How Are Coffee Beans Graded?

How Are Coffee Beans Graded?

As someone who likes coffee, you might be curious about the classification of coffee. Behind green coffee is a grading system which is an assessment of the coffee's quality. It directly correlates to the flavors you experience in each cup.

Who grades coffee beans?

Not just any coffee lover can assign a grade! Coffee beans are graded by the SCA Coffee Beans Classification. This method takes into account all sorts of different variables based on a 300 gram sample. Things like the number of defects, bean size, unripe beans, and flavours all affect the grade.

How is coffee graded?

The process begins with sorting hulled green beans using various sized screens. Next, they are evaluated for defects, weighed, and undergo roasting and cupping. The culmination of these steps is a final grade, reflecting a multitude of variables.

What are defects?

In coffee bean quality assessment, a defect refers to any imperfection, ranging from unwanted organic matter to the presence of cracked or broken beans, compromising the sample's perfection.

These defects are split into primary and secondary categories.

Primary defects include: 

  • Beans that are over-ripe or improperly stored 
  • Pods or cherries (leftovers from the "shell" that surrounds the coffee bean while it's growing) 
  •  Stones 
  • Sticks

Secondary defects include: 

  • Parchment 
  • Hulls 
  • Broken or chipped beans 
  • Floaters 
  • Water damage

What are the different grades of coffee?

Specialty Grade: No primary defects and only 0-3 defects. Beans must have a consistent size.

Premium Grade: The same as Specialty Grade, but may have 0-8 defects

Exchange Grade: 9-23 full defects, more variety in bean size

Standard Grade: 24-86 full defects

Off-Grade: More than 86 full defects

Why does the grade matter?

A defect in coffee beans can be diverse, from unwanted organic matter, like twigs or leaves, to physical irregularities like cracks, chips, or completely broken beans, each impacting the overall quality of the coffee sample.

So if you want a high quality cup of coffee, you’ll want to stick with premium or specialty grade beans.

At Aladdin, we only order Specialty Grade or Premium Grade beans. We order a 350g sample from the farmer or a broker (since ordering direct means ordering an entire container, which is roughly 250 bags of coffee… and that’s a lot of coffee!)

The sample is roasted and tested before we choose whether or not to buy the beans. This careful process of only choosing the highest grades of beans and testing them thoroughly is why our coffee is the best.

You will love the distinct flavours in this specialty-grade roast.

Characterized by flavour clarity, this Ethiopian coffee makes a clean-tasting cup that showcases bright, complex notes.

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