FAQ | Sensible Coffee, Specialty Coffee Auctions & Direct Trade Coffee

How To Bid

Bidding on the internet is much the same as bidding for an item on-site in a live auction room. There are many different styles of auctions and an online auction seeks to replicate each experience, for buyers to participate from anywhere in the world. For those who have not taken part in an online coffee auction before, here’s how the process works.

Live Auction

How does the live auction work?

This type of auction works like a traditional in house auction

  • Bidding opens for each lot individually.
  • Bidding will work like a traditional auction, with each high bid pushing the time out more.
  • Once the highest bid has been established on the lot, the auction moves on to the next.
  • The lots vary in volume; this gives you a better chance of finding a lot that suits your business.
  • We can supply samples if you would like to try the coffee before purchase.
How long does the auction last?

Helmsman Auction

How does the Helmsman auction work?

The most important part of any auction is the bidding. In a traditional auction the bidding starts for one lot at a time, with bids increasing until the highest bid, with no further bids above it, wins the lot. Specialty coffee auctions are different – they work as a ‘Helmsman’ style auction also known as ‘ multi-unit’. It works like this:

  • Open bidding starts and continues on all lots simultaneously until each and every lot has received an initial bid.
  • As soon as every lot has a first bid on it, the clock starts ticking for the whole auction and all lots are set with a 3 minute countdown.
  • Each time a new bid is placed on any of the lots the clock resets to 3 minutes for all the lots. The auction continues until the clock hits zero with no further bids to reset it.
  • In this way the bidding on the auction as a whole sets the price for all the lots.
  • Because the outcome of each lot is dependent upon the clock and the competitive bidding on the other lots, the clock is reset many times over.
How long does the auction last?

The usual time allowed for the initial period (before all lots have received a bid) is an hour, but will be determined by the number of lots and participating buyers. Once the clock starts ticking, it all depends on the level of demand. Do not be mistaken into thinking that this style of auction is over very quickly – expect several hours for specialty coffee auctions.

Reverse Auctions

How does the Reverse auction work?

This type of auction sees the price falling from the starting price towards a reserve price.

  • Bidding opens at the starting time for the auction and will remain open for up to 2 weeks
  • Once the auction is open anyone can buy the coffee on sale at the (FOB) price on offer.
  • The lots vary in volume; this gives you a choice on how much to pay for each quantity on offer.
  • Larger volumes are available at a lower $/kg
  • The price will decrease twice a day.
  • It is up to you to assess when the price is right for you buy.
  • There is jeopardy to this style of auction; you may have your preferred level of pricing but will someone else get in there before you do?
  • To buy the coffee press *Buy Now @ $/kg*; you will secure the volume coffee at that FOB price.
  • We can supply samples if you would like to try the coffee before purchase.
How long does the auction last?

The auctions will last for two weeks. You can buy at any time once bidding is open on the auction.

For all Auction’s

Do I have to register?

Yes, to bid in our auction you have to first register with us. This means we know who you are and that you understand and accept our Terms & Conditions. Once your registration has been accepted you can begin bidding.

How can I keep track of the auction in progress?

Real time updates are essential in a coffee auction where the auction clock is counting down quickly between bids, and it is what makes online systems perfect for this type of auction. We recommend that you have a fast stable internet connection for your auction participation.


What are coffee samples?

Samples are sold before the auction to allow potential buyers to try before they buy. They will come as green coffee, usually in bags of around 300 grams. These are usually shipped to arrive two weeks before the auction itself to allow time for the coffee to be roasted and cupped.

How much do samples cost?

Samples will vary in price. This will be dependent on size, farm and where it’s being sent from.

When will my sample arrive?

We always aim to have stop sample sales two weeks before the auction date. This stops customers from orderings samples too late and not receiving them in time. Tracking numbers are usually supplied for sample orders so you will know where they are.