Doing your coffee research

I think it is fair to say that the coffee industry shows an interest in the science of coffee. Up until this point most of this science has been more relavant to commodity coffee, and its challenges, than it has to do with quality.

It seems a lot of baristas, roasters and others in speciality coffee are looking to do research too. I’m posting this to ask where they are looking and how they are going about it.

Most don’t have access to published papers, and there isn’t a great deal of stuff online – everyone finds pretty quickly but I think coffee has probably moved faster than that particular website has. ASIC is certainly a valuable resource, but perhaps inaccessible to those without a science background.

In their hunt for knowledge, I’m wondering how many people have grabbed the literature review published by the GCQRI, or have grabbed any of the resources on their site. What are people looking for? Bearing in mind there are no easy answers – are we just talking about wanting to do more research, and learn more about coffee rather than having a specific plan of action or a goal to our learning?

In the future there will be more information to share, mostly from the GCQRI, and I think it would be beneficial to understand how people do their research (honestly), to make sure information ends up in the right place. I’m not trying to catch people out here, I certainly spent a long time putting phrases into google and hopefully hunting through the mixture of garbage and occasional information nuggets it produced. I didn’t know a better way.

What about you?

66 thoughts on “Doing your coffee research

  1. Well, after I commented on your “opting in” post I found out that much of what I had said, many people are taking part in already, goes to show there’s much more to coffee than I knew.

    I have only been in the coffee scene for about nine months, and just yesterday I came across a book I would very much like to get my hands on. The book by Illy and Vaini, “Espresso Coffee: The Science of Quality.” Now, I don’t know if this book contains the side of science you are looking for, but I am interested to see what it has to say about the coffee world. I hear it is quite a technical book but not so much so that the non-science types are turned away. I have read the first half of the first chapter and it has lots of information.

  2. Hello,

    My name is Tim, and I work for Hani Coffee Co (  I am new to the blog, but I 100% agree with what you are saying here.  It really is hard to find resources when researching coffee.  Our company is beginning to work on providing decaf coffee to our customers and would like to decaffeinate our beans.  My boss asked me to research how to do it, and I found quite a bit of information on what the different processes do but nothing on how to do it.  At what point, I used a login for a university’s online library and tried searching through their online journal publications but was not able to find much.
    In all, I am afraid I am also not much help as I don’t have many answers; however, I am interested to see what people respond with.

  3. My research involves subscribing to the blogs and websites of you knowledgeable guys in the specialty coffee industry and picking up as much as I can. And also using those websites to direct me to other interesting places.

  4. My research involves subscribing to the blogs and websites of you knowledgeable guys in the specialty coffee industry and picking up as much as I can. And also using those websites to direct me to other interesting places.

  5. Thank you James Hoffman.  As relatively new barista but very inquisitive mind in specialty coffee, you have been just a wealth of knowledge, thought stimulation and a great resource. I have been that person trying so hard to find information, as so many of us have, and access to CGQRI has been an amazing resource.  Thanks again and keep moving coffee in the direction it needs to go.


  6. My research began as informal through conversations with people in the
    coffee world.  As I became more serious though I began formal research
    by finding books which had been recommended in those conversations.  After the first book I looked at the bibliography and added that to my guide for what to look for. In
    looking for information on books online, and from searching for answers to random
    questions, I found coffee forums which have been very useful in finding
    information.  I have on more
    than one occasion just typed “coffee” into google and spent many too
    many hours looking through the material that popped up.  I have gone on
    the websites of coffee companies I have been interested in to see the
    educational resources they offer, and after learning of the SCAA
    have looked into their resources as well.  Luckily at some point your
    blog was recommended and since then the majority of my research time has
    been spent working through your recommended reading list and reading
    your list of blogs.  As your blog has provided much education it
    shouldn’t be a surprise to me that it should be what introduces me to
    both the ASIC and the GCQRI,
    however it is slightly disheartening that it has taken this long for me
    to find these resources.  I wondered how something this big could go
    unnoticed by me for so long.  I worried that I have been just
    overlooking them every time they have been mentioned in my many
    searches.  But it seems the fault of my ignorance is not completely my
    own.  I just looked at the websites of all of the coffee companies who
    are listed as GCQRI Industry Partners and not one of them has any mention of the GCQRI (or the ASIC for that matter) on their website (excluding some dated mentions found in a company’s blog).  Nor does the SCAA list either organization on their website.  Nor are either listed in the ‘See also’ or ‘External links’ sections of the Wikipedia
    coffee article.  In terms of making sure the information to come ends
    up in the right place, I would recommend Roasters’ websites, the
    websites of the SCAA and SCAE, and Wikipedia as having the potential to
    be viable links from the majority of coffee professionals and enthusiasts to the GCQRI.

  7. I just see a big focus GM and hybrids and replacing open pollinated varieties.  Seems like  open pollinators research was never given a fair chance which if could be improved would seem an advantage for farmers but not for supplier agribusiness.  
    Also, haven’t been able to find anything on considering soil microbial health relating to the coffee plant heath and naturally increasing available nutrients from the existing soil.
    Coffee research seems too much driven by those who will also happen to gain control of inputs the farmers will become dependent on and will have little role with there developments.

  8. I hav e a great paper on the chemistry of coffee taste and how the longer you roast the more you spoil the taste of coffee.  email me if you want me to send it, it was published in 2007 but it is incredible.

    On the subject, i specialize in Dota coffee and that is all  i produce/drink.   often i have customers who make references to coffees from other continents and i am always puzzled by that bec i dont know anything or have ever tried anything but coffee from my farm/valley.  the problem is that in Costa Rica it is almost impossible to find coffees from other countries.  So,  i need to book a trip to NYC and start tasting.  Any ideas?

  9. I would love to read this paper.  Could you send it to me at MKevinEvans at  ?

  10. on the way, check your junk mail folder, most mail originating from Costa Rica is classified as spam.

  11. Hi, I’m rather interested in this paper – would it be possible for you to email it to me? 
    megan at @artisanroast:disqus

  12. That paper sounds really interesting.  Could you send me a copy as well?  peter at fortnightcoffee dot com

  13. Peter/persico, i am at the farm today, will email the paper tonight.



  14. Peacock Tea & Coffee, a proudly South African Company, was
    established in 1966, and has become over the past forty years one of
    South Africa’s major supplier of Gourmet Coffee and Teas from the Worlds best growing regions.

    At our coffee plant situated in Wetton, Cape Town, our experienced roasters turn the green coffee bean
    into a product that will tantalise the most discerning palette, our tea
    experts have sourced the best teas from the growing regions across the
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  15. Hi Matias!! I’d  really appreciate if you could send a copy..! Thank you in advance. kontorinis at

  16. Seems that Matias has been very busy :) If not Matias, could someone send me the paper, please?

    otonbrown at

    Thank you very much. 

  17. I would also like a copy of that paper! 

    I find that getting on the forums and “researching” through conversation is probably the most effective means of knowledge transfer at the end of the day, at least on the roasting side of things. Otherwise, learning about Proportional Integral Derivative (PID–for applications in both roasting and pulling shots), roast profiles, the chemistry of coffee roasting (great article here:, and other otherwise tangental subjects are ways to keep challenging yourself and continue perfecting your art. For roasters, becoming a part of the Roaster’s Guild and subscribing to Roast Magazine are a must. Unfortunately, there is really no centralized resource, but there are plenty of online communities that are a great well of knowledge, based on both experience and research, to draw information from. 


  18. OTONBROWN, hi!  Can you confirm reception of the paper? i have sent it twice already, maybe it has gone into your junkmail folder.

    keep in touch.

  19. Greetings from Vietnam.

    I am Hai Van from CuMgar, Daklak, Vietnam. So far, this town is famed for coffee all over Vietnam and Asia.

    In the future, I would love to learn more about coffee and Coffee Tours. It will be great to join in your works and share you all my coffee passions soon. I name my work as Vietnam Coffee Tour.

    Hai Van

  20. We all know Illy has research labs with resources to develop a scientific understanding of coffee preparation, but they don’t release any cutting edge work to avoid giving up a competitive advantage.  However, in order to protect their methods, Illy will publish in the patent literature:

    “Process for treating roasted coffee.”

    “System for controlling the grinding of roast coffee.”

  21. would you be able to email me a copy? mcdonnell.hugh@@hotmail:disqus .com
    thanks a million!

  22. I am a little late to this thread, but is it possible to send a copy of that the paper that Matias was referring to. 

  23. (Probably wrongly) I consider “research” just typing something into Google and seeing what comes up. In my mind there is an ideal of sorts to aspire to in terms of “research”, namely, looking through research papers and articles. However, I wouldn’t know where to find these – and if I did find them, they’d be pay-to-view. Limiting. Finally, if I managed to get my hands on a paper, I wouldn’t know whether it was properly peer-reviewed, what information was statistically significant, or how to extract what WAS significant for my own benefit.  

  24. Hi Matias, please send a copy of the paper to danjakuhn Much appreciated! :)

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