Also of interest: Single Bean Macro Photos of Green Coffee and Weird Stuff We Find in Coffee

Here's Looking At Green

To an expert, green coffee is a text. It can be read bean by bean, telling the entire story of the coffee from the tree, through the processing, sorting and screening.

coffee cherry on tree
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One of the most complex botanical forms is a flowering tree or shrub , such as coffee. As the tree goes through its many cycles of growth and dormancy, flowering and fruiting, many critical needs must be met to ensure a plant that is happy, healthy and wants to make a lot of fruit. A coffee tree produces about one pound of roasted coffee per year! The seeds are an encapsulation of all the complexities of the trees, and with over 800 organic constituents that contribute to the cup quality of the beverage, it is 2.5 times more chemically complex than wine.

I am not an expert on defects (you have to work in the industrial/commercial end of the trade to see lots of bad coffee!), but I cup and roast coffee everyday. I prepared this image (below) from coffee samples in my "green coffee files" at the request of my customers. The image is not all-inclusive, and is not composed entirely of defects. There are charts of coffee defects available through the Specialty Coffee Association of America (

Do not misinterpret the presence of irregular beans in a coffee as the sole indication of its quality - what I call "eye-cupping". Dry-processed coffees will always have more irregularities. Uneven preparation can even be considered part of the character of the coffee - with the off beans providing maybe some of characteristic earthiness as with some Indonesians or dry processed coffees. The preparation is part of the "coffee culture" of a specific place, part of the common practice of the people who produce a specific cofffee. An inexperienced roasted can easily interpret the presence of more silverskin (chaff) that gives the coffee a very yellow appearance as a defect. You will see more silverskin on late harvested coffees no matter what the varietal.

Ultimately, the quality of a coffee is found in the cup.


Two Important Questions: