Are Your Brewing Bad Coffee Beans? by karen Paterson

If you want high grade gourmet coffee you have to look at the beans before you grind them. A coffee farmer who doesn’t care about quality can put all of the beans from his trees, good, bad and ugly into a bag and sell them as gourmet coffee. A roaster who doesn’t care about quality can roast bug eaten, spoiled beans put them in a bag and sell them as gourmet coffee. If you don’t look at the beans before you brew them, they will get away with it.

We recently bought a pound of expensive gourmet coffee from a well known roaster. When we checked the beans, we found deformed beans, chipped beans, unripe beans and beans with bug holes in them. Because the beans were not uniform the roast wasn’t uniform either, so some of the beans were light roasted, some medium roasted and some dark roasted.

Gourmet Kona Coffee
Hula Daddy Kona Coffee Roasted Coffee Beans

Quality roasters will not buy beans that have not been sorted and graded. If they do buy damaged beans, It is their job to pick them out. No pound of roasted coffee will be perfect. When coffee roasts the action of the roasting drum may cause the beans to chip. Also when the beans expand in roasting they crack like popcorn as the steam is driven out of the beans. Sudden expansion may cause some of the beans to shatter. However, differences in the beans should be the exception.

The next time you buy gourmet coffee look at the beans before you grind them. Every bean going into your grinder should look like all of the other beans – the same size, the same color. Each bean should be whole without any chips or holes If the farmer or the roaster hasn’t done his job here are some of the defects that you may find:

  • Broken Beans – Bits and pieces of beans.
  • Curled Beans (Boat Shaped) – Beans that are curled up at the ends.
  • Chipped Beans – Beans that have been abraded or nicked.
  • Quakers – Unripe beans that have been roasted. They will have a lighter color than the other beans.
  • Shells – Beans that look hollowed out like pasta shells.
  • Undersized/over-sized beans – Beans that are significantly bigger or smaller than the other beans.
  • Withered Beans – Dried up,wrinkled beans.
Roasted Coffee Beans with chips, bug holes and shells
Roasted Coffee Beans with Defects

Beans with defects are going to affect that taste of your coffee. A medium roast coffee with defective beans may also have light roasted and dark roasted beans in it. Small beans, shells, withered beans and charred beans will give a burnt taste to coffee. Large beans and quakers will give your coffee a sour, astringent and often rancid taste. At Hula Daddy Kona Coffee we hand sort our coffee beans, when we pick them, when we pulp them, after we dry them, before we roast them and after we roast them. We also machine sort them after we hull them. We do not tolerate defective coffee beans.

If you are paying the price for high quality gourmet coffee beans you should be getting what you paid for. Besides tasting the quality of the coffee the only way to tell if you are getting good coffee is to look at the beans before you brew them.

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Hula Daddy Kona Coffee is the winner of the 2014 Kona Coffee Cupping Competition. Karen is a member of the Hawaii Coffee Association, the Kona Coffee Council, the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, and the Specialty Coffee Association of America. She is also the author of a number of articles on Kona Coffee including: Coffee Fraud Kona Coffee Farmers at a Crossroad ;How Typica is Your Kona Coffee? ; Are Roasters Eroding the Kona Coffee Brand?; Coffee Cupping Competitions – Real or Random Chance? ; Seven Easy Steps to Become a Gourmet Coffee Taster ; How to Brew Coffee Using a Pour Over Filter; Before You Buy an Automatic Single Serve Coffee Brewer; Siphon Coffee Brewers Suck!; Sweet Coffee;What Color is Your Coffee Roast? You can email her at

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