Kenya AA, Colombia Supremo, Take You To Know Coffee Grading

Kenya AA, Colombia Supremo, Take You To Know Coffee Grading

It's not uncommon for coffee bean bags to have the words supremo or AA printed on them, but what do these labels really mean? Would you consider Excelso or AB, which are defined as lower grade coffee?

In this article, let's take a look at the actual meaning of grading and when it's best to ignore it.

What Is Coffee Grading?

Coffee grading is a basis for evaluating the quality of raw coffee beans before export. At present, there is no unified grading system in the world, but there are different grading systems according to different coffee producing countries.

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This means that coffee is graded according to different standards in different regions, and sometimes the same meaning is expressed in different terms. ITC noted that coffee is usually graded and classified according to the following criteria:

  • Altitude / Region
  • Coffee tree varieties
  • Treatment method (water washing, sun exposure, honey treatment, peeling, and sun exposure...)
  • Coffee bean size (mesh) sometimes even depends on the shape and color of the bean
  • Defect rate
  • Baking performance and cup test quality (flavor, characteristics, cleanliness)
  • Bean density (related to planting altitude)

Although there is no standardized grading scale, there is a suggested method. The Fine Coffee Association SCA has a standard for determining the grade of raw beans. The SCA describes it as "a quantifiable method of identifying quality and defining a grade or class of coffee based on scientific validation".

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SCA standards include the proportion of defective beans and the water activity of raw beans. They also outline how the environment should be when evaluating coffee grade, including the appropriate light source and table size.

Although many producing countries follow SCA standards and improve their agreements based on experience, not every producing country has relevant entities and organizations regulating coffee export.

For example, Ecuador has no entity organization that can establish the basis of classification. Most exporters in Ecuador follow the standards of neighboring Colombia, and the classification method is also carried out directly in accordance with the SCA agreement without fine-tuning. However, the responsibility of exporters in the quality control room.

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Although grading is usually defined based on defect rate and related variables, a very important consideration is bean size. This grading is very simple, that is, screening coffee beans with different sizes of screens.

It is generally believed that larger beans are better, but this is not accurate. There are many exceptions to the rule, especially the size of different varieties of coffee beans.

Bean size is useful for determining the consistency of batches of coffee and helps to ensure a smooth baking process

The final coffee product with good quality is produced, but only the size of the beans is not enough to be used as an index to judge the quality.

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How Does The Grading System Work?

The SCA standard recommends that a coffee bean grading sample is 350g, and the coffee beans will pass through a series of sieves or screens to determine the size of the batch of beans.

Bean size is important because the average consumer will think that larger coffee beans represent better quality.

Commercial grade coffee is usually baked in formula beans, so bean size is important because different sizes of coffee beans transfer heat differently during baking.

Although the screen size used in each production country or region is the same, the terminology is different. For example, very large coffee beans (19-20 mesh) are called AA in Africa and supremo in Colombia.

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Not Applicable To Areas Classified By Size

Ethiopia has many wild coffees, and beans are usually small in size, so the grading method is different from that of other countries.

As long as you observe the coffee beans in Ethiopia, you will find that they are generally small, so the bean size will not affect the quality of Ethiopian coffee, and Ethiopian coffee beans are much smaller than those in other countries.

The reason why beans are relatively small is due to growth factors. Ethiopia has many called native species, that is, undefined quality. Almost all Ethiopian coffee is planted by small farmers, and there are all kinds of wild Arabica.

Compare Ethiopian coffee with Kenyan coffee. There are many wild arabicas in Kenya. Kenya and Tanzania are very strict in size classification, but they use different methods from Ethiopian coffee.

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In Kenya, coffee must be graded according to the size of the beans before it is sent to the auction and then according to the density. Just put the graded beans into containers. Before participating in the auction, the cup will be tested by the National Cup Tester, and then a grade will be obtained according to the flavor profile measured by the cup. Not just according to the size or density of beans, but cup test flavor grading.

Even if you don't look at the area of wild coffee, there are still some problems in using bean size grading.

Some coffees are grown at higher altitudes, such as the coffee of NARI ñ o, Colombia, which often has a unique cup-shaped outline and a small screen size. This is influenced not only by altitude but also by the latitude of cultivation, the mineral content of the soil, and the climate.

Therefore, in addition to the size of beans, each grading system will also use other methods to assist in judgment, and these grading methods are the agreements reached by both exporters and buyers.

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Every customer is free to ask for the production mode of raw coffee beans. There are usually stricter grading and packaging specifications for high-quality batches, which requires the experience of exporters and buyers, and pay more attention to controlling the quality.

When it comes to the defects of raw coffee beans, although different countries have different standards, the guidelines formulated by SCA are still very important. They can be used as a communication tool because it is based on the accumulation of long-term research and experience involving specific defects that often occur in a region, which may be caused by local treatment methods and varieties, which will affect the flavor quality of coffee.

How Does Grading Affect Prices?

Grading will directly affect the price. Andre said that buyers often buy Coffee according to the grading standard rather than according to the cup test sample.

"Last year, I bought Colombian coffee, and I cup tested several samples of supremo and Excelso, but I don't know that many coffees with small mesh have more complex cup test flavor. Finally, I chose Excelso with small mesh because their flavor is richer than that of supremo with large mesh."

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"But we usually ask suppliers to send some samples, such as superior quality, because we usually use superior in the structure of formula beans. If it is used as commercial formula beans, we will ask to use beans of specific size or coffee of specific planting altitude, which are usually raw beans bought a few years ago."

Andre also considered coffee prices in Kenya and Tanzania. "I find that buyers of commercial beans usually pay more for larger beans and less for smaller beans. They are willing to pay more for pearl beans. If they buy high-quality coffee, they measure the flavor by looking at the cup, even if the beans are too large or too small," he said

Coffee grading is an area that cannot be unified in the coffee industry. When different countries use different grading systems, it is more difficult to compare, but grading should not be used only as of the basis for judging the quality. After all, the quality should not be limited to the size and origin of the beans.

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