp of this language and education, one can become a victim of the green coffee bean seller or broker, because it is difficult to convey the short comings of the offering. Learning the trade accepted taste terminology also helps one communicate more effectively with employees.

It is important to taste beverages on the same turn table with an expert in order to have the opportunity to discuss the source and cause of tastes identified. There are tastes, for example, like bitter which taste acid to some, and one must be aware of such genuine taste impressions.

Another obstacle to learning coffee tastes is the secrecy that many coffee buyers hold on this subject, since it constitutes their livelihood. They do not want to create competitors for their job, nor do they want to share the details of their taste decisions. The buyer may be buying marginal quality green coffee beans and is not willing to share this information or to discuss his taste impressions on decisions to buy.


When you hear of taste tests with coffee carried out by lay or general public, you can be sure that you are asking a tongue uneducated group for opinions. The results are usually strange, if not erroneous. The tasters cannot communicate properly .and the scope of their knowledge is small.




You will find casual terminology in flyers published by sellers of roast coffee to the Gourmet Trade. For example, the following terms have been taken from 25 word descriptions in the Superior Dowe Egbert flyer; and they are not meaningful or used in professional green coffee buying & tasting:

    • Satiny
    • Mellow
    • Snappy
    • Exciting
    • Zesty
    • Fine
    • Tangy
    • Spicy
    • Sharp
    • Sturdy
    • Brisk
    • Unique
    • Creamy
    • Sharp
    • Exotic
    • Hardy
    • Robust
    • Scintillating

These words are usually created by advertisers.


The Professional terminology following was taken from Coffee Technology 1979 Table 15.1:

    • Acidy
    • Aged
    • Acrid
    • Astringent
    • Aromatic
    • Baked
    • Bland
    • Body
    • Burnt
    • Brackish
    • Buttery
    • Caramelized
    • Dirty
    • Earthy
    • Fermented
    • Flat
    • Foreign
    • Grassy
    • Green
    • Harsh
    • Heat Treated
    • Hay Like (Furfural)
    • Egg Like (Hydrogen Sulfide)
    • Instant-Like
    • Metallic
    • Musty
    • Natural (Unwashed Beans)
    • New Crop
    • Old Crop
    • Oily
    • Pyridine (Obnoxious Easily Recognizable Chemical)
    • Pungent
    • Quakery
    • Nutty
    • Rioy
    • Robusta
    • Rubbery
    • Sickening
    • Sour
    • Stale
    • Weak
    • Wild
    • Winey
    • Woody
    • Etc.


It is important to note that persons who are trained in chemistry and have had the opportunity to smell unique chemical odors, have an advantage in identifying characteristic odors coming from coffee.

Gas chromatographic releases of individual chemical compounds and odors make it possible to speak of acet-aldehyde pungency, or acetic acid, di-acetyl (buttery), methyl mercaptan (potent), buty-ric acid, etc.

The usual coffee buyer does not know his chemistry, and hence does not appreciate these odor sensations.


When receiving a green coffee bean sample from a broker, it is necessary to visually inspect the spread of beans for color, color variation, bean size, bean shapes, and general uniformity. Smell the green beans to determine if there are any “off” odors, like mold, ferment, or foreign contaminants. Note the number and type of defects refer to the grading chart. If there are many defects, sort out the defects and weigh for wt% content. One may sort out all the black defects to see what effect this has on taste (often notable). Roast a 2 ounce (70 gram) sample. Note odors during roast and uniformity of color developed. If roast color is not uniform, the beans are not uniform. Note “popping” sounds while roasting as index of bean quality.

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