FreshRoast SR540: Perfect for Beginners



We carry several types of roasters, with different batch sizes and mechanisms to suit different needs.

Our Favorite Home Coffee Roaster

For new home roasters, we have long recommended the FreshRoast SR540, a “fluid bed” roaster which is super easy to use. Fluid bed roasters are very similar in design to the familiar hot-air popcorn poppers – minimal mechanical parts, simply a fan and a heating element – the only significant difference is a smaller (and therefore hotter) roasting chamber. See video of FreshRoast SR540 in action.

The SR540’s glass roasting chamber makes it easy to watch as the roast develops, and then stop the roast at exactly the right moment. These popular roasters are economically priced, will roast a modest amount of beans in a speedy 7-20 minutes (including cool time), and are very easy to clean and maintain. Simple, safe, and accessible, the SR540 is ideal for new home coffee roasting enthusiasts.

We offer a wide variety of home roasters – different styles for different preferences. For new coffee roasting hobbyists, we frequently recommend the FreshRoast SR540 because it is easy and very popular

How to use your FRESHROAST SR540 coffee roaster

filling FreshRoast SR540

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Start with four level scoops of green coffee (about 4.5 ounces by weight).
  2. Remove the chaff collector, add the coffee to the roasting chamber and put the chaff collector back on.
  3. The new improved control panel is very easy to use. Simply press the knob on the right, and one of the numbers – FAN, POWER, TIMER – will begin to flash. Turn the knob to increase or decrease that setting, or press the knob again to switch to the next setting. Turning the knob while none of the numbers are flashing will display the Temperature in the chamber (NOTE that this is air temp, not internal bean temp, but it still gives an approximate idea of how far along the roast has come). The same RUN/COOL button begins and ends the roast cycle.
  4. Begin with Fan Speed set to 9 and Power set to 5.  Set the Timer for about 15 minutes. Total roast time should come in between 6 and 15 minutes dependent on settings. You may add time at any point by clicking the knob until Timer is flashing and then turning it clockwise; Fan and Power settings also may be adjusted at any time.
  5. Press the RUN button. Starting the roast with low temperature and high fan speed lowers moisture content and gets the beans moving; this will ensure an even roast. After approximately two minutes turn Power up to 9. As the roast progresses, coffee beans will begin turning over vigorously, especially after first crack. Turn the Fan speed down as needed; slower-moving beans will build heat to roast faster and more evenly.
  6. As coffee beans roast they will begin to brown, double in size and shed chaff, emitting a light audible “first crack.” Begin to pay close attention, watching for your desired roast level. For many coffees, we recommend a roast that ends shortly before second crack – beans will appear medium to medium-dark brown and the surface of the beans will begin to turn from dull/flat to a velvety sheen. This is within the range of “City Roast” to “Full City Plus Roast,” and is a good place to start for most coffees. When you are happy with the roast level, simply hit the COOL button to complete the cycle.
  7. Be aware that roasting goes much faster as you move into the dark end of the spectrum. “Second crack” occurs when internal bean oils and moisture expand from an exothermic reaction, producing a small hole in the bean and emitting a subtle crackling sound; this is the start of a dark roast. Sometimes second crack is very quiet, but if you see shiny oils on the surface of the beans, you are into the second crack – consider turning off the heat at this time, as beans will very rapidly darken beyond this point. If you see smoke coming from the roaster, you are well into the second crack and at a dark roast; definitely hit the COOL button now.
  8. DO NOT SKIP THE COOL CYCLE! This function not only stops the roast from continuing and cools beans enough that they may be handled, but also it is very important to allow the equipment to cool before beginning the next batch.
  9. After the cool cycle shuts off, remove the chaff collector (be careful – it may be still pretty warm), lift out the roast chamber by its handle and dump out the beans.  Let freshly roasted beans sit in a glass or ceramic bowl to allow “set-up” for a day or two, then put them in an air tight container. We like to store the set-up roasted beans in a small canning jar.
  10. The only cleaning necessary is to dump out the chaff from the chaff collector and wipe it out; a small basting brush works perfectly. This model yields about 28 cups per batch.

Follow roasting with a “set-up” rest period

Freshly roasted beans will be at their peak of flavor only after they have “set-up” for about 12-24 hours. This is due to necessary off-gassing of carbon dioxide that balances the acidic tones in the beans. Read our primer about roast styles to learn more.

different coffee roasting styles coffee beans set up

What if roasts are too dark or too light?

Batch size is critical to the roasting process. In all air roasters, smaller batches roast slower and larger batches roast faster. It may seem counter-intuitive, but hot air flows more freely with fewer beans, meaning that less heat builds up in the chamber. If your roasts are too dark decrease your batch size to increase air flow or hit the COOL button earlier. If your roasts are too light increase your batch size to increase trapped hot air, or increase time and heat settings.

We recommend taking notes in a Roasting Journal, so that you can remember exactly what settings work best for each unique bean.

Not sure if you want it lighter or darker? Read our primer about roast styles if you would like to experiment with different roast levels.

More Coffee Roaster Tips:

All roasters are sensitive to your home voltage, so it helps to identify a circuit that will not be used by any other appliances while you are roasting. This also means that roasting times may vary slightly from one batch to the next, so be sure to watch carefully, especially with a new roaster.

Keep in mind that these are home roasters not intended for commercial-scale use. It is very important to let them cool down between batches or you may trigger the thermal protection safety features, which require the roaster to be reset by the manufacturer and may void the warranty.

If you want to stop the roast at any time, just hit the COOL button. It is inadvisable to switch the roaster off, as it will be very hot and it will require a cool cycle before handling. We cannot emphasize it enough – the cool cycle is very important to maintaining the longevity and effectiveness of your FreshRoast SR540.

Never leave any roaster unattended. Think of home coffee roasting as similar to frying bacon – it can and will burn if you walk away from it!


Details & NEW Video Guide to FreshRoast SR540


Want to learn more about Green Coffee before diving in? Follow these links:


Ready to get started with Roasting Coffee?



NEW! Japanese “Hachiju-Hachiya” (88th Night) Premium Green Tea

hachiju-hachiya green tea

“Hachiju-Hachiya” means “88th Night,” and refers to the 88th date after the traditional Japanese Lunar New Year.  Generally falling on or near May 2nd, this is a time when tea buds are just beginning to unfold.  In Japanese, these first-flush teas are called “shincha” and are regarded very highly – some claim that even a single cup of fresh Hachiju-Hachiya tea can promote health and vigor throughout the year!

The stunningly jade-colored leaves are tiny, precisely rolled, and very attractive.  Carefully cultivated, hand-plucked, immediately and expertly processed by the most skilled tea masters, this exceptional tea is rare and very special.  Sometimes, late frosts damage or even totally destroy the first-flush crop.  This 2019 harvest, on the other hand, is a flawless exemplar of season, regional terroir, cultivar and artisanal craft, brimming with uplifting spring energy, fantastically vibrant and classically “green.”

Kagoshima prefecture, at the southern tip of mainland Japan, is famous for balmy climate and numerous active volcanoes.  These include Sakurajima, the most active volcano in Japan, erupting almost constantly since 1955, as well as a cluster of 18 smaller vents including Takachiho-no-mine, a sacred site celebrated in the Japanese origin story.  Between these fiery peaks lies the city of Kirishima (“Island in the Fog”), and on their slopes are some of the world’s finest tea plantations.

The Okumidori (“Late Green,” sometimes translated as “Deep Green”) cultivar is a late bloomer, making it ideal for first-flush harvests because it almost always appears after the frosts have ended.  It is known for beautiful vivid lime green liquor and Japan’s preferred cup profile of sweet and mild yet profoundly complex and vegetal, with thick creamy body and powerful chlorophyll and umami tones especially.

These first-flush leaves were withered within hours of being harvested, a treatment that makes this tea one of the freshest and most lively we have ever tasted!  “Deep Green” Okumidori is often used to make fancy specialty teas like Gyokuro, Tencha, and Matcha, and one sip will show you why – this batch is almost on par with the famous Gyokuro style even without the special chlorophyll-increasing cultivation methods used to make that top-of-the-line specialty green tea. In fact, you may find that this premium tea is in the same ballpark as the much more expensive and elusive Gyokuro – delicate and fragrant, with dancing floral, cured hay, and seaside aromas, it also has a lovely buttery mouthfeel, very low astringency and absolutely zero bitterness, with subtle chrysanthemum, vanilla, and barley notes rounding out the richly nuanced sweet/savory cup profile, and a long-lasting umami aftertaste.

If the concept “umami” is new to you, no worries – that is just because we do not have many foods containing that flavor in mainstream American culture.  But in Japan, umami tones are a common foundation for the most flavorful dishes.  Think seaweed, soy sauce, mushrooms, aged cheeses.  The first cup may be strange and a little over-powering for those new to Japanese teas (some of our crew described it as “sushi-flavored”).  We recommend blanching the leaves before steeping, as a quick rinse will wash away some of that unfamiliar umami flavor, and re-steeping several times, as it gets sweeter and milder with each round.  Read this guide to learn about the best method for preparing artisanal green teas in the traditional Japanese way.  Best steeped 4 or more times, share this extraordinary artisanal tea in small cups with friends in a peaceful unhurried setting.


Steeping Time: 30-60 seconds

Water Temp: 170-180 F

Finest young shincha tea leaves

Buy Japanese Hachiju-Hachiya Premium Green Tea


SEE OUR FULL TEA LIST

NEW! Chinese Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green Tea

Temple of Heaven Pinhead Gunpowder Green Tea

The Chinese have a funny habit of giving fantastical names to their most common products… like “Temple of Heaven” Gunpowder Green Tea, which may also be called “Pingshui” after the village that first exported a similar hand-rolled and pan-fried premium green tea, or sometimes “Pinhead” (like the one we had previously carried).

This classical green tea is very similar to the last, comparatively a little more mild, warm and sweet, but still that same time-honored Pingshui flavor profile.  Abundant and robust, with sweet slightly smoky aroma and strong almond tones followed by bamboo and grapefruit, its slightly less powerful yet still very crisp astringency lingers with subtle melon and apple notes long after each sip.

An exemplary traditional tea, Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green comes from Zhejiang Province and it is savored all around the world.  Artfully stir-fried Pingshui teas are considered the original “gunpowder” teas and are highly revered for their lengthy labor-intensive processing and traditionally rich savory taste. The Chinese term is actually “zhu cha,” meaning “pearl tea,” but of course the English are pretty good at coming up with weird names too… they labeled these types of tea “gunpowder” because it was thought that the tiny tightly rolled pellets resembled old-fashioned gunpowder granules.

Leaves are attractive, olive colored and slightly shiny, very small and dense pellets indicating exceptional quality.  You will enjoy steeping this tea in glass – it is mesmerizing to watch the leaves uncurl and float, then gradually sink again, dancing as the liquor rapidly turns a warm bronze color.

We recommend that you steep gunpowder green teas for only 2 minutes, or the astringency begins to get a little overpowering. Or you may enjoy this zesty and distinctive, potent yet subtly nuanced tea even better in the traditional Chinese way – a series of small cups steeped first for 30 seconds, then an additional 30 seconds for each subsequent re-steeping. Enjoy 5 or more small cups, noting the change in aroma and flavor profile as the tiny leaves unfurl and infuse little by little.


Steeping Time – 2 Minutes

Water Temp – 180 F

Small pellets of green tea.

Buy Chinese Temple of Heaven Gunpowder Green Tea


SEE OUR FULL TEA LIST

NEW! Kenyan Purple Tea

kenya purple tea

This exciting new tea is unlike any the world has seen before!  Selectively bred from wild mutations discovered in China and India, Kenyan Purple Tea is a new varietal created by a decades-long public/private partnership seeking to improve the productivity and profit of Kenyan tea farmers.

This tea is different in two closely-related ways.  Kenya produces lots of tea – today it is the #1 cash crop, beating out coffee! – but it is not easy.  Much nearer to the equator than traditional tea-growing regions in India and China, estates must climb up to higher altitudes to find temperatures suitable for tea bushes.  Higher altitudes lead to higher ultraviolet radiation, and these plants adapt by shielding their leaves with deep purple anthocyanins, the same powerful antioxidants that give blueberries their famous health benefits.  In fact, an equal measure of Kenyan Purple Tea has 15x the amount of anthocyanins as blueberries (by weight – one cup of raw blueberries is much more than the approx 2-6g of dry leaves used to steep one cup of tea).

Combined with other powerful protective antioxidants like catechins and other polyphenols, this means that the second difference is that Kenyan Purple Tea boasts significantly more health benefits than ordinary green or black teas.

Fans of Purple Tea claim that its rich palette of restorative polyphenols have even more cleansing and invigorating powers than regular green teas.  By cleansing damaging “free radical” oxygen atoms out of the body, these healthy chemicals reduce effects of aging and also combat cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, while generally improving nervous system and dental health, reducing inflammation, and clearing cholesterol and plaque out of arteries.

When steeping this whole leaf tea, you will be impressed by the colossal size of the leaves, and charmed by the pale purple-tinged liquor and lovely faint aroma.  Lingering behind the big chlorophyll flavor of this premium green tea, there is a hint of malty and nutty tones reminiscent of black teas, and some delicate apricot notes, similar to a lightly-oxidized oolong.  The astringency level is perfect, feels good in the mouth, dry but sweet.  Distinctly leafy (high chlorophyll content) but not grassy, the novel but mild flavor profile of this fantastic specialty tea will be appreciated by any tea connoisseur!


Steeping Time – 3 minutes

Water Temp – 180 F

Whole leaf Kenyan Purple Tea

Buy Kenyan Purple Tea



NEW! Indian Assam: Sessa Estate’s “Best & Finest” Black Tea

Indian Assam from Sessa Estate

We are pleased to offer an Assamese tea from a famous estate dating back to 1897.  Named after nearby Sessa River (“Cold” in Assamese), the Sessa Estate is in Darrang District on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The river valley stretches all the way across the isolated region of Northeast India, as does the state of Assam, with western borders shared with Bangladesh and eastern borders touching Myanmar. It is a place of incredible beauty and rich biodiversity, home to many endangered species including the Indian rhinoceros.

Further from ports and travel destinations than famous mountainous micro-regions of Darjeeling and Sikkim, the low-lying state of Assam is less well-known in the US. However, its tea tradition is unrivaled –it is the origin of Camellia sinensis var. assamica, the sub-species of tea that was cultivated on enormous plantations by the British in the second half of the 19th century, not only in India but also Sri Lanka and Kenya, and that now supplies most of the world’s black tea.

In Assam, tea is grown at low altitude in the abundant alluvial soils of the Brahmaputra River valley. With steep Himalayan mountains just a few miles to the north, Assam receives drenching monsoon rains coupled with intense heat that create a greenhouse effect in which tea bushes thrive, while relatively cool winters protect them from pests (in most other places, tea is grown at higher altitudes).

According to state sources, the total tea harvested and processed in Assam is 650 million kilograms, or about 1.4 billion pounds, each year! Assam is considered the global leader in tea production, but we are less familiar with it here in the US because the majority goes to tea-lovers in Russia and the Middle East. However, “Irish Breakfast” tea is typically made with Assamese tea leaves, and it is loved for its bold malty flavor. Most tea connoisseurs prefer the “second flush” Assamese teas, which are usually “tippy” and have full body and rich sweetness.

Assam is full of tea estates; Sessa is known as one of the best, receiving excellence awards from the Tea Board of India. This selection is their top lot, a beautiful tippy assamica, very small whole leaves tinged with orange. The liquor produced is also a pleasing warm amber color, with malty aroma reminiscent of fresh baked croissants. Overall relatively mild in flavor, this is an exceedingly refined Assamese tea, with a perfect dryness that lingers on the palate after the initial sweet and malty flavors fade. Detectable in this delicate astringency are grapefruit and almond notes, but mostly you will be charmed by the up-front molasses sweetness and silky malty body of this flawless second flush tippy black tea.


Steeping Time – 3 minutes

Water Temp – 212 F

Assamese tippy whole leaf black tea

Buy Sessa Estate’s “Best & Finest” Assamese Black Tea


Explore our selection of fine Japanese teas

hachiju-hachiya green tea

The rich Japanese tea culture has experimented and innovated for hundreds of years, and some of the most prized teas in the world come from this relatively small island nation. “Relatively” is an important qualifier – Japan is dwarfed by nearby China, yet it is almost as large as California and its population is a whopping 127 million people, more than one third of the US population. But Japanese cities are densely concentrated along the coastlines, and the mountainous interior boasts many tea plantations which have been meticulously curated for many generations. Elaborate and labor-intensive traditions produce unique and sensational green teas. We are very proud to expand our selection to include famous Japanese health teas such as Genmaicha, Kukicha, Hachiju-Hachiya Shincha, Matcha, and Gyokuro.

See all Japanese teas

Japanese Teas offered by BCT:

Genmaicha – with roasted popped brown rice infusing sweet caramel and barley-tones, genmaicha literally means “brown rice tea.” Also frequently called “the people’s tea,” it is often consumed by those working long hours without meals, or as a mineral-rich fortifying tonic.

Kukicha "twig tea"
Kukicha “twig tea”

Org Roasted Kukicha – with very low caffeine, but full of antioxidants and minerals, this special “twig tea” is thought to be an important dietary supplement for those who are trying to keep their body balanced – it is very highly revered within the macrobiotic theory of health.

Hachiju-Hachiya – Harvested on the “88th Night” of the Japanese Lunar New Year, this exceptionally refined shincha, or “first flush tea,” is made exclusively from the “Deep Green” Okumidori cultivar.

Gyokuro – the pampered princess of teas, Gyokuro – “jade dew” – requires enormous labor devoted to meticulous methods of care-taking the most precious specialized tea shrubs. It is intensely green and surprisingly sweet, with abundant chlorophyll in the tiny young leaves.

Matcha Kansai – even more refined than Gyokuro, this exquisite Matcha from the southern Kansai region is “stone-ground tea,” a fine powder that makes a cup unlike any other on earth. Consuming the entire tea leaf means that a cup of Matcha has more than 100x the antioxidants of ordinary green tea!

Chinese teas processed in Japanese style:

These teas are well-made and authentic tasting, but also significantly more affordable than rare Japanese versions.

Chinese Org Genmaicha – very nice, malty and sweet barley tones, really yummy!


See all Japanese teas

SEE OUR FULL TEA LIST HERE!


Sunny Summer Tea Time – Fresh NEW Tea Offerings from BCT

herbal energizer tea

Many of us change our diets with the seasons, and we look forward to those winter-time baked goodies or spring wild mushrooms or summertime barbecues (or if you’re like me, you are really enjoying the overlap between this year’s bountiful oyster mushroom harvests and Wisconsin neighbor’s cheerful insistence on grilling out in spite of chilly rain – made-from-scratch mushroom burgers, woohoo!). So, what teas should we pair with our summer snacks and activities?

Sometimes we associate tea with winter time, and it is true that BCT carries numerous loose leaf teas which warm and soothe us through cold dark weather. But we also have a bunch of teas – some just newly arrived! – that are perfect for summer, bright and vibrant and deliciously cool, sweet, tart, or floral.

Like these, which make excellent iced teas:


Berry Mint Black BCT Blend

Moroccan Mint Green Tea – a new recipe now blended in-house! Very cooling with powerful “double-mint” and a lovely gunpowder tea

Berry Mint Black Tea – another new BCT recipe, this exciting combo of minty coolness and bright fruit punch tartness alongside a nice Nilgiri tea will have you hooked after just one taste!

Acai Berry Black Tea – more like a classic iced tea, this popular offering has a powerful palette of malty, sweet, and tart flavors.

Lemon Ginger Pai Mu Tan – one of our most popular flavored white teas, this delicate floral elixir will soothe your belly after you eat one too many mushroom burgers 😉 Some folks like to mix it half-and-half with Earl Grey, making a powerfully floral iced tea.

For something a little different, try these iced herbal infusions:

Lemon Mint Cooler – It’s all in the name. It’s really yummy! No caffeine.

Herbal Energizer – a fantastic caffeine-free concoction will boost your spirits with ginseng and St John’s wort, focus your attention with sour lemongrass, and mystify your taste buds with a sparkling palette of hibiscus, peppermint, licorice and passion fruit.

Fortifying teas to boost stamina for long summer nights:


Toasty Apple Tart BCT Blend

Mt Everest Breakfast Blend – so-called “English Breakfast Tea” is not just for breakfast (in fact that name is American, in England they call it “tea”). This scrumptiously malty and caffeine-rich blend of Assam and Yunnan teas is a superb example of a classic black.

Genmaicha – a much-loved Japanese health tea, it includes roasted popped brown rice which imparts sweet caramel and barley-toned starches, and is often consumed by those working long hours without meals.

Roasted Kukicha – actually very low in caffeine, but full of antioxidants and minerals, this special Japanese “twig tea” is a good dietary supplement for those who are trying to stay balanced even in the rush of summer.


Smoky Grey BCT Blend

NEW! BCT Blends are designed to wow your tastebuds while staying affordable enough to share the love! Toasty Apple Tart and Smoky Grey include pine-smoke flavored Lapsang Souchong in addition to other teas and nuanced flavorings. Lapsang teas impart a rich body that is incomparably smooth and velvety, and the flavors recall friendly campfires and so many heart-warming memories that accompany them. Both of these intriguing and pleasing flavored black teas are just perfect for sharing with buddies during your next backpacking trip or fishing camp or backyard solstice party.

And should you feel a little unbalanced after the party, Pu-Erh Tea is famous as a hangover cure 😉

Wishing you all a bright and flavorful summer!

Tyler (BCT “tea trader”)


Mexico’s Terruño Nayarita Specialty Coffees

Some of our favorite and most popular coffees are labeled “Terruño Nayarita,” which translates as “my Nayarit homeland” and designates high-quality sustainable coffees grown by family land-holders and small local cooperatives in the compact west-central Mexican state of Nayarit.

For exceptional Terruño Nayarita beans, search our coffee list for “Mexico”

Mexico has a unique position in the world of coffee – it is the number one producer of certified organic coffees, yet most of the coffee coming out of Mexico today is not considered to be top quality. This somewhat counter-intuitive situation is a result of the Mexican coffee industry’s unusual history.

coffee cherries
Ripening Coffee Cherries

Beginning in the late 1700’s, some coffee plantations were founded by wealthy Europeans who took advantage of colonial laws to “purchase” large tracts of land from the state even though there were many indigenous peoples still living in traditional ways in the isolated mountains of the southern-most states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. These states still have the most coffee estates and the highest indigenous populations to this day, but it has been a bumpy path across the centuries. In the 1800’s, wealthy landowners used many methods to force local peoples out of the prime agricultural land, then after setting up feudal-style plantations known as haciendas, they exploited the locals, forcing or tricking them into becoming serfs, enslaved peasants who are obligated to work the land but do not own any of its produce. The peasant laborers and many other poor rural folks are generically named campesinos (from el campo, countryside), while plantation owners were called patrónes. Greedy patrónes tricked displaced peoples into working by promising payment, but then charged so many fees for housing and other daily needs that campesinos very often found themselves further and further in debt, with no hope of ever owning land or leaving it to find opportunities elsewhere.

musicians in traditional costume
Local musicians in vibrant traditional garb

This was the only type of coffee cultivation happening prior to the land reforms that came with the Mexican Constitution of 1917, which precipitated out of the Mexican Revolution, when Emiliano Zapata and an impassioned movement of millions of campesinos overthrew the colonial-style government (though Mexico technically gained independence from Spain in 1821, the state was still controlled by European-descended elite landowners, especially the Catholic Church, for nearly 100 more years).

coffee cherries
Small fincas are cultivated cooperatively,
often by a large extended family
forest path
Ejidos, communally-held lands, are common
throughout Mexico

Agrarian reforms returned some tracts of land to local indigenous communities, and throughout the 1900’s Mexican coffee cultivation gradually transformed into the more widespread granjas or fincas ( small-scale “farms” or “estates”) that are common today. Significantly, the Constitution freed thousands of serfs enslaved on plantations and gave them small parcels of land; campesinos who knew about growing coffee often continued in that industry. Lands held communally (not private property) in the traditional indigenous ways are called ejidos and cultivated collectively. Ejidos were plentiful in mountainous regions, and almost overnight thousands of new coffee operations dotted the southern Mexican mountains, but it would take decades before these operations actually became profitable.

By 1973 the government-funded National Coffee Institute of Mexico (INMECAFE) was helping countless farmers with technical assistance, credit, transportation to markets, and guaranteed purchases ensured by large international contracts. In the last quarter of the century, small-scale coffee cultivation increased exponentially. However, when the Mexican government defaulted on foreign loans and was forced to undergo the painful process of neoliberal reforms called “structural adjustments,” INMECAFE collapsed in 1989, and without the support of the state many isolated mountain villagers were unable to find buyers for their crops. In the 1990’s, coffee prices plummeted, and predatory coffee brokers called coyotes exploited isolated and uneducated farmers, paying far less than the cost of production, and the industry went into a desperate tailspin for several decades. This is part of the reason that exceptional specialty coffees are relatively rare in Mexico – many campesinos are so impoverished that they have been unable to modernize their tiny family farms, and they are still growing coffee to the standards of the 1900’s.

coffee beans drying on rooftops
Coffee beans drying on home rooftops

Cooperatives and other social welfare and labor justice organizations have been forming to counteract these negative trends, and now small-scale coffee production is thriving again. This is mostly the result of local and national groups enacting the same types of programs that were formerly provided by INMECAFE, especially micro-loans and direct access to global specialty coffee markets. The move toward organic coffees began because the prices for organic beans are usually more stable, but it has grown because it is just so obviously the right thing to do for the land, water, and peoples. Now many of these co-ops promote a wide variety of sustainability initiatives, both environmental and economic, and they implicitly support the diverse social movements that are thriving in southern Mexico. Terruño Nayarita is an example of one of these grassroots “coffee justice” projects that seeks to improve the livelihoods and the lands of coffee producers by helping them to improve their crops and the prices they receive for them.

processing coffee cherries
Small home wet mill

In Nayarit just as in Oaxaca and Chiapas, diminutive fincas are mostly owned and operated by indigenous campesinos who have very little access to education and technology. Frequently, these farmers have for decades received too little income to ever get ahead, and their cultivation methods suffered as they cut corners to reduce costs, leading to mediocre coffees and degraded soils. The Terruño Nayarita project seeks to change that – with a direct connection to specialty coffee markets, these family farms pull in much better income, and as they rebuild robust sustainable economies they also benefit from educational programs that teach about new agricultural technology with emphasis on environmental responsibility and stewardship.

Terruño Nayarita includes over 260 growers cultivating a total of around 650 hectares. At an average of 2.5 hectares (6 acres) per farmer, these tiny estates are well below the average of 3.5 hectares per farm in Mexico. And far below other countries – Brazil’s average size is about 7.5 hectares, large Brazilian fazendas can be 300-500+ hectares.

Most of the growers are clustered around an extinct volcano called Cerro San Juan, just west of Nayarit’s capitol Tepic. They cultivate shade-grown coffee on steep slopes isolated from civilization by eroded treacherous roads. Most of them have installed simple wet mills on the roofs of their houses or built into the hillsides, utilizing gravity to lessen the labor. Then final processing, sorting, and bagging is done at a centralized cooperative dry mill.

custom-built home coffee roaster, "fincalab"
“FincaLab” includes a custom-designed
home coffee roaster

Supported by San Cristobal Coffee Importers in the USA, and Cafés Sustentables de México and the Universidad Autonoma de Nayarit locally, farmers are able to pool their crops together to reach the minimum volume that is expected by big importers. These organizations collaborate on innovative programs that educate and help to modernize operations in pursuit of more sustainable and higher quality production, like the “FincaLab” that growers can use to roast, cup, and assess their crops, learning about which qualities are highly prized in global markets, and how they can adjust their processing methods to achieve those results.

coffee cupping
Cupping and comparing different coffees

Arguably the finest artisanal coffee produced in Mexico, each Terruño Nayarita bag is labeled with a barcode so that it can be traced with incredible accuracy – every batch of Terruño Nayarita coffee beans, no matter the size, is a singular micro-lot from a specific day, usually containing beans from only 2-3 estates, and consumers can learn exactly what is in their cup by going to www.trackyourcoffee.com – try it, using sample codes like GTN4601131 (Washed) or GTN4602119 (Natural) – these are just two examples, we cannot list every unique code from every single bag!

coffee beans drying, people
Garry Burman touring the Nayarit fincas!

At highest priority are the economic initiatives that help small-scale farmers to get decent, reliable prices for their premium coffee crops. An interesting approach employed by San Cristobal Coffee Importers is to pay a smaller upfront fee upon delivery of the crop (with bonuses for higher quality picking) in order to dissuade farmers from being tempted to sell to exploitative coyotes offering wads of cash, then an additional payment after processed beans are sorted, graded, and exported. This method has similar logic to the “community supported agriculture” (CSA) model that pays farmers upfront costs to guarantee their survival even if the year’s crop fails due to weather or pests. Together, the two payments bring total income much higher than what any coyote would pay, and they encourage sustainable and high-quality products.

There have been many challenges for the Terruño Nayarita project – in recent years they have struggled to stay in the black due to torrential rains that ruined everyone’s crops, government seizure of a newly constructed dry mill, and in the early years they almost went under when a corrupt administrator embezzled all the money – but in spite of these difficulties, they have maintained their focus on helping to uplift the campesinos of Nayarit, and through sheer dedication they have continued to improve their coffee offerings at the same time as they uplift the lives of those who grow these exceptional beans.

Terruño Nayarita is such an inspiring project – we hope that others will emulate their innovative and effective programs. Because all around the world, most small coffee farmers still have very little power to negotiate prices, which are decided by inaccessible global commodity markets. Cooperation is essential to advancing farms and families, and producing an amazing cup of coffee is such a satisfying reason to work together!

Change is slow in impoverished rural areas, but over the years the partnerships of Terruño Nayarita have begun to transform local economies and quality of life around Cerro San Juan. The many family farms of Terruño Nayarita are re-establishing a culture of caring for the beautiful land that their ancestors have inhabited for millennia – they can be proud to be a part of a brand that celebrates “my Nayarit homeland,” and you can be proud to support this uplifting solidarity project.


For exceptional Terruño Nayarita beans, search our coffee list for “Mexico”

SEE OUR FULL COFFEE LIST



Try our FRESH NEW “Moroccan Mint” Green Tea Blend

moroccan mint green tea

We just revamped the recipe for our popular Moroccan Mint Green tea blend. The importer that formerly supplied that product no longer has it available, so now we are blending it in-house. We are very pleased with the results, and we are sure that you will be too!

It goes on sale just in time for the summer swelter – Moroccan Mint Green is perfect for iced tea, very cooling and refreshing!

A premium-quality interpretation of a classic North African preparation, this “double-mint” green tea will demand your attention with a strong amber cup bursting with flavor. Our new version uses a high-quality green tea, more nuanced than the previous, but still bright and hardy, holding its own against powerful mints.

And this tea is a treat for all the senses! The tiny tea pellets unfold and dance in the teapot as they infuse astringent and bright green tones. The heady mint aroma is noticeable immediately. Two kinds of mint create a complex profile, and this blend is generous with both spearmint and peppermint – when sipped this tea produces a great cooling effect on the palate and the entire body.

Try Moroccan Mint Green today!

Traditionally, Moroccan mint tea is boiled with generous handfuls of fresh mint and plenty of sugar, poured from high up into small glasses (to improve aeration and flavor!), and ceremoniously served to guests in three rounds – each with a distinct flavor profile, as described in this saying, “The first glass is as gentle as life, the second is as strong as love, the third is as bitter as death.” And it is a staple of daily public life – throughout the Muslim world, tea bars provide social spaces similar to pubs.

This tea is at its best with sugar, you may also enjoy it with honey. Try it iced with lemon and a few fresh mint leaves, a perfect summer refreshment.


Steeping Time – 3 Minutes

Water Temp – 180 F

Gunpowder green tea, spearmint, peppermint and peppermint flavoring

Try Moroccan Mint Green today!


Warm up with Smoky Grey BCT Blend

"Smoky Grey" black tea

Dear Tea Lovers,

Here in Wisconsin, we got so excited about melting snow and increasing sun… only to be hit with more bleak winter weather this week.

The seasons are shifting, the first flowers are appearing, and we know that the worst of the cold is behind us; but even in the springtime, mornings are often dreary, damp and chilling. Recently, I have fallen in love with our new tea blend – Smoky Grey, a mix of soft and subtle Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong teas – because it is really warming and invigorating, especially in gloomy weather. We mix up Smoky Grey right here at BCT, and we are eager to share the pleasant cheerfulness of this unique blend with everyone.

Earl Grey tea is typically served with lemon, not milk like all other British teas. But some folks also like it with milk, especially steamed milk like a latte. They often add vanilla and lavender flavors and call this scrumptious beverage a London Fog, an appropriate name because it is a lovely sparkly pick-me-up in the chilly North Atlantic mist. Adding the smoky Lapsang Souchong into the mix amplifies the warming powers of this tea, and imbues even more rich silky body into the cup. In this blend, both the bergamot and the pine smoke flavorings are complimentary and rather subtle, delivering a flavor profile that is very soft yet still leaves a fuzzy-tingly sensation on the palate. It brings a smile with every sip.

Try our new Smoky Grey BCT Blend – on sale today!

And keep your eyes open for more interesting new arrivals and BCT-exclusive blends. I am looking forward to exploring the exciting world of premium teas with all of you!

Cheers,
Tyler (BCT “tea trader”)


RECIPE: How to make a London Fog

Perhaps a little smoky flavor in your Earl Grey Latte makes the taste even more reminiscent of London – ha! This charming silky-sparkly beverage will give you a warm cheery moment, a little break in the clouds.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon Smoky Grey Tea
  • 1/2 cup hot water (212°F)
  • 1/2 cup milk (or almond milk or other milk substitute)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and/or lavender extract
  • 1-2 tsp honey or sweetener of your choice

Instructions:

  • Steep tea in water for 3-5 minutes (depending on strength preference)
  • Mix tea with frothed milk (if you do not have a frother or steamer, warming milk on stove top will also work)
  • Stir in sweetener and vanilla/lavender
  • Enjoy!

Tips: Brewing Coffee



Now that you have roasted your coffee perfectly, how can you be sure to get the best taste when you brew it? Consider these factors:

Types of Coffee Brewing Equipment:

Auto Drip, Espresso, French Press, Pour Over, Percolator… there are no right or wrong answers, just different methods for different preferences.

We love the Chemex pour-over coffee brewer, and so many of our customers do too. This specially-designed one-piece glass flask is stylish, easy to use, and it makes a stellar pot of coffee, very clean and very quick. Their special paper filters are designed to trap most of the bitter elements in coffee, and all of the larger sediments, making a cup that is clear and consistent. This video shows how it works!

chemex coffee brewers
We use Chemex coffee brewers every day!
sampling new coffees and testing roast levels

Or try the amazing AeroPress – make a single serving of strong espresso coffee without any fancy equipment! The secret is simple, a combination of a hand-plunger and a thick filter that creates just the right amount of resistance to make a high-pressure extraction. It takes some elbow grease, but less contact time with the grounds produces a cup with the rich body and lower acidity that everyone loves about espresso – definitely very satisfying! – without any expensive machines or dangerous steam.

Kenneth Davids, author of Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival and editor of coffeereview.com says “When used properly, AeroPress produces a better espresso shot than many home machines that cost twenty or thirty times as much.” If you are an espresso lover, you will be very impressed by this fantastic specialty coffee-maker – check out the AeroPress!

Whatever brewing method you prefer, always be sure that all equipment is cleaned thoroughly. After each use, rinse your equipment with hot water and dry it with an absorbent towel. Check that no grounds have been left to collect on any part of the equipment and that there is no build-up of caffeol, coffee oils. Such residues can impart a bitter or rancid flavor to future cups of coffee.

(Check out all our Coffee Makers here)

Grind:

Next you will want to be sure that you have the right grind for the brewing method. Over or under extracting can cause your coffee to taste bitter or flat. Use a much more consistent and effective burr grinder instead of a blade grinder, if possible. We have created a guide so that you can learn about the recommended grind level for your equipment, and adjust your grinder accordingly.

(Check out our Grinders Here)

Water:

The water in your coffee is very important, second only to the coffee itself! Unpleasant strong odors or tastes like chlorine can ruin a nuanced cup of specialty coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if possible. If tap water is your only option, let it run for a few seconds before filling your coffee pot and use only cold water. To eliminate chlorine odors completely, you may leave tap water in an open pitcher for a few days and chlorine will gradually evaporate out. Do not use distilled water or softened water – naturally-occurring minerals impart subtle flavors in water, and water without them is noticeably dull-tasting and unsatisfying.

Ideal water temperature is between 195-205°F. Get a variable-temperature kettle or just use a thermometer to check your water temperature. Or remember the general rule that water reaches its max boiling point at 212°, so when water begins to boil just take it off the heat and let it stand to cool for a little less than a minute and it should be within the ideal temperature range.

Brewing Strength:

In general, use 1-2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water, or 5-10 grams in every 175 milliliters. Please note that using metric weight measurements is always more accurate than old-fashioned volume measurements like tablespoons – but since everyone has different tastes, it seems fine to generalize “a little more than one tablespoon” of grounds for one medium-sized mug of coffee. To make a full pot of coffee in a 10-cup Chemex, we recommend about 10 tablespoons (40-55 g) of fresh grounds into up to 50 ounces (1500 mL) of water.

Always consider your brew method – french press and percolator require less grounds than auto-drip or pour-over – and adjust to suit the specific coffee beans and your personal taste preferences. Whatever your strength preference, for the most consistent results be sure to always weigh your grounds using a digital scale, and keep notes in your Roaster’s Journal. You will have to experiment to find the sweet spot for each unique bean, but with experience you will begin to notice regional tendencies. For example, we often use about 20-30% more grounds when brewing mild Hawaiian coffees. Additionally, many home coffee roasters prefer to use less grounds for high-acid light roasts (like Kenyans) or more grounds for thick-bodied dark roasts (like Indonesians).

Brewing Time:

The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. Of course, different brewing methods require different brewing times. In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes, but for a french press it should be limited to just 2-4 minutes. For espresso, coffee grounds are in contact with pressurized steam for only 20-30 seconds, whereas cold brew will usually steep overnight, 12 or more hours. If the taste of your coffee is not optimal, it is possible that you are either over-extracting (brew time too long, will tend to taste bitter) or under-extracting (brew time too short, will tend to taste flat). Experiment with contact time to find the cup that suits your tastes perfectly.

One Last Tip:

NEVER reuse coffee grounds. Once brewed, the desirable coffee flavors have been extracted and only the bitter undesirable stuff remains. But if you like to avoid waste, one great way to utilize depleted coffee grounds is as nutrient-dense and easily decomposed fertilizer. It is very beneficial to potted plants or garden beds; wet grounds may be sprinkled directly on top of soil, or mixed in with other compost.


More Recommendations:


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Tips: Grinding Coffee



Does the grind of your coffee really make that much of a difference? Absolutely it does! Every brewing method works differently and requires a different grind level. Over-extraction or under-extraction may lead to a disappointing cup even if the beans themselves are top-notch, so learning about the correct grind level for optimum extraction is very important for coffee connoisseurs.

“Extraction” is the pulling of flavors from coffee beans into water. All sorts of compounds end up in your cup, some dissolving in shorter contact with water and heat, others requiring much longer exposure. To get the best cup, it is necessary to extract the right amounts of the right compounds, and to avoid the bad-tasting ones (even the finest coffees will turn bitter if over-extracted!). Over-extracted coffee tends to be very bitter while under-extracted coffee tends to taste flat. Different extraction methods require different amounts of ground coffee, different amounts of contact time – see our brewing tips here – and especially different grind levels.

When trying new coffees, you may need to experiment with contact time and amount of grounds to find the cup that suits your tastes perfectly, but if you frequently feel that your coffee is “too bitter” or “too weak,” consider adjusting your grind level first. Here are guidelines that will help you decide the best grind level for your brewing method.

Don’t know what grinder to use for your freshly home roasted coffee beans? Check out how to choose the best coffee grinder.


See our top quality coffee grinders

BCT’s “Guide to Grinds”


Coarse Grind – Chunky, similar to potting soil. Recommended Brewing Methods: French Press, Cold Brew, Percolator, Cupping

Medium Coarse Grind – Less chunky, like bread crumbs. Recommended Brewing Methods: Chemex, Flat Bottom Drip Machines

Medium Grind – Approx size of Kosher salt. Recommended Brewing Methods: Cone Drip Machines

Medium Fine Grind – Between Kosher salt and table salt, like coarse sand. Recommended Brewing Methods:AeroPress, Siphon Machines, Vacuum Pots, Single-Serving Pour Over

Fine Grind – Like table salt or crystal sugar. Recommended Brewing Methods: Espresso, Moka Pot

Very Fine Grind – Like powdered sugar or flour, often called “Turkish Grind.” Recommended Brewing Methods: Turkish

If you have a Baratza Virtuoso or Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder, they have some great guidelines on their website for specific settings that are very helpful.

These are just general guidelines and everyone has their own personal preferences. Let us know if there is a grind that you like for a specific brewing method.


More Recommendations


Ready to get started?


Home Roasting Tips & User Guides



Crafting the perfect cup of fresh coffee is easy, convenient, and affordable with home coffee roasters. There are countless methods for roasting green coffee beans, but for those who are seeking an exciting new hobby in home roasting, those embarking on the flavor adventures of tasting different specialty coffees every day, an automatic home roasting machine makes this adventure easy and accessible .

There are two types of roasters: Fluid Bed Roasters such as the FreshRoast SR models are similar to hot-air popcorn poppers, with a glass roasting chamber that makes it easy to watch and stop the cycle when beans reach the desired roast level; Drum Roasters such as the Behmor 1600 Plus and the Gene Café have a larger metal screen drum that rotates and tumbles the beans as they are roasting.

All of the home roasting equipment carried at Burman Coffee Traders is top quality, just different volumes and mechanisms to suit different needs. Fluid bed roasters are very popular because they are lower priced and able to roast a modest batch in a speedy 7-20 minutes, and they are easy to clean and maintain. We recommend the SR500 to newbies, and we have a special article all about the benefits of these easy-to-use, family-sized machines.

Drum roasters allow larger batches and roast beans more evenly and consistently, and they give more control over the entire process than the simple fluid bed roasters. They are also significantly more expensive, but are a good option for anyone who wants to share or sell a few of their freshly roasted beans (but please note that none of the home roasters are designed for large-scale commercial roasting).

For any type of roaster, the basic steps are similar:

pouring green coffee beans into roaster

Fill the Roaster:

For best results, always fill roaster with the same measure of green coffee beans (the measure varies from roaster to roaster, it is about 2.5-6 ounces by weight in the FreshRoast and 10-16 ounces in the Gene/Behmor).

With a fluid bed roaster, the more coffee you roast, the hotter it gets. However, too much coffee per batch may cause the roast to become uneven and the roaster to overheat. We recommend always staying within the manufactures guidelines. With a drum roaster, the less coffee you roast, the hotter it gets and the faster the roast time. We recommend weighing your coffee precisely to get consistent results.

Set the Time or Profile:

Knowing how long the beans should be roasted is a matter of practice – different coffees have different requirements, and every machine has its own unique roasting curve. But each machine has a variety of settings – each model has a different approach to controlling the settings, and we recommend reading the appropriate user guide, listed below. For every home roaster, we recommend maintaining a Roasting Notes Journal to ensure consistency.

Watch and Listen:

Green coffee beans gradually turn yellow, then brown, then as the roast progresses they more rapidly darken until they become black. A pleasant smell gradually rises out of the roaster, though it becomes pungent and noticeably burned and smoky if the roast goes too far.

The beans will pop or “crack” twice during the roasting process. For many home roasters, it is easy to judge correct roast level by listening to these cracks. For most beans we generally recommend aiming for a medium roast, which can be anywhere between the “first crack” and the “second crack” – anything before first crack will be underdeveloped, after second crack will be a dark roast and smoky flavors will overpower the unique nuances of special coffees. Read more about the spectrum of Coffee Roast Styles, or if you feel like you still need a little more info about how to judge when a roast is ready, read “Home Coffee Roasting for Beginners.”

Cool Down:

All home roasters also have an automatic cooling period. This allows the beans to cool enough to handle, and allows the equipment to cool and prepare for the next batch. After the cooling period, the coffee is finished roasting, but before grinding and brewing, it is best to let it “set-up” for at least 24 hours.

It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to utilize the cool cycle every time. Please remember that all of our models are home roasters, not intended for commercial scale, and it is critical to allow cool down between batches – overheating caused by too many consecutive batches may trigger thermal protection features, which will require the roaster to be reset by the manufacturer and may void the warranty.

More Roaster Use Notes:

All roasters are sensitive to your home voltage, so it helps to use a circuit that is not being used by other appliances at the same time that you are roasting. Fluctuations in voltage may cause roast times to vary, so be sure to watch carefully, especially with a new roaster.

Never leave a home coffee roaster unattended. Think of it as similar to frying bacon – it can and will burn if left unattended.

DETAILED HOME COFFEE ROASTER TIPS & USER GUIDES

Follow these links for guides for each specific model of home coffee roaster. For the convenience of all customers, we also have guides for several discontinued models.



More Recommendations


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How to Choose Green Coffees?



With Burman Coffee Traders’ huge selection of Premium Green Coffee Beans, it can be challenging to decide which ones are best for your personal tastes and roast preferences, especially for beginning home coffee roasters. We want to make it easy and fun – so in addition to providing detailed roasting and tasting notes for all of our coffees, we also have a bunch of educational articles, and a few specific suggestions for newbies too!

Many home roasters choose coffees based on their favorite coffee regions, or unusual exotic strains, or specific processing methods that create their preferred cup profile. If you are just beginning to embark on your flavor adventures, we recommend that you start by sampling our 3 lb Bundles. Bundles are frequently changing, but always highlighting some of the best beans in our warehouse each season.

Our Popular Bundle will have 3 of our customers’ favorites, the best-selling beans of the season.  This bundle will always have coffees with balanced flavor profiles familiar to mainstream coffee lovers – but not boring! – these will be examples of some of the finest premium coffees in the world.

chalkboard, 3lb bundles list

Ready to try something more exotic?  The Special Bundle will introduce you to widely varied flavors, some of which may be surprising if you have been drinking stale pre-roasted coffees all your life.  Curious about coffees that are spicy, citrusy, floral, nutty? Intrigued to discover notes of honey, melon, blueberry?  Yes, please!

If you love dark roasted coffees, the Dark Roast Bundle is a must.  We choose a good mix of different coffees from different regions, but you can be confident that all of them will be rich and creamy with earthy, smoky, sweet spices flavor profiles. The coffees in this bundle are always perfect for dark roasts and espresso, but they also have their own unique qualities; we recommend that you try these fresh and exceptional beans just a bit lighter than your usual very dark roast, to maintain some of their distinctive origin flavors.

decaf bundle
We also have a Decaf Bundle and
sometimes other unique bundles seasonally

After exploring some of the bundles, you will begin to understand which flavors and roast profiles appeal to you most, and you may feel ready to select individual coffees.  Sometimes the Full Coffee List can be a little intimidating with 60+ varieties, many with unknown regions and unpronounceable names, but never fear! – we have filters that can help you to identify which beans are best for your tastes. The filter tools at the top can sort by the characteristics you are seeking – washed, natural, fruity, dark roast, or continent of origin. If you would like to see all coffees originating from a specific country, we recommend selecting “Shop by Origin” in the Coffee drop-down menu or just doing a search.

You may also want to check out Green Coffee Beans on SALE – we frequently rotate our sale specials, to encourage our customers to try out some of our newest and most exciting offerings.

Scan down the list to see a short description of each coffee, click “more” then “view product details” or just click on the name of the coffee to read tasting and roasting notes. Tasting and roasting notes are very important – many of our specialty beans may be unique and different than what is typically expected from their region. Sometimes there are also stories about the estates and growers, or more info about the specific cultivar.

And if you are looking for a very particular variety or just want to chat about premium green coffees – call us!  We love to talk beans.


NEXT: Buy some Beans!


More information on Green Coffee, Raw & Unroasted Coffee Beans

Learn about the Basics of Home Coffee Roasting and How to Use a Home Coffee Roaster

The terroirs of Growing Regions, specific Strains or Cultivars, and the Processing Methods used after harvesting – all affect the taste and roast characteristics of each unique green coffee.


Ready to get started?



What are Taste Qualities of Good Coffee?



Not all specialty premium coffees are alike. There are numerous diverse flavor profiles and each unique lot of beans will have its own distinctive characteristics. These differences are not necessarily good or bad – each will appeal to different preferences, and all together they provide a wondrous variety of taste experiences.

Quite often differences in flavor and aroma are linked to coffee growing regions, where variations in altitude, temperature, sunlight, moisture, soil, and other environmental factors determine the growth of coffee trees and their fruits. Different strains or cultivars are known to present peculiar traits as well, and after harvest, different processing methods may dramatically alter the final cup profile. And, of course, different roast levels bring forth a wide spectrum of tones from bright and fruity to smoky and earthy. Some beans show off their most noteworthy attributes only when light roasted while others reach their peak flavor when dark roasted.

With so many factors to consider, how can we tell which beans are the best? The answer is simple: we taste them!

At Burman Coffee Traders we use the following taste qualities to evaluate and describe the differences among our coffees.

coffee brewing in chemex pots
At BCT we are taste testing new coffees every day!

Brightness (acidity)

Acidity, commonly called brightness, is the first impression of a cup of coffee – that crisp sensation at the tip of the tongue. It is important to understand that a cup’s brightness is the “perceived acidity” rather than the actual pH; in fact coffee is actually less acidic than most soft drinks.

We perceive pleasantly acidic flavors almost instantly on the tongue’s tip and front corners, and just behind the upper teeth. Trace amounts of various acids found in coffee – Citric, Lactic, Malic, Acetic and about a dozen others – also contribute an array of sparkly, snappy and tart flavors.

Beans grown at higher altitudes and Washed Processed generally have greater perceived acidity than lower altitude or Natural Processed beans from the same region. Particularly in Africa, some coffee regions and specific cultivars are known for producing beans with more acidity.

During roasting, heat causes acids to be formed and consumed, converted into sugars and other flavor compounds. Home coffee roasters can manage roasting time, temperature, and roast profile as methods of controlling acidity, balancing it with body and cultivating flavor notes. Remember these easy rules of thumb: dark roasts have lower acidity than lighter roasts of the same origin, and beans roasted more quickly are brighter than the same beans roasted to the same level slowly.

Body (viscosity)

“Body” is a quality that is so complex that we cannot quite describe it with words, but we know it when we taste it! Take a sip of coffee and ask yourself – how full of flavor does my mouth feel, and for how long? Laboratory testing can quantify components of coffee related to body – levels of viscosity, oils, sugars, dissolved solids such as cellulose, suspended particles, etc. – but sensory evaluation is a matter of perception combined with comparative experience, and qualities of the coffee’s body are among the most important and most nuanced characteristics assessed when coffee cuppers evaluate and score premium beans.

We have found that brewing methods have a huge effect on coffee’s body level and flavor profile. Coffee brewed by French press or cowboy-style shows a more robust flavor profile and significantly fuller body than the same coffee drip-brewed with a paper filter, because the filter traps oils and solids that are part of the body, and fine particles that carry darker flavors.

coffee brewing in chemex pots
We evaluate coffees at light, medium, and dark
roasts, then share our opinions in the roasting and
tasting notes

Processing methods also have a very significant effect on a coffee’s body. Washed Processing removes the sugary fruit pulp completely from coffee beans, producing coffees with light to medium body and very clean, bright flavors. Natural Processing, in contrast, dries beans and fruit together to produce coffees with deeper-toned, more diverse flavors and heavier body.

Roasting methods also affect body. In general, longer roasting times build a coffee’s body, while shorter times accent its acidity. However, this is true only to a point; roasting too long causes a coffee to lose both acidity and body, a fault known as “baked” or “bakey.” Bakey coffees brew a cup that is insipid and lifeless.

Other Important Characteristics Affecting Coffee Taste & Quality

Unique Cultivar Characteristics: In addition to base attributes of body and acidity, a good specialty coffee has a unique personality which imparts distinctive flavors and aromas. These flavors may be bold or subtle and help to further hallmark a particular coffee.

With so many variations in flavor profiles caused by different cultivars and different regions, almost anything is possible! When cuppers describe the nuanced attributes of a premium coffee, they use a wide variety of flavor note descriptors; some may surprise you! Here are just a few of the incredibly diverse flavor notes that may be found in excellent coffees: lemon, orange, grapefruit, pomegranate, cherry, strawberry, blueberry, raisin, prune, grape, pear, apple, peach, melon, coconut, jasmine, rose, vanilla, honey, caramel, maple, molasses, chocolate, baker’s cocoa, tea, wine, almond, hazelnut, walnut, peanut, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, pepper, anise, malty, smoky, earthy, tobacco, whiskey, peapod, olive oil, and so much more!

Seasonal Variations: Like a fine wine, the taste of a coffee can be affected by weather. Coffee is an agricultural product; the qualities of each crop depend on the conditions present in a particular region during a particular growing season. Our job is to discover where the best coffees are being grown at any moment in time, and to select the most exceptional lots from that region.

How BCT Selects the Best Beans for Home Coffee Roasting Customers

Whenever possible we visit our present and prospective coffee growers around the globe to learn first-hand of their methods and their regional characteristics. We also attend coffee industry conferences and events where we have an opportunity to meet and talk with producers and large distributors and do some sampling.

To evaluate new coffees we always acquire samples to test in our facility. The first step is to eliminate the ones that have any negative characteristics. You will never find any bitter or sour or tinny or rubbery coffees here. Then we decide if samples are distinctive enough to stock. Our goal is to provide a broad selection of the finest examples of classic and exotic coffees from all around the world. We often go through many samples of outstanding coffees from different sources just to find the right lot.

We strive to support socially and ecologically responsible growers as much as possible – many of our coffees are Organic, Shade-Grown, Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certified. We make a special effort to build relationships and support growers who provide fair wages, education, and other uplifting benefits to their workers.

And we supplement our selection with high quality decaffeinated coffees – many of our decaf drinkers have found that freshly home roasted decaf beans produce a cup light years ahead of any they have previously experienced, and they will never go back to stale sad decaf coffee!


Next: How to Choose Green Coffees?


More information on Green Coffee, Raw & Unroasted Coffee Beans

Choosing Premium Green Coffees: Our recommendations for beginning to explore our diverse selection: 3 lb Bundles and Sales.

The terroirs of Growing Regions, specific Strains or Cultivars, and the Processing Methods used after harvesting – all affect the taste and roast characteristics of each unique green coffee.


Ready to get started?



All About Green Coffee Beans?

What are green coffee beans? Do they make green coffee? 

Glad you asked. Here’s a quick review for your Home Coffee Roasting edification!

Green Coffee Beans are the seeds from the fruits of coffee trees. Coffee beans are green when they are removed from the fruit of the tree, and it is the roasting process that changes them to various shades of brown. There is a wide spectrum of roast styles; the exact shade of brown depends only on the roaster’s preference. In the coffee industry, Green Coffee refers to raw coffee beans or unroasted coffee beans that have been dried and cleaned and are ready for roasting. We carry an extensive collection of green coffee beans – see our selection of premium green coffees here, or read more below.

Two Species of Coffee

While there are many coffee varieties defined by regions, cultivars, and processing methods, there are two main types of coffee trees and beans:

green coffee beans

Arabica (Coffea arabica) – these trees produce a smaller crop of beans, but with more distinct and nuanced aroma and taste. All of our premium coffees come from Arabica trees.

Robusta (Coffea canephora) – heartier and more prolific, each tree provides significantly more beans, making costs of planting, maintaining, and harvesting much less than Arabica coffees. However, in spite of Robusta’s much higher caffeine content, most coffee connoisseurs find that these beans have a mediocre characterless taste.

Most cheap pre-roasted coffees are made from Robusta beans with a blending of Arabica for improved taste and aroma. All premium coffees are grown from Arabica cultivars; in some regions with harsh weather and rampant pests, tougher Arabica-Robusta hybrids are successfully cultivated.

Because Arabicas are considered premium specialty coffees, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) standards they are further subdivided into 5 grades, distinguished primarily by the number of “defects” per pound. For example, Grade 1 coffees can have no more than 4 twigs or broken/discolored beans per pound. In general, most all of the beans here at Burman Coffee Traders are Grade 1 Arabica, the very best coffees available. *

green coffee beans
Indonesian coffee beans sometimes look imperfect,
but they taste delicious!

* Sometimes we discover an excellent coffee from a region whose crop characteristics make it impossible to meet the Grade 1 standard, even thought it still roasts and cups beautifully. Ethiopian, Yemeni, and Indonesian coffees often look imperfect but taste amazing. Often these beans are a great bargain for exceptional taste and aroma.

Why green coffee?

In addition to greater selection at lower prices, one of the biggest advantages of home coffee roasting is that green coffee beans will keep their quality for a year or more (at room temp, no refrigeration necessary) . So when you find one that you especially like, you can order a larger quantity and keep it for weeks or months, yet always be able to produce the freshest cup for any occasion.

There is a special appeal for those flavor adventurers who are excited by novelty and variety – since we sell Premium Green Coffee Beans By The Pound, you can purchase a wide assortment of specialty coffees from all around the world and taste and compare them all!


NEXT: What are Taste Qualities of Good Coffee?


More information on Green Coffee, Raw & Unroasted Coffee Beans

Understanding the Taste Qualities of Good Coffee: How do Burman Coffee Traders evaluate coffee beans from growers all across the world? What are the characteristics we use to judge quality and how do we ensure a wide variety to suit many different tastes?

Choosing Premium Green Coffees: Our recommendations for beginning to explore our diverse selection: 3 lb Bundles and Sales.

The terroirs of Growing Regions, specific Strains or Cultivars, and the Processing Methods used after harvesting – all affect the taste and roast characteristics of each unique green coffee.


Ready to get started?


Welcome to Burman Coffee Traders Learning Center!


Burman Coffee Traders offer lots of great Home Roasting Resources! These Learning Center posts – informational primers about different types of coffees and teas, as well as simple practical guidelines for using a variety of equipment – will be useful for everyone, with helpful articles for early beginners just learning the ropes of their new hobby as well as experienced home roasters perfecting their skills. Even those who are just coffee-curious can learn a lot with our series of Home Coffee Roasting Primers.














For newcomers, this collection of intro articles is the best place to start:



Learn more about roasters and other equipment:



Learn more about diverse types of coffees:

Learn the stories behind our most unique beans:

  • Coffee Grower Profiles – we are excited to share stories about some of the most unique and innovative growers with whom we have special partnerships. More coming soon!

And please remember that we also carry an incredible selection of premium teas! Read more about our newest, most popular and most exceptional teas, including these great introductory articles:



More Highlighted Products:

SALES & SPECIALS

SEE OUR FULL COFFEE LIST

SEE OUR FULL TEA LIST


NEW! Japanese Organic Roasted Kukicha (Twig Tea)

Kukicha "twig tea"

Great news, tea fans! We just got another special health tea from Japan. Kukicha – “twig tea” – is frequently enjoyed as a health tonic due to its high antioxidants and low caffeine.

Kukicha is quite literally the twigs and stems of the tea plant, mostly byproducts removed from the leaves during processing. But this very mild tea is recommended by those who follow a macrobiotic diet (which stems from “yin and yang” ideas of Chinese Taoism and Japanese Zen Buddhism) as a balancing and restorative elixir, and it is sometimes mixed with fruit juices to provide healthy nutrients to young children.

This Roasted Kukicha is really yummy! The roasting adds more robust and well-rounded flavors, appealing more to Western tastes. It is still a very mild tea, with pale orange liquor and a subtle aroma, easy on the belly, calming and warming rather than stimulating. Flavors tend toward nutty with subdued notes of cedar, canteloupe, jasmine, plus a unique tone that stands out compared to other teas – rich and buttery oats. Kukichas are known for being “creamy” and this roasted variety seems to have even more thick silky body. With longer steeping, a little astringency creeps in, but almost no bitterness (as long as you keep water temps low), and then eventually more vegetal flavors resembling bamboo or pine begin to dominate as body and sweetness improve slightly more.

After taste testing different temps and times, we recommend giving this roasted kukicha a gentle but longer steep to bring out more flavors and enrich the delicate liquor. We liked it best when steeped for about 5 minutes in 170 degree water. At only 3 minutes, this tea will contain some antioxidants and micro-nutrients, but will look and taste very light, similar to our Exquisite Pearls White Tea. At 7 minutes, it will taste much more robust, nutty with a hint of crisp melon floating on top of silky sweet body, but beyond that it begins to take on a more woody vegetal flavor.

Or try steeping this kukicha in traditional Japanese style – 6 grams of tea in 6 ounces of water, steeped for 30-60 seconds.  This provides a rich flavor experience quite different than a typical green tea – stand-out flavors include creamy buttery oats and a light but uniquely crisp astringency that tingles the palate and sinuses.  It can be re-steeped numerous times to enjoy the full range of flavor profiles.


Steeping Time – 3-7 minutes

Water Temp – 170 F

Organic green tea twigs

Buy Japanese Organic Roasted Kukicha



Fresh Roast SR500: Perfect for Beginners



We carry several types of roasters, with different batch sizes and mechanisms to suit different needs.

Our Favorite Home Coffee Roaster

For new home roasters, we have long recommended the FreshRoast SR500, a “fluid bed” roaster which is super easy to use. Fluid bed roasters are very similar in design to the familiar hot-air popcorn poppers – minimal mechanical parts, simply a fan and a heating element – the only significant difference is a smaller (and therefore hotter) roasting chamber. See video of SR500 in action.

The SR500’s glass roasting chamber makes it easy to watch as the roast develops, and then stop the roast at exactly the right moment. These popular roasters are economically priced, will roast a modest amount of beans in a speedy 7-20 minutes (including cool time), and are very easy to clean and maintain. Simple, safe, and accessible, the SR500 is ideal for new home coffee roasting enthusiasts.

UPDATE: The FreshRoast SR500 has been discontinued, but we are pleased to offer the NEW FreshRoast SR540, featuring a larger roasting chamber and improved control features but retaining most other characteristics of the venerable SR500. Check out this updated article on FreshRoast SR540.


How to use your FRESH ROAST SR500 coffee roaster

pour green coffee into roast chamber
SR 500 Home Coffee Roaster control panel
the cool cycle on the SR 500 Coffee Roaster

cleaning chaff collector of the SR 500 coffee roaster

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Start with four level scoops of green coffee (about 4.5 ounces by weight).
  2. Remove the chaff collector, add the coffee to the roasting chamber and put the chaff collector back on.
  3. Toggle the heat setting from OFF to LOW. Set the timer for 5 – 9.9 minutes. You may add time at any point by hitting the UP button.
  4. Start the roast with lowest temperature and highest fan speed settings, to lower moisture content and ensure an even roast. After approximately two minutes move the temperature to high. As the roast progresses coffee beans will begin turning over vigorously, especially after first crack; turn the fan speed down as needed, as slower-moving beans will build heat to roast faster and more evenly.
  5. As coffee beans roast they will begin to brown, double in size and shed chaff, emitting a light audible “first crack.” Begin to pay close attention, watching for your desired roast level. For many coffees, we recommend a roast that ends shortly before second crack – beans will appear medium to medium-dark brown and the surface of the beans will begin to turn from dull/flat to a velvety sheen; this is within the range of “City Roast” to “Full City Plus Roast,” and is a good place to start for most coffees. When you are happy with the roast level, simply hit the COOL button to complete the cycle.
  6. Be aware that roasting goes much faster as you move into the dark end of the spectrum. “Second crack” occurs when internal bean oils and moisture expand from an exothermic reaction, producing a small hole in the bean and emitting a subtle crackling sound; this is the start of a dark roast. Sometimes second crack is very quiet, but if you see shiny oils on the surface of the beans, you are into the second crack – consider turning off the heat at this time, as beans will very rapidly darken beyond this point. If you see smoke coming from the roaster, you are well into the second crack and at a dark roast; definitely hit the COOL button now.
  7. DO NOT SKIP THE COOL CYCLE! This function not only stops the roast from continuing and cools beans enough that they may be handled, but also it is very important to allow the equipment to cool before beginning the next batch.
  8. After the cool cycle shuts off, remove the chaff collector (be careful – it may be still pretty warm), lift out the roast chamber by its handle and dump out the beans.  Let freshly roasted beans sit in a glass or ceramic bowl to allow “set-up” for a day or two, then put them in an air tight container. We like to store the set-up roasted beans in a small canning jar.
  9. The only cleaning necessary is to dump out the chaff from the chaff collector and wipe it out; a small basting brush works perfectly. This model yields about 28 cups per batch.


Follow roasting with a “Set-up” period of time

Freshly roasted beans will be at their peak of flavor only after they have “set-up” for a day or more. This is due to necessary off-gassing of carbon dioxide that balances the acidic tones in the beans. Read our primer about roast styles to learn more.

different coffee roasting styles coffee beans set up

What if roasts are too dark or too light?

Batch size is critical to the roasting process. In all air roasters, smaller batches roast slower and larger batches roast faster. It may seem counter-intuitive, but hot air flows more freely with fewer beans, meaning that less heat builds up in the chamber. If your roasts are too dark decrease your batch size to increase air flow or hit the COOL button earlier. If your roasts are too light increase your batch size to increase trapped hot air, or increase time and heat settings.

We recommend taking notes in a Roasting Journal, so that you can remember exactly what settings work best for each unique bean.

Not sure if you want it lighter or darker? Read our primer about roast styles if you would like to experiment with different roast levels.

More Coffee Roaster Tips:

All roasters are sensitive to your home voltage, so it helps to identify a circuit that will not be used by any other appliances while you are roasting. This also means that roasting times may vary slightly from one batch to the next, so be sure to watch carefully, especially with a new roaster.

Keep in mind that these are home roasters not intended for commercial-scale use. It is very important to let them cool down between batches or you may trigger the thermal protection safety features, which require the roaster to be reset by the manufacturer and may void the warranty.

If you want to stop the roast at any time, just hit the COOL button. It is inadvisable to switch the roaster off, as it will be very hot and it will require a cool cycle before handling. We cannot emphasize it enough – the cool cycle is very important to maintaining the longevity and effectiveness of your Fresh Roast SR500.

Never leave any roaster unattended. Think of home coffee roasting as similar to frying bacon – it can and will burn if you walk away from it!

fresh roast SR500 and roasting styles

For even more tips, see our video demo on using the FreshRoast SR500:


NEW Video Guide to FreshRoast SR 540


Want to learn more about Green Coffee before diving in? Follow these links:


Ready to get started with Roasting Coffee?



Home Coffee Roasting for Beginners



The Art of Home Roasting:
Using Your Senses

Though professional roasters now use high-tech thermometers and precision scales and timers to ensure commercial-grade consistency, home coffee roasting is an art even more than a science, and perfecting your roasting skills will require close attention to the process. This primer will help you to understand how to use your senses to determine when your coffee beans are at just the right roast level. But it will still take a lot of practice, and some trial and error with each new batch of beans – we hope that you have lots of fun on your flavor adventures!

Smell

Unroasted coffee beans start as a pale green color (except for decafs, which are already brown). As the beans begin to heat up, they change first to a straw or tan color, and you will notice a kind of grassy smell. As the beans retain more heat and the roast accelerates, the batch will more rapidly progress through darker shades and the scent will change from a faint roasted coffee aroma to a pungent burning smell with visible smoke.

beans begin to change colors
cool cycle

Watch

You may be able to judge the correct roast level by deciding when you like the smell. But for some, this may be difficult, especially since different coffees have different aromas. We find that it is usually easier to determine the correct roast level by eye. A medium roast, or anywhere in the range between “City” and “City Plus” roasts, will look medium-brown and dry. A “Full City” roast is a few shades darker than City Plus, and will begin to display oils on the surface, a subtle velvety sheen. A “Full City Plus” is a deep brown with more visible oils, a noticeably shiny appearance. Beyond that level, there are many designations for dark roasts, such as Vienna, French, Italian, etc, ranging from very dark brown to black. Read our Guide to Coffee Roast Styles to learn more about the wide spectrum of roast levels.

It is very important to understand that roasting goes much faster once you enter the dark end of the spectrum; the differences between Vienna and Italian roasts may be only a few more seconds on high heat. And any roast darker than Full City will tend to dominate the unique characteristics of the beans and to pretty consistently produce flavor profiles more like the dark roast style, less like the coffee itself. For these reasons, it is very (very!) important to watch your roasting coffee, especially during the last few minutes as it nears the desired roast level.

Listen

Coffee can pop or “crack” twice during roasting. The “first crack” is when the coffee expands and breaks its papery coating, which becomes chaff and is automatically collected by the roaster. It will sound similar to popcorn popping (though quieter). The “second crack” is when remaining moisture and oils expand and fracture the bean more dramatically (though it is audibly much quieter than first crack). When you hear second crack, you can be sure that you are moving into dark roast territory. For many home roasters, it is an easy rule of thumb to turn off the heat a few moments before you begin to hear the second crack if aiming for medium roast, or just after the start of the second crack if aiming for medium-dark roast.


Coffee Roasters for Home Coffee Roasting

We carry several types of coffee roasting machines, with different batch sizes and mechanisms to suit different needs. For new home roasters, we often recommend the FreshRoast SR540, the latest version of a proven “fluid bed” roaster which is super easy to use, especially for those new to home coffee roasting.

fresh roast SR500

Sounds Easy, Right? It sure is! Read More about popular FreshRoast SR Models


Home Coffee Roaster Tips & User Guides for All Models

Advice and tips on all current and past home coffee roasters sold by Burman Coffee Traders.


Want to learn more about Green Coffee before diving in? Follow these links:

What is Green Coffee? What are Green Coffee Beans?

Understanding the Taste Characteristics of Good Coffee: How do Burman Coffee Traders evaluate coffee beans from growers all across the world? What are the characteristics we use to judge quality and how do we ensure a wide variety to suit many different tastes?

Choosing Premium Green Coffees: Our recommendations for beginning to explore our diverse selection: 3 lb Bundles and Sales.

– Learn How to Use a Home Coffee Roaster

Learn what to expect from different roast levels in the wide Spectrum of Roast Styles

Learn about the terroirs of Growing Regions, specific Strains or Cultivars, and the Processing Methods used after harvesting – all affect the taste and roast characteristics of each unique green coffee.


Ready to get started?