5 Grades of coffee beans and what you need to know

Posted by Sebastian Rauhs on

Coffee Beans Grades


Maybe you heard the term 'Grade 1 coffee' or 'speciality coffee', and you wondered what the heck that is, and how good will my coffee be? Well don't worry, hang tight and I promise you by the end of the article you will know what everyone is talking about.

Different Standards

First of all coffee grading isn’t a fixed thing; there are several different standards out there, which I won't go into detail with but they are New York, Central America, Brazil, Africa, and Asian. But there are essential criteria, which are used everywhere. In general, you can say the fewer defects the coffee beans have, the better they get graded, 1 being at the top while 5 is being at the end of the spectrum. Another important thing for you to know is that this grading refers to green coffee beans and is, therefore, more important for the roaster than for the customer who buys the final product.  



Defects majorly influence coffee in terms of quality. Therefore, you want as few as possible in it. There are three types of defects that can be found in a bag of coffee. Those are large stones, unripened beans, and shells. The grading tells you how many of such defects were found in a 300g sample. In general, it depends on the number of defects, the screen size (size of the coffee bean), and cup quality.


Grade 1 (Speciality Coffee Beans)

Speciality coffee beans fall under the grade 1 category. That means there shouldn’t be any defects if there are, there shouldn’t be more than three full defects. And they are only allowed to be a maximum of 5% above and below the screen size. Also, they don’t contain Quakers (unripe beans).


Here at Coffee Scotland we only work with roasters who use Grade 1, Speciality Coffee Beans, and we are really proud of this fact.


Grade 2 (Premium Coffee Beans)

Those are premium coffee beans, which have the same criteria as Grade 1 beans. With the only difference that they can have a maximum of eight defects and a maximum of three Quakers.


Grade 3 (Exchange Coffee Beans)

Those beans have to be 50% above the screening level and allowed a maximum of five Quakers. Also, they can have up to 23 defects in them.


Grade 4 (Standard Coffee Beans)

Most coffee beans fall under this grade. It allows 24 to 86 defects in a batch.


Grade 5 (Off Coffee Beans)

This grade is assigned to a coffee batch where more than 86 defects were found in it.



So here you have it, the five grades of coffee beans. It isn't that complicated, is it? Now you can impress others the next time you have a cup of coffee.

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