How to grade specialty coffee

How to grade specialty coffee

How to grade specialty coffee

How to grade specialty coffee is a question some people find hard to understand because they see coffee as a beverage. Nevertheless, specialty coffee is different because each one of them has something special and something different that makes it special.

“I wake up some mornings and sit and have my coffee and look out at my beautiful garden, and I go, ’Remember how good this is. Because you can lose it.’”

Jim Carrey

We have previously talked about specialty coffee, but we’ll say it one more time just in case. Specialty coffee is a term used to refer to coffee that has scored over 80 points on a 100-point scale by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America).

Moreover, specialty coffees are markedly different from regular coffees in the sense that they are grown at higher elevations, are traceable and processed carefully once harvested. Every step from growing to brewing is monitored and understood to improve the quality every day.

Coffee growing countries are now focusing on improving their quality at the farm level to improve their cup scorings. Without a doubt, Colombia, amongst others, can be considered the Mecca for specialty coffee.

A little insight on The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)

Firstly, The Specialty Coffee Association is a trade association built on foundations of openness, inclusivity, and the power of shared knowledge. In addition, its purpose is to foster global coffee communities to support activities to make coffee a more sustainable, equitable, and thriving activity for the whole value chain.

The SCA acts as a unifying force within the specialty coffee industry and works to make coffee better by raising standards worldwide through a collaborative and progressive approach. Dedicated to building an industry that is fair, sustainable, and nurturing for all.

How to grade specialty coffee

How to grade specialty coffee

Specialty Coffee- The Q Grade Score Sheet 

“ordinary or commercial” coffee.

Specialty coffee.

Excellent coffee.

From 95 points onwards it is considered as «Unique coffees, exceptional cup».

Green Coffee Grading

Following, green coffee is graded based on visual inspection and cupping after being roasted. Visual inspection involves taking a 350g sample of green coffee beans and counting defective beans; defects can be:

Primary defects include:
Black bean: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 1
Sour grain: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 1
Dried cherry: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 1
Large stones: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2
Medium stones: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 5
Large branches: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2
Small branches: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 6

Secondary defects include:
Scroll: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2-3
Cascarilla: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2-3
Broken bean: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 5
Insect damage: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2-5
Partial black: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2-3
Partial sour: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2-3
Floaters: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 5
Shell: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 5
Small stones: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 1
Small branches: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 1
Water damage: Number of occurrences equal to a single defect – 2-5

Furthermore, coffee qualifies as ‘speciality’ when it has zero primary defects and less than five secondary defects. Cupping is a process that involves roasting the coffee and simply brewing it by adding hot water to the ground beans; specific scores for each of the attributes such as acidity, body, flavour and aroma- are assigned by certified Q graders.

Besides, the SCAA also maintains that specialty coffee goes beyond the quality of the beans; the processing, brewing and roasting process is equally important to have a great coffee experience. There are now SCAA standards of certifications for various processes involved in making your cup delicious.

Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the SCAA, maintains that “The final experience is dependent on no single actor in the chain dropping the baton…. [We must] create a definition for specialty at each stage of the game.”

How to grade specialty coffee

In addition to this, once the beans are processed and delivered, roasters spend a considerable amount of time to understand the coffee and develop roast profiles. With better technology roasters are now able to connect the roasting machine to computers to monitor the temperature and record the different variables during the roast cycle. After trying different profiles and cupping roasters decide on one profile that brings out the best out of that particular bean. Specialty coffee is roasted in small batches to maintain freshness and monitor quality.

Finally, don’t be left with the desire to try a delicious specialty coffee and try one of our various varietals that we have available just for you. We can assure you that once you try a specialty coffee you’ll be blown away by the different notes and fragrances that you’ll experience.

If you enjoyed this article we recommend you to read How is the quality of cup coffee determined? 

If you found the information useful, like it and share it with your friends, don’t forget to follow us on our social media and if you want to know more about our specialty coffees, contact us:

 Email:  contacto@deerhug.com – WhatsApp: +57 314 8531000

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