Our shop joined this bazaar and we we're selling roasted beans (Brazil Santos) which we get green then roast in our shop. A customer was asking questions about the coffee beans and the only one thing I wasn't able to answer thoroughly was: "Is this organic?"

What coffee is organic? or should I say: How or when do we consider a certain coffee to be organic?

2 Answers 2


You were most likely right in saying 'no' straight out.

Coffee is considered organic if no chemical substances were used for its production. This includes herbicides, pesticides, and I believe some fertilizers too. Wikipedia agrees with this.

But even if you're a coffee producer and you're sure you don't use chemical substances and there are no residues in the soil, that's not enough. You have to certify your product and you'll be able to say that your coffee is certified organic. The certification process and agency will depend on where the coffee is grown.

Of course, the certification costs. And some producers might not afford it (thanks to Chris_in_AK for pointing this out).

Since you're only roasting the beans and not producing them, it's not really up to you (you could ask your provider if the beans they're selling you are certified organic). But you could buy beans that are certified organic.

  • It's harder still. Some farmers may be producing entirely organic crops, but if they can't afford the certification process, their coffee is not "certified organic". Jun 22, 2016 at 19:56
  • @Chris_in_AK you're right. I forgot to mention that certification costs.
    – Roflo
    Jun 22, 2016 at 20:20

Even if the beans are certified USDA Organic, there are also conditions set upon you as the roaster of the beans:

If the operation does not have a dedicated roaster or grinder for organic beans, it must implement measures to remove all non-organic residues from equipment. This is most effectively done by conducting a purge or flush with organic beans in which a pre-determined amount of organic beans is run through the roaster and/or grinder to flush out all residues that could not be removed through physical cleaning. The amount used for flushing the system must be agreed upon by the ACA and the operator. The beans used for this flush must be disposed of or sold as non-organic as they would not be eligible for organic representation. The beans following the flush will be deemed organic compliant.

Organic Coffee Roasters: Ensuring Safe Coffee also FACT: Coffee roasts labeled organic must be roasted on a separate roaster

I never knew this and I wonder how many small shop roasters adhere to this.

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