Purchase Planning For Small-Scale Roasters

We have broken down some key categories for small-scale roasters, continue reading to consider the details of our services while building your business.


Did you know we have a wealth of free education on our site? It can all be found on our Education page. Learn about the different varieties of coffee, how coffee is processed, global coffee-harvest seasons, and how we at Cafe Imports evaluate coffees by watching our Sample Roasting and How We Cup videos.

We also share as much information as possible about the coffees we sell: Look up individual coffees’ profiles, or “Beanologies,” for more information about particular lots including farm specs, processing details, elevation, etc. Many of our coffee profiles feature rich media—photos and even videos that you can download to use or embed on your own website, free of charge.

Our Minneapolis office is a hub for coffee education, and we love to welcome visitors who travel to taste coffee, meet the local team, and learn from us. We also hold events around the world to spread coffee knowledge, foster community, and make new friends. Check out our upcoming events here. You’ll want to read and watch all of the educational material we have on the rest of the site, but here are a few basics to get you started right away.


All coffee tastes like coffee, but then again, all apples taste like apple, even though varieties like Granny Smith and Red Delicious taste different from each other. The biggest things that affect coffee flavor are: variety, terroir or environment, processing, and, of course, roasting. (You’re in charge of the last one.)

First let’s talk about flavours you may find in coffee: You can search by flavor characteristic on our website if you’re looking for something in particular, but here’s a good “cheat sheet” to get you started.

Nutty: Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua

Chocolate: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua

Sweet Fruit: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Peru

Tart Fruit: Burundi, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda

Berry/Cherry/Raisin: Brazil, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Sulawesi, Yemen

Floral: Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia

Earthy/Savory: India, Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Yemen

If you’re trying to build a blend, it’s a good idea to think about what flavors you’d like to combine in that coffee, and then find the types that match.


Coffee’s seasons will vary by geographic location, just like any other agricultural product. Coffees grown above and below the Equator, for instance, will be harvested at different times of year—just like how our Australian colleagues will hit the beach when we are having snowball fights in Minneapolis.

Broadly, coffee’s seasons are split into two semesters by harvest, “First Semester” and “Second Semester”

  • Most Central American, Mexican, East African, Sumatran/Indonesian, and many Colombian coffees arrive fresh the first semester.
  • Coffees from Brazil, Burundi, Congo, Ecuador, Peru, Rwanda, Sulawesi, Tanzania, and more Colombians all show up in the second semester.

This info comes in handy while you’re planning your year. Select fresh single-origins to feature on your menu as soon as they begin to arrive from source. If you’re building blends that you want to keep consistent on an annual basis, we can work with you to find fresh coffees to swap into your recipe while keeping the flavors the same.

Our sales representatives are pros at making sure your signature blends always taste fresh, delicious, and consistent, even as the components change throughout the year.

For more information on the seasonality of coffee, view our Coffee Harvest Schedule.


Now we have an idea of what’s fresh when, so the next step is figuring out how much coffee you need.

  • Coffee is generally sold in bags ranging from 60–70 kgs, or 133–155 lbs.**
  • Roasting coffee typically causes about 12–20% loss of weight by volume—so if you buy 60 kg of green coffee, you’ll end up with somewhere between 48–53 kgs roasted.

Consider how much of each flavor you’ll need during each semester, and talk with your Cafe Imports sales rep about which coffees will be the best match.

If you are a brand-new business, keep detailed records of your weekly and monthly usage, as a way of generating predictions for your growth and fine-tuning your buying strategy.

** If you are unsure whether you are able to efficiently and cost-effectively roast full bags of coffee at this time, please allow us to introduce you to our sister brand, a small-bag company called La Bodega which sources coffees in cooperation with Cafe Imports, and sells green coffee in 50lb bags that ship free.


We believe that buying better coffee means buying coffee better—a philosophy that informs a holistic buying approach on our end, allowing us to source more of each producer’s coffee at various levels of quality, pricing it accordingly and finding the appropriate outlet for each type of lot. Due to this buying structure, we are able to offer several tiers of quality, traceability, and price to our customers:


  • Farm, farmer, or otherwise hyper-specific
  • Typically limited quantity/somewhat exclusive (100 bags or fewer)
  • Scores 88+ points on the cupping table
  • Premium, static price that does not fluctuate with the C-market

Regional and Program Coffees

  • Region-, microregion-, or association-specific
  • Displays classic or exemplary regional characteristics that express terroir
  • Moderate availability—between 100–275 bags, on average
  • Scores 85–87 on the cupping table
  • Competitive but fairly priced with tiered premiums related to quality

Signature Coffees

  • Sourced based on standard profiles that represent a particular region or style
  • Widely available throughout the year
  • Scores 80–84 points on the cupping table
  • Dynamically and competitively priced, a “value” coffee

Certified Coffees

  • A selection of various third-party verified and certified coffees, all of which meet our quality standards and fulfill a range of price points and traceability—Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade International (FLO), Rainforest Alliance (RFA), certified organic

Our experience is that most successful coffee roasteries build a menu that draws from a few of these different categories, depending on the application—for instance, using microlots for featured single-origin coffees, and program coffees in cornerstone products and house blends, and signature coffees as high-quality base support in a blend or a darker roast.


We are pleased to invite our customers to contribute to the World Coffee Research check-off fund: By agreeing to participate, you agree to pay an extra 1/2 cent per pound for every coffee purchased through Cafe Imports, who will collect and remit the funds to World Coffee Research on a quarterly basis. Read more and register to participate at our World Coffee Research check-off fund page.


We are happy to offer complimentary 300g samples of green coffee for our customers to roast and cup before making a purchase, and we also provide green samples for basis of contract approval.

Ordering samples is easy: Our Offerings page is a dynamic tool that allows you to request samples of coffees directly from their individual profile pages or “Beanologies.” Simply click to request a sample, or feel free to e-mail your sales representative, or sales@cafeimports.com to complete your order.

Samples that are requested before 10am CST are typically shipped same-day from Monday–Friday. You will receive an e-mail with tracking information the business day after your order has been shipped.


(See also: Coffee Ordering F.A.Q.

Once you’ve roasted and tasted your coffees and are ready to buy something, we’re here to help facilitate the purchasing process. Call our North American office toll-free at 1-800-278-5065, or 651-209-6102, or e-mail sales@cafeimports.com or your individual sales representative in order to finalize pricing, confirm your shipping preferences and address, and complete your order.

Your first three orders with us will be on a prepay basis, and we accept credit card or wire transfer before release of your coffee. After three successful prepay orders, customers are welcome to submit applications for Net 30–day terms.


Coffee wants a cool, dry environment that is out of the sun and away from areas where water, dirt, rodents, or insects can cause damage (i.e. preferably off the ground and away from food prep or storage). In an ideal world you’d have a dedicated warehouse or storage area with climate control set to 60–70°F (15–21°C) at 50–60% humidity, but we realize that isn’t possible for many small roasters.

If you have limited resources, we recommend the following:

  • Keep your coffee in GrainPro bags and keep the GrainPro closed between uses.
  • Store coffee in the coolest (but not cold) area of your facility, out of direct sunlight and away from anything that affects moisture in the air such as dishwashers, steam radiators, dehumidifiers, etc.
  • If you have multiple bags on contract, consider allowing your importer to hold them in the warehouse over a few months rather than taking delivery of the entire volume at once: You can do this by adding a few cents/pound of carry to the price of the coffee.

How long can I store green coffee?

Different coffees will respond differently to quality degradation over time. Some types of coffee hold up very well in storage; others fade more rapidly. The general rule of thumb is “fresh is best,” and we recommend using up green beans within 6 months of receipt, though up to a year is acceptable in most cases. For additional reading about coffee quality, storage, and age, read our sensory analysis director Ian Fretheim’s Water Activity in Specialty Green Coffee: A Long-Term Observational Study.

Consider us your partners. Contact us today to see how we can work and grow together with your business!