As the coffee industry has expanded, consumers have developed more discriminating tastes and a greater appreciation for high-quality green coffee.
Coffee exporter Atlantica Coffee has a firm commitment to consistency in quality. We believe that our ability to understand the sensory profiles that each market seeks and to source, select, store, and transport beans that meet those profiles translates into delivering Brazilian coffee of consistent quality.
In this article, we explain green coffee quality standards and explore how producers can adopt them. Check it out!
Green coffee classification
Green coffee quality is determined by a set of physical, chemical, sensory, and safety properties that respond to the preferences of diverse consumers. Genetics, farming practices, the harvest season, postharvest handling, preparation, storage, care during transport, and roasting all affect bean quality.
In Brazil, two green coffee grading and classification methods are used:
1) Counting defective beans, such as black, sour, green, black-green, bored/insect-damaged, broken, or misshapen beans, and impurities, such as husks, twigs, or dirt clods. The coffee is graded on a scale of 2 to 8, with grade 4 considered standard- or base-grade coffee;
2) Describing bean quality attributes, such as size, uniformity of drying, and the color of the raw and roasted bean. The cup tasting, carried out by expert tasters known as “cuppers,” is an important component and results in the classification of the beverage flavor as Strictly Soft, Soft, Hard, Riado, Rioy, or Rio Zona.
Finally, the grading of commercial and specialty coffee for export is based on both a physical evaluation of the beans and the sensory properties of the coffee beverage, as determined by the cup test. Expert tasters are able to determine the species, origin, processing and drying methods, and storage time of a coffee, as well as the proper blend combination for each destination.
Quality in cultivation and processing
To ensure a good yield of green coffee, everything from soil preparation through postharvest processing must be thoroughly planned.
Genetic, environmental, and technological factors all affect the quality of green coffee. Gathering and analyzing data about the soil type, field location, exposure, altitude, uniform ripening, management, and cultivation history of coffee fields—a process known as field mapping—can help producers monitor green coffee quality and earmark lots for growing different grades of coffee. Field mapping also helps producers estimate the amount of green coffee that will be harvested and processed daily.
The importance of the ripening process
The ripeness of coffee fruits (known as cherries) is one of the main determinants of coffee quality. Harvesting cherries at peak ripeness ensures optimum coffee quality.
Harvesting cherries at different stages of ripening adversely affects coffee quality by changing the chemical composition of the beans and by increasing their exposure to the elements, facilitating the growth of microorganisms during the period prior to the beginning of processing.
Harvested cherries at different stages of maturation have different moisture contents, leading to unequal drying. Drier fruits (raisins and dry) tend to grow excessively dry during postharvest processing, while moister fruits (cherries and green) tend to dry poorly. They affect coffee quality by causing weight loss, breaking beans, and ultimately jeopardizing the flavor of the beverage.
In short, the best coffees are obtained through the processing of completely ripe fruits (cherries). Any adverse environmental condition that places stress on coffee plants (to the point of interfering with the normal cycle of fruit ripening) has the potential to prevent the resultant beverage from attaining its full potential.
Planning for the postharvest
In developing a schedule of activities, it is crucial to know the productive potential of crops beforehand, as well as the effective operational capacity of terraces, washer-separators, peelers, and dryers; the availability of labor and/or equipment for harvesting; and the effective harvest period.
In order to avoid the loss of quality, beans must be processed and/or dried on the same day they are picked. In order to avoid overloading the flow of coffee, the processing and drying facilities must be sufficient for the amount of harvested coffee.