Journal Article

The Storage of Green Coffee (<i>Coffea arabica</i>): Decrease of Viability and Changes of Potential Aroma Precursors

Dirk Selmar, Gerhard Bytof and Sven-Erik Knopp

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 101, issue 1, pages 31-38
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online November 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
The Storage of Green Coffee (Coffea arabica): Decrease of Viability and Changes of Potential Aroma Precursors

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

When green coffee is stored for a prolonged time the coffee quality decreases distinctively. Apart from well-known ‘off-notes’ that arise from undesired oxidations of lipids, a typical ‘flattening’ of the cup quality is detectable. In order to elucidate the biological causes for this phenomenon, differentially processed coffees (wet, dry, semi-dry processing), were stored under standard conditions for 2 years and analysed comprehensively.


Wet-processed coffee was stored either as parchment coffee, where the endocarp remained around the beans or as hulled beans. Viability of coffee seeds was estimated using the tetrazolium-test of seed viability. Changes in concentration of free amino acids and soluble carbohydrates were analysed by HPLC.

Key Results

Whereas all other coffees lost viability within the first 6 months of storage, coffee beans stored within the parchment remained viable for >1 year. Glucose and fructose decreased slightly in the course of storage and glutamine content declined significantly. However, the changes observed in sugar and amino acid content were not correlated with the viability of the coffee beans. Consequently, neither typical metabolic reactions occurring within living cells nor characteristic post-mortem reactions could be responsible for the observed changes. As a result of post-mortem reactions in re-imbibed seeds, a characteristic bluish-green colour developed, putatively due to the oxidation of chlorogenic acids and subsequent reactions with primary amino compounds. This coloration might be an appropriate marker to substantiate if coffee seeds had been stored for an expanded time and putative quality losses were not relevant so far.


It is suggested that loss of viability is relevant for the aroma flattening. As neither metabolic nor post-mortem reactions were responsible for the observed changes, it is concluded that Maillard reactions that occur during storage might be the cause of the decrease in potential aroma precursors.

Keywords: Coffea arabica; coffee processing; post-harvest treatment; storage, loss of viability; viridinic acid

Journal Article.  6205 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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