The process of purchasing green coffee is often underrated. This process needs to be approached with the finesse and care that a quality cup calls for. A step often missed by smaller, and newer roasters, perhaps because of a lack of knowledge and experience, or perhaps because they simply don’t fully understanding the need too roast samples. All too often the word of the Coffee Broker coupled with flawed grading systems which take place at Origin (which lack consistency between countries and vary greatly in effectiveness) forms the sole criteria in purchasing green coffee, results in a flawed green coffee purchasing process.
In short, the only way to make effective and consistent green coffee purchasing decisions is to create a protocol for relentlessly roasting and cupping samples. This is why FIX! relentlessly roasts coffee samples.
At The FIX! Roastery Lab in Victoria, our green coffee candidates are put through a rigorous 4 step process before a purchasing decision is made:
1. Analysis – a lot can be learned from simply looking at the green coffee, you can tell how it was processed (wet or dry method), whether there is any insect damage, moisture content, consistency in colour and size and how many defects per sample there are. All of these factors will greatly affect the final cup. Only the finest samples will move on past this initial step. Additionally, we use a moisture content measuring tool to determine each sample roasts level of moisture. This will help us make roasting decisions like charge temperature, and how much heat to give at each phase of the roast, as well as the ideal roast degree.
2. Roast it – at The Roastery Lab, we have a Diedrich sample roaster designed specifically to roast 250g to 1 kilo samples to aid in purchasing decisions. Those that hold up well through the roasting process in comparison to historical samples of the same varietal and origin to the same roast degree and time without scorching or “tipping” (burnt tips), will then move on to the next step.
3. Cup it – blind cupping, comparing currently used coffee from the same origin & varietal with the proposed samples, will immediately identify differences in the cup. Sometimes the sample is better, sometimes it is worse. But the simple practice of comparison cupping reveals the true character of the sample.
4. Buy it… check it – Only the best samples are purchased. When we receive each lot, it is carefully compared (using the previous 3 steps) to a small amount left from the sample received weeks earlier, roasted and cupped to ensure there has been no “bait and switch”.
Because green coffee goes off, we are careful to only purchase enough coffee to keep us going long enough to immediately begin the whole process again, place an order and receive our next micro-lot of coffee.
Sample roasting is not just something done to brag about it, but it is an integral part of being an Artisan Roaster.