The what, how and why of coffee grading

Regular customers of the Wholesale Coffee Company may have noticed that we’re proud of the quality of our coffee, which uses high quality, high graded beans. What exactly are the coffee grades, though, and why do they make sure a difference? Here’s our handy guide.

Coffee beans fall into one of five grades from 1 to 5. As you might expect, grade 1 is the highest and must contain no primary defects, be of a certain size and, in official words, ‘exhibit a distinct attribute in one or more of the following areas: taste, acidity, body, or aroma.’ The grades gradually decrease in quality until you get to grade 5, which is very low quality and usually discarded.

Size is an important factor, as larger beans take longer to ripen on the bush and are considered to have a fuller flavour. The first test the beans undergo is being passed through a sieve with holes of varying sizes to sort them into initial grades. Then, the beans will be visually scanned for defects. Finally, grading staff will roast and taste a sample of the beans to evaluate the quality.

‘Defects’ could mean anything from poor colour and shape to a sour taste, usually caused by poor storage. The presence of parts of the berry husk, sticks or stones in the sample will also count as a defect. Another no-no is the presence of ‘quakers’, unripened beans. These are extremely difficult to pick out visually until after roasting when they become obvious. A 300g sample of beans that contains any quakers at all will not be accepted as a grade 1 sample.

When you consider how stringent coffee grading is, it’s a wonder that anything makes it through! You can be sure, though, that what goes into our branded bags has been checked, checked and checked again to bring you a delicious flavour at a great value wholesale price. To find out more, visit our coffee beans page.