Does your coffee get a passing grade?
As a coffee lover, you may have wondered about the grade on your bag of coffee. What is the grade, and what does it mean in terms of the taste of your brew?
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?
Hulled green beans are sorted over differently sized screens. The beans are evaluated for defects, weighed, and then roasted and cupped. The final grade is a combination of many variables!
What are defects?
A defect is something that makes the sample of beans not-quite-perfect. This might be anything from things that shouldn't be in the coffee, like organic matter, to cracked or broken beans.
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)
Secondary defects include:
- Broken or chipped beans
- 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?
Many coffees that you can buy in cans or at the grocery store will be exchange grade or lower. This is reflected in the price, but also in the taste of the brewed coffee.
Defects can cause sourness, acidity, woodiness, loss of aroma, and a whole host of other flavour issues. Inconsistencies in size can result in subpar roasting.
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.