Are all the coffee beans roasted?

earlybird coffee

Good coffee - how do I recognize a premium coffee?

Good coffee beans are not as easy to spot as you might think. We Germans drink more coffee than cola, milk or even beer! Still, there are tons of really bad coffee out there. How to recognize this and what makes a really good coffee, you will learn in this article. If you are looking for good coffee for your fully automatic coffee machine, take a look at our blog article "Coffee for fully automatic machines, the 5 most important tips".

It seems to us - and maybe you do too - that there is a strong trend towards high-quality food. More and more people want to know exactly what the quality of their food is like. When it comes to coffee, it is not that easy for many people - products are often advertised as premium coffee, while the reality is often the opposite.

Good coffee beans are easy to recognize - taste can be debated

Good coffee is not as easy to tell apart from bad coffee as you might think. It is particularly difficult to make statements about the quality and ingredients of coffee that has already been ground. But the trend is clearly towards more quality, sustainability and conscious consumption. We are therefore introducing you to our 7-point checklist, which you can use to find out easily whether you have a high-quality coffee or broth-producing scrap in front of you!

In the following text we want to explain to you why these objective criteria are important and how you recognize them.

Objectively good coffee - what does the coffee bean look like?

# 1 pest infestation

The coffee bean is a fruit, namely the cherry of the coffee bush. Like any other fruit, the quality of the end product depends heavily on what happens to the fruit during the growth process and during processing. While the coffee cherry hangs on the bush and ripens, it is often attacked by vermin and insects - we know this from the worms in our local fruits. The infestation by insects can also be easily traced on the coffee bean, namely through the small circular holes that the insects have eaten in the bean. While isolated pest infestation does not make the whole harvest bad (that's not the case with our cherries), stronger pest infestation is a sign that either something went wrong during cultivation or that the coffee was not properly sorted out during preparation and selection.

A good coffee has no or minimal pest infestation. Every higher level allows a conclusion to be drawn about a suboptimal process.

# 2 break

Often the coffee that arrives at your home has a certain percentage of broken beans. A broken bean is not in itself critical because the bean is still ground anyway, and half a bean is ground just like a whole bean. A minimal break in the coffee can hardly be avoided, you have to be that realistic. Often all it takes is a parcel delivering the parcel roughly to break it. However, we should differentiate between breakage that occurs during roasting and transportation and breakage that is included from the start.

In particular, the cheap coffees that have not been picked and prepared by hand and come in bulk to Europe in containers often have breakage and poor quality right from the start. We cannot forget the story from a Latin American country in which the logistics employee asked his boss where he should dispose of the waste and the boss replied, "No, no, this is coming to Germany!". Especially when the coffee is sold directly ground, the quality of the beans can of course no longer be traced, and the common practice of many large roasters is to specifically buy these bad beans, which are of course much cheaper.

So good coffee has little breakage - roughly less than 5% of the beans.

# 3 mold growth

The coffee bean usually grows in a double pack in a coffee cherry. This coffee cherry is a fruit that also contains a lot of moisture, just like a normal cherry. An important step after the harvest is to remove the coffee beans from the coffee cherry and dry them so that the coffee can be transported. During the drying process, the coffee cherries must be turned regularly so that they do not start to mold in the moisture. If this is not done regularly, mold will still occur frequently enough, which of course does not prevent coffee producers from buying (or selling) these beans anyway. In terms of health, this mold is not to be assessed as critical, as the bean is heated to at least 200 ° Celsius during roasting.

Everything that has attacked the bean dies here. Only: probably none of you would like to drink coffee that was once moldy! The same applies here: this mold is no longer visible in ground coffee. This is different with whole beans: If the bean is very stained and these stains are hard to distinguish, this is a sign of mold on the coffee bean.

We were shocked when we saw a documentary about coffee growing in Brazil, which showed the common practice of spraying beans that had already been harvested and dried with pesticides to prevent mold from forming. That was not what was meant when "coffee without mold" was ordered!

Good coffee has no mold stains!

# 4 The roast

The processing here in Germany is just as important as the cultivation and transport of the coffee beans. Good coffee comes to us packed in jute sacks of 60-70 KG with an exact designation of origin and an indication of the contents. Qualities that come in big bags (up to 250KG) or even in the container as bulk goods (up to 30 tons at a time) are often mixed together from what was just there.

A crucial point in further processing is now making the coffee drinkable - by roasting it. We have already explained how roasting works exactly. If you want the best coffee, be sure to pay attention to the roasting in the drum roaster. The difference to industrial roasting is significant. The total roasting time is many times longer, the maximum temperature is significantly lower. This means that the acids contained in coffee, especially tannic acid, can be broken down during the roasting process, and fewer bitter substances are formed. In industrial roasting, the coffee is roasted at up to 600 ° Celsius in a few minutes, which often leads to the coffee bean being burnt on the outside and still raw on the inside. This raw part in particular still has a very high acid level, which is not exactly kind to the stomach. Combined with the bitter, scorched exterior, this often leads to the bitter-sour blight that we all don't like.

Good coffee is traditionally roasted in a drum roaster!

# 5 The freshness

In the case of coffee, the aging process does not begin after the harvest, but only after roasting. The oils and fats contained in the coffee bean are slowly starting to go rancid, while carbon dioxide contained in the bean is released and a variety of flavors also escape.

Immediately after roasting, the coffee needs some time to mature and develop. After approx. 2 weeks, the coffee has developed optimally in terms of taste.
Coffee doesn't go bad for a long time, but the taste experience will gradually suffer. The next time you pick up a pack of coffee in the supermarket, pay attention to the best-before date. The best before date for coffee is usually 24 months, the legal maximum. Calculating back 24 months from the best-before date, this results in the roasting date. You will be amazed how old some coffee is there!

# 6 The taste

The taste of good coffee is of course often a subjective matter. Most often, opinions differ when it comes to the acidity of a coffee. Don't get confused here: all coffee has acid. It is simply the fruit acid that every fruit has (think of apples or a pineapple - they are all sweet, but still have a comparatively high acid level). If you can no longer taste the acidity level of a coffee, the roasted aromas are probably covering up the acidity level. What you will taste good, and what we will also like, is a balanced acid-sweet-roasted aroma ratio. Lovers and those keen to experiment often move more in the direction of lighter roasts, where the roasted aromas tend to take a back seat and the acidity level tends to stand out.

In order to evaluate taste neutrally and to create a uniform standard, the so-called "aroma wheel" has established itself in the American scene in particular. It shows the well-known taste properties of coffee and their super-classes.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Sammy Zimmermann from, who took the trouble to translate the aroma wheel into German under the Creative Commons license.

In addition to these taste peculiarities, there are flavors that have no place in coffee. One then speaks of so-called "off-flavors", and these off-flavors are a clear sign of an objectively poorer quality of the coffee or a poorly balanced roast. Typical off-flavors are rubber, leather or forest floor. These off-flavors can of course arise during the processing of the coffee, for example because moist coffee changes its taste during transport or because the coffee absorbs aromas from the environment. Often, however, it is simply the green coffee that has these taste characteristics.

For this reason, each batch of coffee is subjected to different "cuppings". On the one hand, the green coffee buyers test the coffee on site in the growing countries immediately after the harvest and thus decide which coffees to buy and which coffees not. On the other hand, another cupping takes place immediately after the coffee arrives in Europe in order to determine any changes in taste during the transport, usually in the port of arrival. Only when the coffee passes these taste tests and has no off-flavors is it transported to the individual roaster. This is how the coffee ends up with us.

Most of the time, we set ourselves a specific goal of what we want to achieve with a coffee and what taste properties it should have. Based on this requirement, we then specifically select green coffees from which we expect the desired properties. African coffees, for example, especially from Kenya or Rwanda, have a particularly tangy acidity. Some coffee roasters, who roast particularly lightly, prefer this acid, we rather try to mitigate this when we work with African coffees.

Often, however, coffees that are not free from off-flavors also come into circulation. The reason is clear: because many green coffee buyers avoid them, they are cheaper so that they can even be sold. The roasters of such coffees then often roast particularly darkly in order to balance and mask these aromas.

Good coffee has no off-flavors! Even if the coffee is not lightly roasted, the coffee's own taste should be recognizable in addition to the roasted aromas.

# 7 No tricks

Injecting water after roasting

After the desired roasting process has been completed, the coffee should be roasted as quickly as possible. If this does not happen, the chemical roasting processes continue and the coffee bean continues to roast. The coffee bean is therefore cooled as quickly as possible. This cooling can be done either by a large fan that blows cold air between the beans, or by injecting the finest water droplets. These evaporate immediately on the surface of the bean, thereby reducing the temperature quickly and effectively. Done correctly, the weight of the beans hardly changes. Some large roasters, however, dose the water a little more and give the bean back some of the moisture that was lost during roasting. This significantly reduces weight loss by up to 20%, but this is not conducive to quality and taste.

Adding Maltrodextrin or caramel

Inferior coffees that are roasted quickly at high temperatures usually no longer taste that good. To get around this, many large roasters have switched to mixing Maltrodextrin or caramel with their coffees. On the one hand, this of course makes the taste much sweeter and easier to drink and covers a large part of the bitter substances in coffee. On the other hand, these additives are also significantly cheaper than the more expensive green coffee - that increases the margin.

In addition, there is another factor: The € 2.19 roasting tax is only due for coffee products that consist of more than 90% pure coffee. By adding 11-12% sugars, the proportion of coffee in the packaging drops to 88-89%. This product is now only "goods containing caffeine" - and this is only taxed at a maximum of € 1.76 per kilo. This in turn saves noticeable money. That doesn't help the quality of the coffee! It is also adventurous with ground coffee, where sawdust and other tasteless fillers are used, which increase the weight of the coffee and minimize the amount of green coffee used per kilogram.

So good coffee is easy to recognize

We would like to encourage you to pay more attention to the quality of your coffee. It doesn't have to be our coffee, other small roasters also roast good quality coffee. Any trend away from the poor quality mass produced is good. And every kilo of good coffee not only helps you (who wants to drink moldy beans or fillers?) But also helps the people in the growing countries, who usually receive the smallest part of the coffee price. By showing them that we pay more money for better quality, we are encouraging more and more small coffee farmers to stop producing in large quantities, but in favor of sustainable quality. Good quality must pay off and must be promoted, and we can all do our part by paying € 5 more for the one kilo of coffee we need a month.

Here you can find out more about the quality of our earlybird coffee or simply test us!