Coffee Grading

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Coffee grading is an important step in coffee production, in which the appearance of the green coffee beans suggests a lot about the quality. Different countries have their own grading system and criteria for green coffee beans; however, they are all graded upon similar parameters, which determine Grade 1, 2, 3 and so on.

The size of the bean, water content, colour and taste profile can be factored in grading. Their processing method (washed or dry) may also be taken into consideration, as well as being judged on the altitude, region they are grown and the variety.

Coffee beans should be similar in size so that they roast evenly to provide a consistent flavour. The beans are sieved through a screen with different holes to determine their size. It is said coffee beans grown at higher altitudes grow slower and are more likely to be denser and more desirable than the beans grown at lower altitudes.

The beans may also have defects. The criteria vary based on country of origin and varietal. Primary defects include beans that have been over fermented and secondary defects refer to broken or damaged beans, or those that include stone or earth, hulls or beans with parchment.

The Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) grading criteria is as follows:

Grade 1 – Speciality Coffee Beans
Grade 1 is the highest grade of beans. They are known as speciality beans. This means they should not contain any primary defects, no more than five secondary defects or contain any quakers (unripe beans) in 300 grams. The moisture content is also between 9-13 percent.

Grade 2 – Premium Coffee Beans
Premium grade coffee is the second highest grade. There must be no more than five full defects. No secondary defects are allowed. This grade allows a maximum of three quakers in 300 grams. The moisture content is also between 9-13 percent.

Grade 3 – Exchange Coffee Beans
Grade 3 can have a maximum of five quakers and has between 9 to 23 defects in 300 grams. This grade is commonly used in commercial everyday blends and sold at a reasonable price point. The moisture content is also between 9-13 percent.

Grade 4 – Standard Coffee Beans
Grade 4 standard coffee allows for 24-84 defects per 300g. It is considered an average level of coffee.

Grade 5 – Off Coffee Beans
Grade 5 coffee has more than 86 defects per 300g. It is the lowest grade of coffee available.

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