The Ultimate Coffee Glossary

Hand Sorting

In coffee, what is hand sorting?

Hand sorting is an important aspect of coffee processing that plays a critical role in ensuring that the coffee that reaches consumers is of high quality. This process is typically performed by women at the mill who work on conveyor belts or tables and carefully examine each coffee bean to remove any defective ones that were not caught by the optical color sorter (if it was used).
The goal of hand sorting is to remove any beans that are small, broken, or discolored. These defects can affect the taste and quality of the final cup of coffee. For specialty coffees, hand sorting is often the final step in the preparation process before coffee is bagged and labeled for export.
While the process of hand sorting can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, it is crucial for controlling the quality of the cup. This is particularly true for specialty coffees that are sold at a premium price and are held to a higher standard of quality. Even a few defective beans in a batch can negatively impact the overall flavor profile of the coffee.
Hand sorting is practiced around the world with both wet-processed and dry-processed coffees. It is an integral part of coffee processing, and it requires skill and attention to detail to be done correctly. While some coffee mills may use machines or other methods to sort beans, hand sorting remains an important quality control measure that ensures the highest quality coffee beans make it into the final product.
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