The Ultimate Coffee Glossary


What does the Grade of coffee mean?

In the world of coffee cultivation and processing, grade is a term used to refer to the quality of the coffee beans. Grading can vary from country to country, with some using a simple numeric scale while others have their own unique grading systems. The grading system is used to classify coffee beans based on their size, shape, density, and defects.
Coffee beans with a higher grade are generally considered to be of better quality, with fewer defects and a more consistent appearance. However, the grading system can be subjective, and grades can sometimes be inflated or lowered for economic or political reasons. For example, some countries may lower the grade of their coffee to avoid tariffs. To ensure consistency and accuracy in the grading process, there are international organisations that have established standards and guidelines for green coffee classification. These include the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Green Coffee Classification Poster and the Green Coffee Association charts. Ultimately, understanding the grading system is important for coffee professionals as it can help them make informed decisions when purchasing coffee beans for roasting and brewing.

How does coffee get graded?

Coffee gets graded based on various factors, including bean size, shape, color, defects, and altitude at which it is grown. The grading process is usually done by hand, by trained professionals who have a keen eye for coffee quality.
Different countries have their own grading systems, but most of them use a numerical or alphabetical scale to classify the coffee. In some countries, the grading is done according to the altitude at which the coffee is grown, as higher altitude coffee tends to be of higher quality. Other countries use a combination of size and defects to grade coffee.
In general, coffee is graded based on the following criteria:
  • Bean size: Larger beans are generally considered to be of higher quality than smaller beans.
  • Bean shape: Uniformly shaped beans are preferred over irregularly shaped beans.
  • Bean color: Darker colored beans are often considered to be of higher quality than lighter colored beans.
  • Defects: Coffee with fewer defects is considered to be of higher quality.
  • Altitude: Coffee grown at higher altitudes is often considered to be of higher quality.
The grading process can be subjective, as different graders may have different opinions on what constitutes a defect or a desirable bean size or shape. Therefore, it's important to keep in mind that grading is just one factor in determining the overall quality of a coffee. Cupping and sensory evaluation are also important methods for assessing coffee quality.
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