Why are unroasted coffee beans more expensive than roasted and ground coffee?

Why are unroasted coffee beans more expensive than roasted and ground coffee?

You can check the answer of the people under the question at Quora “unroasted green coffee beans for sale

0 thoughts on “Why are unroasted coffee beans more expensive than roasted and ground coffee?”

  1. Distribution mostly. You aren’t getting wholesale pricing, so they have to re-package from the original huge coffee bags and sell to a limited customer base.
    I have a local shop that sells green coffee, average of $7/lb, if you get 5lb bags you get a slight price-break. This is affordable for hobbyists and folks like me with low yields, not so much for commercial roasting. Anyway, they get their beans from an established local roasting/distribution source, but they still don’t get the best pricing because they only purchase a few hundred pounds at a time (I think a full coffee bag is 140lbs if not mistaken). So my local shop has to handle and repackage the green coffee, and try to make a small profit (I think they pay around 3–4$ per/lb.).
    So unless you have a relationship with sources (growers/farms/distributors) overseas, or even on-shore, you will have to pay off the middle-men. Personally, I think it is worthwhile, as the coffee doesn’t get any better once you learn your craft.

  2. My guess is its just economies of scale. There are far more buyers of roasted coffee, whether whole bean or ground. Having unroasted coffee come off a production line and be processed separately is a bother for the big guys. And why would they do so since their main market is in roasted beans. So selling unroasted raw beans is a niche thing. The folks that do this need to get paid so their per packet revenue and profit generally needs to be higher…

  3. Unroasted beans are significantly less expensive than roasted beans if you buy them from a company specializing in coffee roasting supplies. The only reason I can think that they would be more expensive is that some company is trying to take advantage of the “green coffee fad” and gouging you on prices.
    My only experience with green coffee beans is related to roasting them and consuming the results.
    I’ve done business with a few companies, but so far, Sweet Maria’s is my favorite small scale supplier. I typically buy larger amounts from Coffee Shrub (Sweet Maria’s wholesale arm).

  4. They are not.
    When comparing like for like (same bean variatal, country of origin etc), unroasted beans are much cheaper than roasted beans.
    The reason is obvious — roasting is an additional process, and has a cost associated that must be recovered. Like in a restaurant — cooked meals are more expensive than the raw ingredients.

  5. There are many grades in coffee depending on bean size, color etc. Most pleasing beans are sold as unroasted coffee. So they are more expensive. The imperfect beans are much cheap and can be used for roasting hence less costly

  6. I love this question! Keep on doing that: asking yourself why stuff works the way it does.
    OK, so about coffee.
    First, about ground coffee. That’s put in a grinder for you, which is usually done in a factory. The grounds are packaged and make it to a supermarket. You buy it, and make your coffee.
    Why is this cheaper than the other 2 kinds of coffee? Two reasons:
    The coffee tastes awful. Most coffee tastes better when it’s freshly roasted and ground. Now, here’s capitalism at work: the ground coffee isn’t cheaper, the beans are simply more expensive . (Note that these two are not equal.)
    Factories, supermarkets, all that stuff is automated and optimized. That drives down the cost. Often it’s done in cheap labor countries: geoarbitrage and globalism at work.
    OK, then roasted coffee. It’s more expensive because:
    Roasted coffee sometimes has a single-origin, meaning it comes from one single (or several related) coffee plants. It cost an enormous amount of money to get it to you, which means that it’s more expensive.
    The amount of coffee that the plant makes is also limited, driving up the cost. It’s a sort of reverse scarcity: because the plant produces less, it sells for more.
    Coffee’s become more expensive in recent times because of it’s popularity. A coffee machine for in the home has become more affordable, and people are better educated about types of coffee. That’s driven demand up, and that drives the price up. Coffee shops benefit from this and can charge a premium price for specialty coffee.
    OK, then unroasted coffee. This is something I know the least about, but consider the following:
    Green beans you buy are most likely to come from one single coffee plant.
    You’re probably buying in smaller quantities, and you’re not a big long-term buyer.
    Green beans need packaging, handling. Then there’s different kinds of beans, more profitable ones (Robusta) and more specialized ones (Arabica).
    You’re directly influenced by conditions on the plant, policies, buying agreements, etc. This can drive the price up and down temporarily.
    Think about it like this: what’s the true cost of having a cow in your backyard, milking it every morning, to get a glass of milk.
    Then, what’s the cost of a pack of milk?
    The milk pack is cheaper, for sure.
    Related reading material: The Hidden Costs of Coffee

  7. Honestly, this question threw me for a loop. Maybe I just know where to look, but I’ve generally noticed the opposite: raw coffee beans tend to be cheaper to buy that cooked whole beans and pre-ground coffee.

  8. Because few people want to roast their own coffee. Roasted beans are a commodity in supermarkets, they are mass produced and bought by millions.
    Unroasted coffee (as a retail item) is only sought after by a few freaks, who believe their coffee brewing is still too simple by just using high-end grinders and exotic brewing techniques. I can easily be talked into doing crazy stuff like this myself, but roasting coffee is really tough.
    So that makes green coffee a specialty item for which other economies of scale apply when you‘re in mass retail. I buy my coffee in a small shop where the owner does her own roasting and I‘m pretty sure she‘d sell me the green beans at the same or a lower price than the roasted ones. But then I pay much more for the roasted ones anyway, if you compare that to supermarket prices.

  9. Well… I expect an economist could offer a better explanation, but I’ll take a stab at it. The way coffee is processed can yield some truly weird results. To quote from comments in the wonderful Anthropology in Practice series on coffee :
    I work in Peru, where a lot of coffee, particularly organic coffee, is grown. What’s always seemed strange to me is that quality coffee is not available in most of the country. Whereas brewed coffee is sold at every street corner in non-coffee producing countries like Chile and the US, Nescafe instant is the only coffee you’ll find in most Peruvian stores, restaurants, and homes, even in cities of 70,000 people or more. It costs more than in the US (while most foods cost less), about a day’s wages for a rural laborer for an 8oz/225g can of instant coffee. Instant coffee is really popular as a breakfast item, often with sugar and evaporated milk.
    What kinds of economic patterns could lead to a product being less available and more expensive in the country in which it is produced? Why don’t growers bring beans to markets in the highlands or the coast and undermine Nestle’s monopoly with a cheaper, tastier product? I have never been able to fathom it. It may have something to do with the fact that part of instant coffee’s appeal is that it is a pre-packaged product you buy in a store, not at the market. As such, it is a marker of middle class identity. Or maybe the growers have exclusive contracts keeping them from selling their beans domestically. Does anyone have ideas about what’s going on?
    More on that subject here.
    Point being, the way we produce and consume coffee can yield some counter intuitive results where the final product in more available than the less-processed product, even in regions that produce it!
    Now, as other quorans have brought up, there’s a great deal of diversity in coffee prices: the price takes many factors into account. Sure, green single origin Arabica beans are more expensive than a Folgers, but the price difference isn’t because of them being roasted and ground vs. not.
    I haven’t really compared prices on green beans vs. equivalent roasted and ground coffee. In fact, that’s an awfully difficult thing to do! Do you compare based on volume? Weight? Those change in the roasting process, which means that different roasts will make a difference. Should they be the exact same bean?
    Hey, that’s where it gets really tough.
    As a private individual (i.e., not someone who can buy wholesale) I can buy roasted, ground coffee at any grocery store, box store, coffee shop, and convenience store.
    In comparison, even living in a big city, I only know a handful of coffee shops which will sell me green coffee beans, and offhand I know only one shop that sells green coffee beans.
    This is where we get into supply and demand. Overall, consumer demand for green coffee beans is low – most people don’t have roasters, many don’t have grinders. So there are very few retailers who sell green coffee beans. Locally, that means the supply is lower than the demand – the city I live in has a pretty large Ethiopian population – and so the few retailers who do sell green coffee beans charge about as much for those green coffee beans as roasteries charge for their roasted beans.
    “Why does X cost as much as it does?” can be a surprisingly complex question when you dig into it; I’d say the reasons in this case have more to do with economics than with coffee. Green coffee beans are a very niche commodity with relatively few retailers and consumers, and the omnipresent reality that there’s a far greater demand for the more-processed product. If you want green coffee beans, you need to either make it worthwhile for a wholesaler to also be set up to sell retail, or for a roaster to sell the unfinished product even though they have the roaster right there and the roasted beans will sell faster, or for a retailer to buy the unroasted beans even though (again) the roasted ones sell faster. In all of these scenarios, expect the green coffee beans to be more expensive than you can account for with production costs alone.

  10. I add my voice to those saying unroasted is usually cheaper. Assuming you are comparing comparable quality.
    There are a few guys that sell green coffee in very small quantities to consumers that have to charge a lot and would be pricier than a large commercial roaster but think about it – Roasters buy green coffee, roast and pack and ship (And lose 15–20% of the poundage) – they have to charge more than what they paid for the green coffee.

  11. Unroasted beans are not more expensive than roasted and ground coffee.
    However some unroasted coffee beans are more expensive than some “roasted and ground coffee”.
    If you buy expensive unroasted coffee beans in small quantities you may end up paying more than cheap commodity roasted coffee.

    Victor Allen’s

  12. I don’t find that at all. It depends on what quality of ground coffee you are talking about. The ground coffee in the store at a price point under $6.00 a pound will contain more robusta coffee of lower quality and bitterness. If you are a home roaster you can purchase single origin coffees of very high quality and roast a very good quality cup of coffee (if you’re a practiced roaster) for almost half the retail price of retail micro-lot whole bean coffees you would buy for over $12.00 a pound or more.
    Large commercial roasters are buying based on commodity prices in bulk from importers on the coasts of the USA at much lower than we the consumer can buy it for in the store roasted or definitively as a home roaster in 5–10 lb. bags.

  13. I buy both roasted and unroasted coffee, typically the unroasted (or green) coffee is always cheaper. This should be the case from anywhere who sells both, because roasting coffee requires the labor and packing.
    If you go to vendors who only sell green coffee, you should notice that the price per pound is usually from $3 – 8. The high deviation being from the grade and origin, and often times if the importer does direct trade they may pay above the fair market value to help farming sustainability in those countries.
    Now if you look at buying roasted coffee in a market or at a speciality coffee roaster, most bags are sold in 12 ounces and go from $15–20, again depending on origin usually (grade is less relevant at this point because it’s all about marketing the farm, origin, and process). Obviously 12 ounces is less than a pound, and the cost is much higher than the green equivalent. Keep in mind when you roast coffee about 15% avg weight is lost from moisture evaporation, which would also make it more expensive by weight after its roasted.

  14. The simple answer is, they aren’t, at least not for apples to apples comparisons. If your goal is to get your caffeine buzz as cheaply as possible, its true, Folgers and the like is cheaper. Thanks to economies of scale, they can mass produce roasted, ground commodity coffee more cheaply than you can. But home roasters are generally looking for quality, and they aren’t buying commodity coffee. The very same coffee that might sell for around $6/lb on a home roaster focused webstore like Sweet Marias, would sell for around $18 for a 12 oz bag from most specialty roasters. High grade coffee is substantially more expensive than the cheap stuff.

    Eight O’Clock


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