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Intro to Coffee Grading and Terminology

There is a whole world of grading information out there apart from the SCA Green Coffee Grading classification. Although this can be overwhelming, do not worry! I have been in the exact same place. Trying to grasp the different vocabulary you come across with each country is not an easy task and can be confusing at times.

I really wanted to get into more detail about the grading standards since 2022; I reached out to producers we have been working with and regulatory bodies in specific countries to check in with the latest grading standards in use. I believe it is crucial for us to speak the same language when it comes to decisions on whether we would like to approve a lot or not- and this knowledge allows us to be in line with our partners and allows us to treat them fairly.

It is very useful to know how different countries approach coffee grading, and it can be very different to the SCA standards that most coffee professionals are using. An example that I come across quite often is that those who are unaware of the different standards in Sumatra, often end up punishing coffees from there. In Indonesia it is common to find beans that are split at the tip of them – it is not counted as a defect there because those beans are the result of the wet-hulled process, and you can often find quite a lot of them. Pale beans are not counted either which could result in 2-3 quakers in a 100g sample – this is quite normal to find.

In this article, I share country-specific coffee grading terminologies that might help you become familiar with the differences and nuances of green coffee grading from each origin. I hope you will be as fascinated as I am, and this piece will bring even more appreciation for the raw product that we professionals are working with. This is not an extensive list, but this is what I have found the most useful during familiarising myself with each standard.

Brazil

MTGB: Medium To Good Bean Size- Screen 15-16
SSFC: Strictly Soft Fine Cup- Coffee with clean cups, smooth and sweet flavour, medium acidity and medium body. Free from hard or off flavours. Fine cup means a Specialty grade (80+).
NY: New York grading standards: the quality is standard to the Green Coffee Association of New York.
COB: Coffee grading classification created back in 1949 mainly by warehouses in Brazil.
SSGC: Strictly Soft Good Cup, Arabica coffee with good cups without defects, light astringent taste, low acidity and low body.

Brazil screen 17/18 SSGC

Colombia

Excelso: A grade where at least 95% of the beans are screen 14 and at least 50% screen 15.
Supremo: A grade where at least 95% of the beans are screen 17 and 100% is above screen 14.

El Salvador

America Preparation (AP): 12 defects /300g
European Preparation (EP): 8 defects /300g
Plus Preparation (PP): 5 defects /300g and 100% over Screen 15
Gourmet Preparation (GP): 3 Defects max.

Costa Rica

Special (Specialty): 90% on screen 16 5% under screen 15, maximum 5 defects, and no Category 1 defects allowed.
European: 80% on screen 16 8% under screen 15 maximum 8 defects allowed.
American: This grade does not present any limit on screen size, maximum 20 defects allowed.

Guatemala

SHB: Strictly Hard Bean, the coffee was grown at an altitude above 1350 meters, resulting in a denser bean.
HB: Hard Bean, the coffee was grown in lower altitudes, between 1070 and 1200 meters above sea level.
EP: European preparation, hand sorting was used to remove any defective beans.

Honduras

SHG: Strictly High Grown, the coffee was grown at higher altitudes, above 1350m therefore it results in a denser bean structure.
HG: High Grown, the coffee was grown at around an altitude of 1200m above sea level.

Ethiopia

Wanza: A native African tree called Wanza(Cordia Africana), they use it as shade trees above crops like coffee. Sometimes it’s yellow fruit can be accidentally mixed in with coffee.
Foxy Beans: Beans with oxidized reddish or brownish silverskin. The reddish colour is particularly noticeable in the centre cut. It could be a cause of over-fermentation, frost damage or improper washing.

 

Defects table for Ethiopian grading standards.

Kenya

Elephant beans: Large, spherical beans, usually screen size 20.
Water-damaged beans: White beans with a soft structure, very easy to break.

Elephant beans

Rwanda

Spongy Bean: Whitish coloured bean with a cork-like consistency. It is very easy to break it by hand and it tends to carbonize during roasting.

India

In the Indian grading standards the level of defects are expressed in weight and in percentage based on a 100g sample.

Clean garbled: A grade of coffee having stringent sorting standards that make this grade completely free from defective beans.
Garbling: The process of removal of defective beans.

Vietnam

Wet polished: A process used on Robusta coffee. They use a high-pressure pump system that constantly sprays mist to generate friction in the coffee beans, and it removes any silverskin left on the bean, making it look more attractive. This procedure reduces the total volume of coffee by 1-2%.
Cleaned coffee: Cleaned coffee using the colour sorting system.

Wet polished (left) Cleaned (right)

I hope that this guide will serve you well and is able to clarify terms used in green coffee grading. Stay tuned for valuable insights into how different origins approach their cup profiles! Make sure to subscribe to our Newsletter and follow us on Instagram to be the first to know when our articles are published. If you have any queries about grading or quality control, feel free to reach out to the quality team at quality@drwakefield.com