Sweet Maria's Coffee Library

Coffee FAQs - Roasting, Brewing, Everything!


Follow the links below to articles written by Tom & Maria (and a few great pieces by others in the coffee trade); some facts, some opinions, some ours, some not.

Roast & Brew Tips - General Roasting FAQ and Tips, Sweet Maria's Brewing FAQ and Tips

Equipment - Roaster Machine Tip Sheets, DIY Methods/Instructions, Espresso and Other Equipment, Other Roasters and Obsolete Roasters

Flavor, Cupping & Grading - Articles from Sweet Maria's, Articles We Like from Other Sources

Green & Roasted Coffee Images

Coffee Cultivation - Around the World, Growing Your Own Coffee Plant

Coffee & Health - Caffeine, Fair Trade, Organic

The Coffee Trade - Crop Timetable, Conditions, Notes

Odds & Ends - Music, Quotes, Goings on at Sweet Maria's, and much, much more...

Travelogues - Pictures from Tom's visits to farms and mills around the world

All articles are provided for informational use only, and you are solely responsible for any bad stuff that may come from any crazed home coffee roasting experiments you undertake...from electric shock to a shockingly great cup of coffee! All for the love of of our favorite brown beverage... You also need to ask to re-publish any of this information! No "scraping" allowed.


The Sweetmaria's Blog has current comments about newly arriving coffees, roasting advice and more.

Join our Community Forum for discussion of Green Coffee and Home Roasting Topics.

Click Here for Sweet Maria's List of
Further Readings and Internet Resources

Check out online Back Issues of our
Tiny Joy Newsletter

The Home Coffee Roasting Mailing List is a free discussion group for our home roaster customers.


Sweet Maria's Coffee Library - Topic Categories

Roast & Brew Tips

General Home Roasting FAQs and Tips

General Roast Observations
Home Roasting; Why Bother? by Ed Needham
Visual Guide to The Roast Process
How to Choose a Home Roaster FAQ - Maria has written a good summary of the options.
Blending Basics (with Espresso Blend section)

Choosing Green Coffee FAQ
Cooling the Roast
Roasted Coffee Storage
Green Coffee Storage for Home Roasters


Sweet Maria's Brewing FAQs and Tip Sheets

Brewing Coffee (A framework..) General Brewing Information Sheet

Brewing in a Filtercone (pdf)
Brewing in a Clever Coffee Dripper (pdf)
Filter-Drip Brewing with the Chemex

Vacuum Brewing in the Cona
Vacuum Brewing in the Yama
Hario Vacuum Brewing Instructions

Vacuum Brewing in the Bodum Santos
Stovetop Vacuum Brew Pictorial (Yama, Bodum Santos)

Brewing in the Technivorm (pdf)
Brewing Coffee in an Ibrik
Moka Pot Brewing (Stovetop Espresso)
Using an Aeropress



Roaster Machine Tip Sheets - For available and discontinued models

Roaster Comparison Chart

Roaster Tip Sheets and Reviews
Behmor 1600 roaster
FreshRoast Tip Sheet (pdf)
Gene Cafe Roaster (pdf)
Hearthware iRoast Tip Sheet & Troubleshooting FAQ
Hearthware I-Roast Review with pictures.
HotTop Roasting Tip Sheet
Nesco Tip Sheet


D.I.Y. Equipment Instructions & Modifications


Espresso Equipment and Other Coffee Equipment

Here's a look at the professional sample roasters we brought in from Brazil.

Espresso Pages
- constantly revised and updated

A page with my hand-pull Pavoni espresso machine observations, and full scans of the diagram charts and parts lists heretofore not available on the net.

The Pasquini Livia 90

I made a page for our new/old La San Marco Hand-Pull Espresso Behemoth


Other Roasters, Obsolete Roasters


Flavor, Cupping & Coffee Grading

Articles from Sweet Maria's

Tom logs all the incoming samples that I cup whether we buy them or not. Tom's Cupping Log. This might, over time, give people an idea of the process, and all the coffees we go through to find the really nice lots.

Choosing Green Coffe FAQ
Taste Terminology and Roast Names
How We Select Coffees, and "Cupping"
Our Coffee Review Reference Page
Our Coffee Cupping Review Archives
Here's the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel!
Roast Temperature Curve Page (under construction!)
Here's Looking at Green Beans
Green Coffee Freshness Issues
Coffee Packaging and Freshness

A little cupping test performed on Ethiopia Yirgacheffe to evaluate any difference in the cup character based on screen size.

I did a short page on the First Ever Cupping Class at Sweet Maria's that happened July 2008.


Articles We Like from Other Sources

A fascinating article "Tourist in a Taste Lab" from Discover magazine on the varying sensitivity to taste from one person to the next.

Roasting Article by Carl Staub from SCAA Roast Kit Literature

I have uploaded some interesting articles from past SCAA presentations I attended, or nearly attended... Sensory Evaluation of Coffee, one on Comparisons of Wine & Coffee, and an article on Evaluation of Green Coffee Samples. Each has some valuable tidbits.

Green Coffee Storage From Crop to Cup is an article about green coffee storgage on a large scale. Listed below is an article about green coffee storage for home roasters.

Preface to Coffee Quality by Michael Sivetz

An look at Organic and Fair Trade coffee in Ethiopia, as of 2004.

An interesting article about coffee chemistry and freshness

Robusta Characteristics from Nestle

A tribute to Paul Stauder Jr., an important person who helped us get some of our greatest Guatemala coffees.

We have posted a .PDF version of the Imbibe Magazine article that featured 3 Sweet Maria's home roasting customers.


Green & Roasted Coffee Images

I posted a new set of Macro Images of Coffee Beans --- just some neat closeups of beans in their various stages, from cherry to green to roasted.

I created a new version of the Roasted Coffee Visual Guide with much improved pictures. Click on the small images to see the larger versions, and I have also added a multi-bean photo for each roast stage. We also have an older Degree of Roast pictorial page.

Another attempt to explain the differences in roasted coffee color, surface texture, and corresponding ground coffee color.

A collection of single-bean macro images representing different varietals and processes. It's not exhaustive at all, but simply what I had nearby. -Tom

The Gesha lots are here (summer 2008) and I made a page to help with roasting, using my new Canon 100mm macro lens! Gesha Roast Pictures page.

Costa Rica RIP Red Honey Coffee. RIP? Roasted In Parchment. This coffee has not been dry-milled, the green bean is still in the outer shell. In perhaps the wackyest moment in Sweet Maria's history, we discovered you can roast coffee in the parchment shell, and it has a very unusual flavor. This is for experts only, since you can't really see the green coffee as it turns brown. See the review and the pictures of the RIP process.


Coffee Cultivation

Around the World

A page with some interesting microscopic images of the coffee seed, and the difference between a healthy bean and a defective bean.

Coffee Cultivars: Here is a collection of images from my travels of many different types of varietals.

A friend sent me a couple interesting photos from India, which I turned into a page about Exotic Coffee Cultivars

Growing Your Own Coffee Plant - (really?! Yes. We'll try anything.)

I have updated the page about my coffee plant Growing Coffee at Home.

How about Home Processing Coffee? Well, you need coffee cherry to do that. I brought back some extra from Costa Rica so I gave home wet-processing a try.


Coffee & Health

Health and Ecological Concerns

I get frustrated reading magazine articles that oversimplify the issues with coffee production - they are just big sales pitches to niche markets in my mind. And I am not anti-organic! But are you doing "the right thing" when you buy cheap Peru Organic at Trader Joe's. Actually, no. I decided to write a respone to one I call "Organic Alarmists"

Here's some information about Utz Kapeh, a new sorta "Fair Trade Lite" showing up in the US market for the first time on our Brazil Impanema Dulce.

The Caffeine FAQ

Ethyl Acetate Decaf Process by Cafiver Inc

The CO-2 Decaf Method

Genetic Decaf Coffee Trees!

Please also see our page about how we donate to relief organizations



The Coffee Trade

Coffee Production Yearly Timetable

It's the middle of the busy season but it's also time for the Brazil Coffee Auction! I posted a list of the 2002 winning coffees and a few comments We have a special page dedicated to our lot of the 2002 Brazil Cup of Excellence, Fazenda Boa Vista.

Here's some comments and pictures from a recent cupping of India Coffees with Ken Davids, and a tour of Mr. Espresso's wood-fired roasters.

I had a nice visit over at Intelligentsia in Chicago.

We have some new pictures pertaining to our Rwanda coffees. Our lot of Womens Coop Duhingekawa Rushashi demands a separate Duhingekawa page with additional photos and information about this group. And our Rwanda Butare Bourbon is the result of improvements at the Bufcafe cooperative mill. Washing stations (wet mills) are communal, and often used by more than one farm or cooperative. Here is info about the wet mill improvement project.

An excellent article surveying the state of African coffee.

There have been two excellent coffee articles in the New York Times recently. One is a travel article to the Panama coffee-growing region of Boquete. The other is an R.W. Apple article about Kona coffee.

Technical Notes for Yemen Coffees from YSC, Ltd.

Bad Coffee Weather in Brazil.

A round up of all the CoE competitions from 2009.

The SCAA show in Seattle went down and I went up, and felt downbeat so did this write-up which comes down on things but it's up to you to decide what's going down when upscale coffee sellers are really sliding downslope ... blah blah blah. -Tom

Mike McKoffee has prepared a Costa Rica La Minita (CRLM) cupping from the last 4 crops and I was one of the cuppers in the experiment. Here's my results.

Our coffee shipment on the way from the Isle of St. Helena years ago. Here's some wonderful pictures!

Please also see our page about how we donate to relief organizations.


The Odds & Ends!

Oddball Coffee Sounds and Muzics ...

Coffee has inspired some great historical comment, essays, protests, opera, etc. Here are some of my favorite historical quotations on the subject of coffee.

Coffee vs. Wine, the debate goes on. This was the article I prepared for the March Tiny Joy, before editing it.

Use and care of the Coffee Cuppers Spittoon!

Don't ask why, but we keep a page just for obsolete products ... RIP

I had made a page that concerns Buying Bags of Coffee, essentially some insights about dealing with brokers and why I feel like home roasters and startup roasters should be cautioned away from doing so. Might sound self-serving, but there's other reasons for this position... Nice pictures too!

The Home Roast List's Pacific Northwest Gathering #2 was in Oakland (Oakland Oregon that is). Here are some fairly lame pictures I took

It's summer and that means PNWG III!

And also theSan Francisco Bay Area Home Roaster get-together, featuring Jeffrey Paulins computer controlled Hot Top.

Just to prove I am down with the whole barista competition thing, we have started offering limited quantities of ou own special 12 oz. jars of Barista Jam. Okay, that's not true, but our new line of products we call Baristawarez2000 is all too real. Strictly for the serious shot-puller.

Read about Tom's attempts to fashion a custom chaff collector for the Hearthware iRoast

Roasting Cocoa Beans at Home (or ...not)
...and ... Regis Hanna wrote a great description of processing raw cacao into hot chocolate.

that used our Green Coffee


We had a periodic cupping club years ago called RoastBusters. Here's the results of the last one.

A review from the NYT for the book Uncommon Grounds.

Sweet Maria's coffees were reviewed by Ken Davids in Sept. 99 CoffeeReview

Coffee is still transported as it was 200 years ago, in 60 to 70 Kg Burlap Coffee Bags. Here's a sampling of ours.

Here's what a real East Bay coffee warehouse looks like.

The new sweet maria's skateboard a la natas kaupas for freestyle flip tricks is but a hoax. Well, yes and no. I have one, but you can't ride it... unless you come to west oakland, and ask nicely. And sign this waiver ...

Here's some pictures of our empty old place in Emeryville and our new place in hot, upcoming, hi-energy West Oakland!

A recap of our first Homeroasters' Dream Camp
and some images from the camp.

Some pictures of our Diedrich 12 K Roaster .. moving it, installing it, and running over Judy's hedgehog.

An quick look at the fun stuff we find in coffee, sometimes.

I did a short page on the First Ever Cupping Class at Sweet Maria's that happened July 2008.


Our Coffee Trade, Farm & Cupping Trips


We have a new system for travelogue photos - from now on - everything is there. We will also migrate the older trip reports into this system eventually.

Some photos from from a short trip I took to Costa Rica in January 2010.


A trip to Africa in late November early December 2009 included Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.

A trip to a cupping competition Taza Dorada in Ecuador in late October 2009 included a few days in Colombia to check out the sources of our micro-lots.

Some thoughts and photos from my trip to Peru in September 2009 are here.

Oh look, it's the 2009 SCAA Roaster's Guild Retreat Review. It's all about the Gangs!

Ben and Maria met me in Costa Rica for a Central America Family Coffee get-together, and then we all went to the Best of Panama competition in Boquete (May 2009).

During and after the 2009 El Salvador Cup of Excellence, I visited some of our important coffee sources, such as Aida Batlle's Kilimanjaro farm, and Vickie Dalton's Finca Matalapa. Here's some photos of my El Salvador Travels.

El Salvador Cup of Excellence 2009 photos. Woo!

SCAA 2009 Atlanta. A Grumpy Commentary

Tom's trip reports from the trip he made in late March 2009 to Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are just posted. The trips were short - but action packed! Lots of good information about what we can expect in terms of coffees from the new crop in these countries. And of course, lots of fun photos.- Maria

I'm not finished yet. I keep generating material from this recent Africa trip. I was writing some actual commentary. Here is a link to the Kenya Travelogue, and here you can find commentary from Ethiopia> (2009)-Tom



Tom took a trip to Sumatra and Sulawesi in November 2008; it was a looonnng trip that seemed all too short. I divided the pictures into

    • North Sumatra, including Lintong and the Lake Toba area.
    • The Aceh District of Sumatra (actually north of North Sumatra!) which includes Takengon and the areas around Lake Tawar.
    • .... and thenSulawesi and Tana Toraja, an amazing, mystical place, where I handily whacked my head crawling through a tunnel in a Toraja traditional burial cave. It still hurts. -Tom
Tom returned from a Cupping Competition in Peru September 2008 with a handful of pictures, and some thoughts on why Peru coffee isn't as respected as it could be ...

The shennanigans of the Costa Rica Micro-Millers visit to Sweet Maria's September 2008.

I have 2 new photosets for recent trips to Ethiopia's Harar region, and from the first-ever Rwanda Cup of Excellence Competition 2008. You can also view both of these on our Coffee Image Gallery site.

Many may not know about the problems internal to the SCAA Roaster's Guild, but it came to a head at the 2008 Roaster's Guild Retreat due to gangs from Mille Lac. Read more ...

I had a very interesting Colombia trip to Huila, Cauca and Narino districts in late May 2008 but have been delayed getting the pictures together. You can also see it on the beta images site.

I did a lot of cupping in Guatemala City looking for special lots, and then some quick trips to farms in the nearby states. Check out my Guatemala Travelogue. What, another Guatemala trip a few weeks later, with the family (Maria, Ben, my Mom, Myself), and yet another Guatemala Picturelog for 2008.

I can't go to the Tolima area of Colombia where our Las Florestales is from ... there's too much FARC Guerilla activity in the area! But our coffee sourcer for this lot, Genevieve was able to go (2008).

A whirlwind tour of Costa Rica Micro Mills in mid February 2008!.

January 2008: India ... another example of gross camera addiction. I took 1350 images, and narrowed it down to 302 for my India Travelogue. There's also a brief essay....



Here's a travelogue of my trip to Ethiopia in November 2007 to cup at many exporters in Addis Ababa, and get ready for the new crop coffees.

It took a week to sort through them all, but here is my little travelogue for Yemen in November 2007, just 350 photos or so. You can view it here, or on our new beta site Image Gallery. It's one of the most intriguing coffee origins, and one of the best trips I have taken.

A short but sweet cupping trip to the Dota, Tarrazu and Naranjo regions of Costa Rica.

Since we are finally offering Daterra Yellow Bourbon, I have made a page to describe Daterra Farms, including a snippet of my travelogue and photos of their amazing coffee processing system.

A real short trip to Motozintla, Mexico, "land of the squirrels," way south in Chiapas state at the border with Guatemala.

Here's my totally uninformative picture book of the 2007 Roasters Guild Retreat and a matching, very curmudgeonly comments about the 2007 SCAA Conference in Long Beach.



Peru, what an amazing place, what a screwy place in terms of coffee. If I seem too harsh, 395 photos in a travelog (and a video to boot) should show the enthusiasm I also have for Peru, there are 7 pages of thumbnail images, and I hope you find some of it, if not most of it, interesing: Peru Coffee Tour 2006

Travelog for Guatemala Cup of Excellence and other Guatemala travels 2006

Travelogue for El Salvador >Cup of Excellence 2006

I posted new travelogs for my recent trips, with all my coffee competition cupping scores and the final results. First off was the 2006 Best of Panama competition, then off to to Honduras Cup of Excellence 2006/a> in San Pedro Sula, and finally the 2006 Nicaragua Cup of Excellence competition in Granada, Nicaragua (a beautiful colonial town). I hope you can tolerate some tongue-in-cheek commentary, with a smattering of useful observations. Lots of pictures, and some of them actually have something to do with coffee! -Tom ...



Back from the Brasil Cafe do Cerrado 2005 event , but off to Bolivia Cup of Excellence (hurricane permitting)[hurricane was not permitting - here are the Bolivia 2005 winners though]. I had time to parse 800 photos and ended up with about 150 that I just had to share. Why do I do this? I don't know. And be warned that a lot of it is not about coffee, strictly speaking. -Tom

Since we are finally offering Daterra Yellow Bourbon, I have made a page to describe Daterra Farms, including a snippet of my travelogue and photos of their amazing coffee processing system.

January harvest trip to Nicaragua and El Salvador and a whole mess o' pictures, as usual. Check out the Nicaragua - El Salvador Travelogue.

I have finished the travelog for my Colombia Trip, which includes the 2005 Cup of Excellence competition. It's a different format than before, more and I put a lot of work into it. I hope you get something out of it.

And there is a special feature: What does a coffee cupping room sound like? Well, I made a little stereo recording while walking around the room at the 2005 Colombia CoE, "Sounds of Cupping Coffee".



I am back from Kona and the2004 Kona Cupping Competition and made a travelogue of the event ... which feels a bit incomplete. Even with a limited time there, it makes a big impression and there is no way to convey it in a few photos. -Tom...

I have finished my rather extensive travelogue from Brazil 2004 Cerrado Competition and Coffee Tour. Maria thinks I am nuts. I spent 3 days trimming down my 600 pictures to a mere 179, and writing the decriptions for each. There is just so much I learn on each new trip, so these web pages are as much for myself as you everyone else.

I finally finished a complete journal and slide show for my trip as a judge at the 2004 El Salvador Cup of Excellence Competition. It includes a visit to the ProCafe Experimental Coffee Farm with lots of Cultivar Pictures!

I also did a "slide show" of pictures from the Nicaragua Cup of Excellence coffee competition, 2004 . It took me a long time to get the pages together and so I am sorry it lacks detail. But there are some nice images...

I created a sort of quick and temporary page of images from last week's Costa Rica trip (2004).

My review of El Salvador 2004 Cup of Excellence

I did not attend the 2004 Honduras Cup of Excellence as a judge, but I did evaluate the coffees at the group cupping. Here's a run down.



There's a new pictorial of my 2003 trip to the Bolivia Coffee Competition in 2 sections Page 1 and Page 2, and a short Bolivia Movie too!.

I have made a "slide show" of my trip to the 2003 Best of Panama cupping competition.

My Honduras Cupping Trip 2003: Part One is the competition and tour of the Northern coffee lands. Part Two is the tour of the Southern coffee lands near the capital of Tegucigalpa.

I have a lot of information and pictures from a tour of Nicaragua this year, including judging in the Cup of Excellence competition. ...

I had a couple comments and pictures from the 2003 SCAA Conference in Boston.



A new page from my trip to the Panama Cupping Competition in early April 2002 is done!

Tom's 2001 SCAA Convention Report ...bitter, very bitter.

I have finally completed a lengthy pictorial page on my Trip to the Guatemala Highlands, April 2001.


Tiny Joy, our newsletter, in plain text web format (and later in .pdf)

(This is not fancy, just the articles really, so everyone can have access to them. It is not a complete list, our '97 and most of '98 are missing, as are a few from '00.
The layouts get a bit messed up when they are converted from print to web, but it is all there...)