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Buying the big bag
dBndbit
I'm about to take a big step in my coffee hobby. I'm about to try buying green beans in the big bags direct from an importer. Just two bags. And I wonder if any of you have any wisdom to share. Assume just for the discussion that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Between church and home, my calculator says I use something approaching 300# of green coffee per year. About half caf and half decaf. Like most everybody I've been buying it in 5#-20# batches, shipped by USPS/UPS from our favorite internet green sellers. And you well know what that costs. Add to that is the process of buying minimal quantities of different coffees every couple of months to pick the next batches. I get a very interesting and tasty variety of great coffee, but the time and trouble add up. Needless to say, in two 150# bags it would costs a whole lot less.

I'm now trying a batch of samples from the importer to select my two bags. Surprisingly, they are being very friendly and professional with me. I'll be driving a fair distance to the NJ warehouse to pick up my load. What should I watch out for? What have I overlooked? So far this seems to be not too crazy. I think I will miss the variety, but not sure how much.
Jim
11 years old... forever!
ReeferDoor.com
>home-built roasters and fair trade
seedlings
Jim, I've thought about the same thing for many moons. You have an extreme luxury of being able to drive to the importer! Are you kidding?!? When I checked into it, shipping would cost about $100 per pallet. 1 bag or 5 bags. One 132# bag of a nice Ethiopian Sidimo from www.cafeimports.com was going to cost something like $400 then add $100 to ship. I just couldn't swing that bat. Take off the $100 shipping and then the price looked better. Granted, though, had I compared a less expensive Guatemala or Colombian (like the budget stuff I usually buy) the price would've been better.

Best wishes to your field work! Since you're not running a coffee business per se, I am extraordinarily curious for you to report back with how this works for you!

Merry Christmas,
CHAD
Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover
BoldJava

Quote

dBndbit wrote:...
I'm now trying a batch of samples from the importer to select my two bags. Surprisingly, they are being very friendly and professional with me. I'll be driving a fair distance to the NJ warehouse to pick up my load. What should I watch out for? What have I overlooked? So far this seems to be not too crazy. I think I will miss the variety, but not sure how much.


Jim, I have distributed about two-three ton of greens. Things to keep in mind:
^ I would cup with a couple of good cupping hounds for corrobation. All specialty coffee isn't the same.
^ Cup at least three of each minimally.
^ Make sure your lot cupping numbers correspond with the lot numbers you are given.
^ There is a great Panama decaf that Royal (East Coast) is moving now (we cupped it Friday night) that is stellar on its own and would blend very well. If you are working with them, give a shout and I will get you the lot number.
^ Make your selections based on good cycling. Find out when they hit New Jersey shores and what crop they are (see http://www.sweetm...able.shtml )
^ See if you can buy a 1/2 bag of decaf -- Decaf goes south more quickly. I would shoot for 6 mos stock of decaf. Atlas distributes 1/2 bags for about $.30 more per pound.
^ Don't count on precise poundage. On 132# bags, I have caught anywheres from 128 to 134 lbs of coffee. Regardless, you will be paying for 132.27 (60 kilos) or 70 kilos/154.32# depending on country.
^ Don't store it in burlap. I use 18 gallon Rubbermaids that run about $8 each at Lowe's or Home Depot. One will hold about 60#s. Burlap will make it baggy if stored too long. As well, by pouring them outside on a windy day into the Rubbermaids, it gets rid of a ton of dust. My wife really struggles with the dust/burlap and the R/M tubs save the day.
^ Take a teenager with you <grins>. Been there, done it.
^ A distribution in Wisconsin, the the Winter, captured in film:
http://picasaweb....#slideshow


Good luck! Swill on!

B|Java
Edited by BoldJava on 12/06/2008 9:47 PM
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
BoldJava

Quote

seedlings wrote:
Jim, I've thought about the same thing for many moons. You have an extreme luxury of being able to drive to the importer! Are you kidding?!? When I checked into it, shipping would cost about $100 per pallet. 1 bag or 5 bags.


Chad,

You have Zephyr right up the road. I distributed some of their Mavis Banks JBM and they keep a Brazilian ( Moreninha Formosa ) in stock that is excellent as a stand alone or as an espresso base - great crema, nice chocolates. Roasts beautifully. I will be roasting some of it this week. They would work with you.

http://zephyrcoff...0info.html

If you go that route, stop by and ask if you might cup with them some day, tell them you would like to learn. Keep in mind the margins on greens are very small so you have to be sensitive to their time commitment for small peddlers like us where they aren't making squat.

When I broached samples with any concern, I always offered to pay for them out of the gate. 3/4th's said thanks, but no need to. The other 1/4 will deduct that from your first order.
B|Java
BoldJava attached the following image:
Mavis Banks[1140][1141].jpg

Edited by seedlings on 12/07/2008 1:19 PM
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
seedlings
May God bless you, BJ!

CHAD
Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover
airwright
Hi ive been thinking about doing the same, I live about 1.5 hours from the port of Oakland and 2 hours from San Francisco port, I do here that there is supposed to be a few coffee importers there.
I of course buy alot of coffee from Sweet Marias though i have it shipped to me, its still cheaper than driving back and forth, i have made email contact with Royal coffee in Oakland, and they have been real nice in there emails and invited me to come by and for a cupping session.
But Im not sure about protocall etc. I understand that there not going to make any money from my small amount, I guess what im saying is that i want to go but dont want to step on any toes while i try to gain a bit more knowledge.
Any suggestions? and does anybody konw of other importerss in the Oakland S.F. area?
dBndbit
Thanks for the great insights, BJ! I will give each serious consideration, especially with regard for decaf shelf-life. Unfortunately I don't have enough friends to do the kind of diligent cupping you suggest. I may regret it, but I'm just winging this on my own taste buds. I have done a series of taste tests with each of the 8oz samples I received.

I'm curious. Wouldn't the plastic tubs have a tendency to go moldy over time with such limited air flow? I use big tubs now for all my small bag coffee, but so each bin is only half-full and I rotate the bags every once in a while. Also I thought the burlap used for coffee bags was supposed to have very little effect on bean flavor. The beans sit in them from farm to roaster almost always for a significant portion of a year. Bad assumption on my part?

By strange coincidence, Royal NY is the importer I'm talking about. Was that Peru Royal Select FTO water decaf #8894? I like that one a lot. (You probably know I'm only looking at fair trade.)

Chad, I concur on the high shipping costs. That's why I thought I'd use a little gas and pick up the bags myself. Even so the gas, food and tolls will probably cost me about $45. No free lunch, but that averages only $0.15/# for a couple of bags now that gas prices have dropped. Besides, my time is free and I may get a chance to see the warehouse.
Jim
11 years old... forever!
ReeferDoor.com
>home-built roasters and fair trade
BoldJava

Quote

dBndbit wrote:

I'm curious. Wouldn't the plastic tubs have a tendency to go moldy over time with such limited air flow?


No, I just open them about once a week. Coffee, like corn, is dried to about 9-12% moisture. Unless you have a humid area (Miami, Orlando) with heat, you should be fine.

Quote

Also I thought the burlap used for coffee bags was supposed to have very little effect on bean flavor. The beans sit in them from farm to roaster almost always for a significant portion of a year.


Tons of discussion on this out there. Intelli, when we visited them last Feb, encouraged mylar bagging. They are going so far as to vac-pack their top flight coffees in mylar and are flying some of them. Geoff Watts said, "Burlap is a bag for shipping commodities, not specialty coffee. It should go the way of the horse." (Quote is my paraphrase, not his). It think Geo Howell at Terroir also has his beans shipped in mylar, when available, but I am working from memory.

Quote

By strange coincidence, Royal NY is the importer I'm talking about. Was that Peru Royal Select FTO water decaf #8894? I like that one a lot. (You probably know I'm only looking at fair trade.)


Jim, we didn't cup that one.

Pls keep us informed. I enjoy the whole logistical process, having been on coffee farms, it is a delight to see the process from farm to our homes.

B|Java
Edited by BoldJava on 12/07/2008 8:11 PM
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
BoldJava

Quote

airwright wrote:
Hi ive been thinking about doing the same, I live about 1.5 hours from the port of Oakland ...

But Im not sure about protocall etc. I understand that there not going to make any money from my small amount, I guess what im saying is that i want to go but dont want to step on any toes while i try to gain a bit more knowledge.
Any suggestions? and does anybody konw of other importerss in the Oakland S.F. area?


Stop at the Berkeley Farmer's Market and introduce yourself to Hanan Onn, Tofu Producer and Coffee Vendor. He is originally from Romania, just a great guy, wonderful story teller. He buys a couple of sacks from Royal now and then for his business. (He is into Yemens). Buy him a cupacoffee at the Blue Bottle. http://www.bluebo...offee.net/

Tell him BoldJava sent you his way and that you would like to learn the coffee jazz from him. Very 'giving' guy.

B|Java
Edited by BoldJava on 12/08/2008 6:39 AM
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
EddieDove
Okay Dave,

While we're at it, do you have any suggestions for the Gulf Coast / New Orleans? I believe Zephyr opened an office in New Orleans, but I am not sure what gets done there ...
Respectfully,

Eddie Dove

The South Coast Coffee Roaster
vita non est vivere sed valere vita est
Home Coffee Roasting Blog and Reference
http://southcoast...gspot.com/
bvwelch
Any suggestions in my area-- northern Alabama, but cities relatively near me include Birmingham, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Nashville.

Thank you!

-bill

BoldJava
Sorry, gents, can't help you down south. Eddie, Zephyr has an office but I don't think they warehouse in the BigEasy. Do think they do advance cupping for prospective buys there. Here are your contacts:
New Orleans office
877-569-1595 Toll Free
504-569-1595 Local and International
504-569-1598

Bill, I know Albertville as we used to live in Huntsville and Anniston. Great park at Guntersville, but no coffee importers at all. Do have a good coffee budd in Warrior if you ever need a hook-up.

B|Java
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
dBndbit
Besides Zephyr, I have a listing for Cecafe in Metairie, LA. But I don't know anything about them except that they do claim to handle a 1-bag minimum.

Sorry BJ, I think I got your Royal Panama mixed up with my Royal Peru. Brain hiccup! This is why I need to buy coffee just once a year.

Airwright, I also have a listing for Vournas in Oakland. I'm equally ignorant about them.

You said:

Quote

But Im not sure about protocall etc. I understand that there not going to make any money from my small amount, I guess what im saying is that i want to go but dont want to step on any toes while i try to gain a bit more knowledge.


That's a good question I worry about as well. I hesitated to post this thread because I wonder what problems might be caused by more people learning how to buy direct from importers. If a few anti-social people take advantage of the generosity of importers just to get a little free coffee and cupping training without ever buying anything, the importers could certainly make it more difficult and expensive to buy single bag orders. I decided to take the risk and post anyway. I hope everybody will respect the importers and the homeroasting community, and that we're not all sorry for spreading some info.

Personally, I'm just hoping that if I'm fair and honest about my intentions, the importer won't be sorry they took some time to sell two measly bags of green.
Edited by dBndbit on 12/08/2008 7:17 PM
Jim
11 years old... forever!
ReeferDoor.com
>home-built roasters and fair trade
bvwelch
Honesty is always best!

You guys are out of my league, but it is fun to dream about buying a "big bag" one day. :-)

-bill

dBndbit
Don't say that! The homeroaster's league is right where I want to stay. I'm just the one on the team that will have the biggest bloopers on the game films at the end of this season. Just a little crazier than most.

For me the volume makes sense since coffee is just my way of contributing to a church and advocating fair trade. But this might not be so crazy for anybody to consider since all it would take is maybe 3-4 people in the same area to start up a mini-co-op. I'd be happy to try that here in MD if anybody else is interested. I've been amazed to see how many home-roasters there are. So it's not hard to imagine that mini-co-ops could run successfully around the country. Why not save $2 or more per pound?
Jim
11 years old... forever!
ReeferDoor.com
>home-built roasters and fair trade
BoldJava

Quote

dBndbit wrote:
Thanks for the great insights, BJ! I will give each serious consideration, especially with regard for decaf shelf-life. Unfortunately I don't have enough friends to do the kind of diligent cupping you suggest. I may regret it, but I'm just winging this on my own taste buds. I have done a series of taste tests with each of the 8oz samples I received...


Jim,

The Brazil Poco Fundo (FTO) from Royal NYC is getting excellent cupping reviews at GCBC. I know the palates of the boys that are giving it high reviews -- all good cuppers. It is a keeper.

B|Java
Edited by BoldJava on 12/14/2008 5:13 AM
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
Donut Dog
the Poco Fundo is a great cup, love it! who has any smaller size bags theese days?

BoldJava

Quote

digi bean wrote:
the Poco Fundo is a great cup, love it! who has any smaller size bags theese days?



Anyone that does has last year's crop, I assume. The Poco Fundo just cleared customs.

B|Java
http://sidewalkmy...
Dave Borton
Milwaukee, WI
dBndbit
I neglected to sample that one. Guess I missed out. They had too many FT offerings to sample them all. What a nice problem! I don't feel too bad because, though I don't have the expertise of the GCBC A-team, I thought the Chiapas FTO decaf and the Harrar FTO were both no-excuse-terrific.

So where was all this good GCBC cupping advice when I was ordering samples???? This raises a good question. How can a pitiful unconnected homeroaster like me check on authoritative reviews of specific offerings from specific importers? I don't know a simple answer to that since most vendors, or even GCBC, don't always (hardly ever) give the importer or detailed source and batch# info so you can be sure your reading a comment about exactly the same coffee. How could I do my homework better?
Jim
11 years old... forever!
ReeferDoor.com
>home-built roasters and fair trade
EddieDove

Quote

BoldJava wrote:

Anyone that does has last year's crop, I assume. The Poco Fundo just cleared customs.

B|Java


How do you know that?
Respectfully,

Eddie Dove

The South Coast Coffee Roaster
vita non est vivere sed valere vita est
Home Coffee Roasting Blog and Reference
http://southcoast...gspot.com/
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