Coffee seeds are green before roasting. The color of coffee seeds changes during the roasting process. The stage at which the seeds are roasted determines the characteristic and taste of the coffee. For example, a dark roast is achieved by roasting the seeds at a higher temperature for a longer time, resulting in a darker color and a more intense taste, while an espresso roast is typically a medium to dark brown color. 

Coffee seeds are harvested from the coffee plant when ripe, at which point they are green in color. Before roasting, coffee beans are green because they contain high levels of chlorophyll. This chlorophyll is a natural pigment found in leaves and other parts of plants. When coffee is roasted, the high heat breaks down the chlorophyll and changes the color of the coffee beans. So the answer to the question “what colour are coffee beans before roasting” is green.

what colour are coffee beans before roasting

With over 20 years running my own coffee farm, I’ve witnessed firsthand the spectrum of colors that coffee seeds can display pre-roasting. Many consumers imagine coffee seeds arriving at a roaster with a uniform green hue. In reality, raw coffee seeds encompass an array of green, yellow, and brown shades telling a fascinating story of their origins.

In this article, I’ll shed light on the hidden true colors of coffee seeds before they undergo the grilling process. We’ll explore how varietals, processing methods, and growing conditions create color variations in unroasted seeds. From lime greens to caramel browns, the colors signify key attributes about taste, quality, and freshness.

Green coffee refers to unroasted coffee seeds that are used to make a variety of coffee roast. These green coffee seeds are typically roasted using a machine until they reach the first crack, which is an audible sound that indicates the seeds are beginning to roast. The roast level determines the acidity and taste profile of the coffee. During the grilling process, the external layer of the coffee seed darkens and caramelizes, releasing sugars and amino acids that contribute to the taste. Once roasted, the seeds can be ground and used for brewing, resulting in a flavorful glass of coffee. 

Green Beans

Within hours of picking, coffee seeds begin losing moisture and take on shades of green. The depth of green depends on multiple factors:

  • Varietal – Beans from typica, bourbon, and caturra trees often display light greens. Seeds from catimor and robusta trees trend greener.
  • Processing – Washed coffees appear more green than natural/dry processed.
  • Growing Conditions – Ideal altitude, shade, soil yield greener seeds. Stress turns beans yellowish.

Greener beans have higher density and lower water content, allowing for bolder, more consistent roasts. But green color alone doesn’t guarantee quality. Taste ultimately depends on harvest timing, processing, and storage.

Green Beans

Coffee beans before roasting are green and have a verdant smell. They are the raw form of this beloved beverage. At home, coffee enthusiasts can experiment with different types of beans and roasting techniques. Some even use popcorn machines to grill their coffee seeds! As the beans grill, they go through a process called the first crack, where they release moisture and expand.

Light roasts are often used for their delicate and subtle flavors. When roasting seeds, it is important to observe the melanoid development, as this is what gives coffee its distinct aroma and taste. Light roasts can have a grassy or tea-like taste profile, whereas the darker brown roasts offer deeper and richer notes. The beans are processed and dried for several days before being roasted to the desired level, transforming the raw product into a flavorful and aromatic beverage. 

Yellowish Parchment Beans

As beans dry and age after harvest, the parchment skin underneath the outer cherry takes on yellow hues. A bean’s parchment yellows due to:

  • Over-ripening on the tree
  • Exposure to high humidity
  • Delayed processing after picking

Parchment yellowing signals lower quality, but experienced coffee buyers evaluate dryness, texture, and cup profile along with color. Some beans turned partly yellow through natural factors can still produce decent roasted beans.

While it reigns supreme, there is another species known as Coffea canephora, commonly referred to as Robusta, which is often used in blends or for the Arabica coffee production of instant coffee due to its higher caffeine content and more robust flavor.

Brown & Tanned Beans

Excessive drying causes a bean’s inside endosperm to show through its parchment with brownish tones:

  • Light puce indicates mild over-drying.
  • Dark puce  to tan reveals over-fermentation and possible mold.

With different types of coffee roasting, there are options to explore and experiment with the perfect roast to suit individual preferences. 

Browning develops further in storage as moisture evaporates and cellular oxidation occurs. For high grade specialty coffee, beans must be processed, hulled, and dried evenly before browning sets in.

Brown & Tanned Beans

The table below summarizes how color relates to coffee seed quality:

Bean ColorQuality Indication
Light GreenHighest grade, well processed
Dark GreenLower density, mild defect
Yellow ParchmentPossible over-ripeness
Light Puce EndospermMild over-drying
Dark-Brown or TanInferior grade, over-fermentation

While a bright green color is most desirable, strict color standards would diminish the range of flavor profiles available. Taste, aroma, and texture should drive buying over color alone.

How to roast coffee beans professionally?

To grill coffee seeds professionally, a coffee roaster must carefully control the temperature and time of the process. This is crucial to achieve a desired dark roast. The maillard reaction, an important chemical reaction, takes place during roasting, resulting in the development of rich tastes and aromas.

As the seeds roast, acidity levels decrease, while the fruity and complex tastes increase. Roasting coffee seeds is an exothermic process that releases heat. When asked a group about their preferred roast, many mentioned the desire to see a dark coffee with a strong and flavorful taste. 

How to roast coffee beans professionally

A roaster is a machine used to grill green coffee beans, transforming them into a flavorful and aromatic compound. The grilling process involves heating the seeds at high temperatures, causing chemical reactions that develop the rich tastes  and complex compounds found in roasted seeds. 


Here are the key points to remember about coffee seeds ‘ colors pre-roasting:

  • Many imagine seeds as uniformly green before roasting, but a range of colors occur.
  • Darker greens, yellows, and puces reflect over-ripening, incorrect processing, and storage.
  • Greener seeds have higher density for bold, consistent roasting.
  • Despite color variations, great taste depends most on harvest timing and processing.
  • Experienced coffee buyers evaluate dryness, texture, and glass profile along with color.

While color offers clues on seed quality, expert coffee farmers and purchasers know great flavor involves much more than surface appearance. Tasting the resulting roasted coffee ultimately determines if beans meet specialty grade standards.

Key Takeaways on Unroasted Bean Color

When using a roaster, it is important to be careful not to burn the seeds as it can lead to bitterness in the final glass. It is always a good idea to monitor the roasting process to ensure the seeds reach their brightest stage without overripe flavors. The drum is a crucial component in this process, serving as a precursor to the three main stages of roasting. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Color Are Raw Coffee Seeds Naturally?

Coffee seeds in their raw state after picking have a fresh light green color. Over time, the seeds lose moisture and turn progressively greener. seeds also take on yellow or puce hues due to over-ripening, incorrect processing, or storage.

How Does Color Indicate Coffee Seed Quality?

The most desirable unroasted seeds have a bright, consistent light green color showing proper harvest timing and drying. Dark brown or tan seeds signal lower quality with possible defects from over-fermentation. But color doesn’t guarantee taste.

What Makes Some Coffee Seeds More Yellow?

A bean’s parchment layer turns progressively more yellow due to over-ripening on the tree, exposure to humidity during processing, or delays between picking and drying. Some yellowing naturally occurs, but high grade seeds have greener parchment.

Can You Tell A Coffee Bean’s Flavor By Its Raw Color?

It’s not possible to determine exact taste by an unroasted coffee bean’s color alone. The bean’s growing region, varietal, processing method, and harvest time all influence taste more than color. Expert cupping is needed to evaluate taste.

Do All Coffee Seeds Look The Same Before Roasting?

No, there’s a wide range of colors among unroasted coffee seeds depending on the varietal, origin, processing method, harvest timing, and storage. Colors can span from light greens to browns, with many yellowish hues in between. Uniform green seeds are a myth.

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