Roasted Vs. Unroasted Coffee Beans (A Quick Guide)

Last Updated on November 18, 2021 by John Moretti

All over the world, drinking a cup of coffee is a daily activity for many people. I know that I wouldn’t be able to survive without my daily cup. I’ve always made my coffee out of roasted coffee beans, but recently I’ve begun to wonder about unroasted coffee beans and how they might differ from roasted ones. So what’s the difference between roasted coffee beans vs. unroasted coffee beans?

Unroasted coffee beans are raw, green, soft, and spongy, difficult to chew and smell woodsy; low caffeine content, and taste bitter as a beverage. Roasted coffee beans are roasted, light to dark brown, hard, crunchy, and smell nutty; high caffeine content and are flavorful if made into a beverage.

Now that we know the main differences between roasted coffee beans and unroasted coffee beans, lets’ take a more in-depth look at each one to see how they differ in their appearance, taste, texture, storage, and shelf life. Another topic to consider is the most important factors when choosing roasted or unroasted coffee beans.

Roasted Vs. Unroasted Coffee Beans: What’s The Difference?

unroasted coffee beans

Unroasted coffee beans are still in their ‘raw’ state. They are green in color, and in some instances, are referred to as the ‘green bean.’ The unroasted beans are the coffee tree cherries, the fruit that has been “processed” or separated but has not undergone roasting yet. They contain all the coffee’s flavor and taste potential. 

Roasted coffee beans have been through the roasting process. They have gone from their ‘raw’ state to their roasted state. This process brings out the coffee flavors and aroma through extreme heat, changing its mineral and chemical make-up. A reduction in the coffee beans’ moisture content also occurs during this process.

Unroasted coffee beans are spongy, soft, difficult to chew, and smell a bit like grass. Taste-wise, they would taste somewhat bitter and woodsy. They have much lower caffeine content, and if you had to make a warm beverage out of them, they would taste more like bitter green tea than coffee. They are more acidic than roasted beans as well.

Roasted coffee beans will have many flavors ranging from chocolatey, flowery, caramelly, and fruity, with an aromatic nutty smell. The taste will depend on the roasting technique; the roasting process also reduces the beans’ weight by reducing their moisture content. Roasted beans also have a higher caffeine content than unroasted beans.

Roasted beans are crunchy when chewed, and initially, they are flavorful but will leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Chocolate-coated beans will not get that bitter aftertaste. Chocolate beans are becoming very popular, and you can find them in some shops and online.

Roasted Coffee Beans: Storage And Shelf Life

Once your coffee is roasted, you need to make sure you keep it away from humidity, extreme temperatures, sunlight, and oxygen. All of these things will make your roasted coffee beans stale. 

If you are buying them off a shop’s shelf, make sure that the bag they are in has a one-way valve, allowing CO2 out without letting in any oxygen. You can treat your freshly roasted coffee beans like fresh produce, as their flavor will start to fade after about a week. 

The first to degrade will be the aroma of your bean. Next to go will be the ‘cup quality.’ Once your coffee bean packet is open, it’s best to store your beans in a tin or airtight container. Coffee beans also can be frozen.

You can also purchase 1 pound and ½ pound valve bags. These bags act the same as the ones you can buy your beans in from the shop. They allow CO2 out and prevent oxygen from getting in.

Unroasted Beans: Storage And Shelf Life

Keeping your unroasted coffee beans dry and cool, preferably at room temperature, would be best for them. They need to stay away from direct sunlight. Do not store your unroasted coffee beans in the refrigerator, as this environment will be too moist for the beans.

The theory for storing unroasted coffee beans is that your beans will be happy if the room temperature is comfortable and good for you. You can keep your unroasted coffee beans in sealable plastic zip lock bags or a glass container. Whichever type of container you use it needs a sound barrier system to keep the moisture out.

Depending on how they have been stored and transported, most unroasted coffee beans will maintain their ‘cup quality’ and stay fresh for six months to one year. After this time, the quality of the bean will start to degrade.

What Are The Different Ways Coffee Beans Can Be Roasted?

There are four different ways of roasting your coffee beans: light, medium, medium-dark, and dark roast. Each has its particular flavor and color, as the roasting techniques will affect the beans differently.

  • Lightly roasted beans: The bean will be light brown, with a milder taste. The beans will have no oil on their surface as they have not been roasted long enough to allow the oils to show on the surface of the beans.
  • Medium roasted beans: The color of the bean will be medium brown and has a strong flavor. It will also have a non-oily surface. Because this type of roast is preferred in the United States, this type of roast is often called the American roast.
  • Medium-dark roasts: Dark, rich color with some oil present on the surface. The aftertaste will be slightly bittersweet.
  • Dark roast: The beans will be shiny black with an oily surface. There will be a pronounced bitterness to the taste. 

How Do You Choose Unroasted Coffee Beans?

There are four main things to consider when choosing your unroasted beans. These will all be essential factors in how your unroasted bean will taste after the roasting process.

  • Origin: The environment that a coffee bean is grown in will affect its final flavor and aroma; these environmental factors include humidity, climate, and soil. 
  • Varieties: The species of coffee and its variety, the genetic category one below species, will significantly impact the final brewed product.
  • Altitude: Higher altitudes result in colder temperatures; this allows the green coffee bean to have a slower growth rate, giving it more time to develop its sugar content. Therefore, beans grown at a higher altitude will have more sweetness, taste profiles that are more complex, and a higher acidity level than coffee beans grown in lower, warmer altitudes. Bear in mind when looking at altitudes, different countries/ regions will have different temperatures.
  • Processing: This is the process that involves removing the coffee beans from the coffee fruit. There are three core ways to do this, and each method will have a different final result. The main ways to process your beans are dry/natural processing, wet/washed processing, and honey processing.


There are some crucial differences between unroasted coffee beans and roasted coffee beans. The main one is that unroasted beans are in their raw state, meaning they have yet to undergo the roasting process, and roasted coffee beans have been through the roasting process.

There are differences in appearance, taste, smell, and chewable texture. They also have a different shelf life, with unroasted coffee beans having a storage life of up to a year before they lose their ‘cup quality,’ whereas roasted coffee beans will start to lose their ‘cup quality’ in a matter of days.