Coffee bean size. How is the coffee graded and what is the quality of the coffee?

You will have noticed that coffee beans vary in size. They are smaller, larger, more elongated or rounder. Now let's find out if the shape of coffee beans has an effect on their quality and taste.

Are large coffee beans better?

First, let's just say that one bean is not the same as another. Not even from one coffee plant. The differences between beans must then be sorted out using special bean sieves. This is done in a dry mill in the growing country. The sieves have different densities or hole sizes. This makes it easy to achieve the size-uniform coffees that roasters want.

Information on the size of the beans is of value both to the roaster and to the person who eventually drinks the coffee. Before ordering samples, roasters canpredict the coffee's potential from the size indication. In the end, you too can make sure you get quality coffee when you get home by knowing the size. It also affects the taste.

Larger beans are better priced in the coffee market. The standard coffee used is sieved with a sieve size 16 or larger. Smaller beans tend to be used in small-grain blends. That larger beans taste better is supported by the theory that the best flavour profiles are found in well-developed coffees from higher regions and with larger berries. However, size and quality do not always correlate with flavour potential.

Bean sizes and quality coffee designations

However, because the general assumption is thatbigger beans = better coffee, a classification of green coffee has been developed based on bean size. Thus, coffee labelling systems, but different growing countries have different labelling methods. For coffee producers in Colombia, the beans are labeled Supremo or Excelso. In Kenya as AA, AB, PB, etc.

In addition to the appearance of the bean in terms of its dimensions, coffee is marked according to the quality level achieved. In Ethiopia there is a 5 grade system. As a rule, Ethiopian coffees aremarked as G1-5 (short form of "Grade 1" or grade 1). The best quality coffees are graded G1 and G2.

Colombian Excelso and Supremo coffee

These terms are more associated with the marketing ploy to promote sales of coffee from Colombia than the quality of the bean. They were created by the Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers - Federación Nacional de Cafeteros. These are more interestingly named coffees corresponding to the size 17-15 grading screenfor Excelso and the size 18 and above screenfor Supremo.

Grading of coffee beans from the Americas

Up to 6 groups of coffee bean sizes are used by growers in Central America. The largest beans are classified in a group called Superior. This is the designation for coffees corresponding to sizes 17 and above. Other grades are Segundas, Terceras, Caracol, Caracolli, Caracolillo.

1/64" mm Classification Mexico, Central America Colombia Africa and India
20 8 very large Superior Supremo AA
19,5 7,75
19 7,5
18,5 7,25 Large
18 7 A
17 6,75 Excelso
16 6,5 Medium Segundas B
15 6
14 5,5 Small Terceras C
13 5,25 "shells" Caracol
12 5
11 4,5 Caracolli
10 4
9 3,5 Caracolillo
8 3

Table of green coffee bean sizes. Source:

Size-quality typology of coffee from Kenya

The bean grading system for Kenyan coffees is much more sophisticated. It takes into account both the size and quality of the beans. The grading of Kenyan coffees is as follows: E, AA, AB, C, PB, TT, T. The largest coffee beans are from the sievesize 20 and above, so they are really big beans, which are called elephant beans: Elephants= E. On the other hand, the smallest beans are TT beans, which are so light that they have been airbrushed out of AA and AB. The T group is air sorted from the C type and contains quite a few coffee fractions.

As a result of the presumed highest quality of the AA marked beans, these coffees also command a higher price. Kenyan AA coffees are regarded as some of the best coffees worldwide. Sizes for sieves 17 and 18 are achieved through gradual growth at high altitudes. Therefore, in addition to their typical acidity, they have a great sweetness and juiciness.

The AB brandis a combination of grains from sieves sizes 16 and 15. They are such a standard type that means about 30% of Kenya's coffee production per year. Type C is a class below AB. If the coffee is labeled as PB it is "Peaberry" or pearl beans. These are atypical beans. The coffee fruit usually has two beans, in the case of the PB type there was one single bean in the cherry of the coffee tree.

Further grading and classification of coffee

In El Salvador, for example, coffee beans are graded on the basis of the altitude at which they are grown. They use 3 grades with the labels SHG, HG and CS. Coffees grown at an altitude of 1200 m above sea level are SHG i.e. Strictly High Grown. Beans from 900 m above sea level are labeled HG as High Grown and Central Standard or CS for coffees from 600 m above sea level. They have a similar grading system in Guatemala:

  • Strictly Hard Bean: SHB - 1300 m above sea level.
  • Hard Bean: HB - 1220 to 1300 m above sea level.
  • Semi-Hard Bean: SHB - 1050 to 1220 m above sea level.
  • Extra Prime: EP - 900 to 1050 m above sea level.
  • Prime: P - 750 to 900 m above sea level.

How are the world's best coffees branded?

Knowing how to label green coffee is particularly useful for coffee retailers and roasters, but baristas and home coffee grinders will also be happy to understand the characters on a packet of coffee. You can better distinguish which coffee you enjoy even more.

However, it still remains a key indicator of the quality of the coffee across the various bean size markings. This is the coffee quality rating by the SCA, which sets the standards for choice coffees - that is, the best coffees in the world.

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