Coffee Grading Terminology
While the following terms may vary slightly from country to country, these are the generally accepted definitions and will give you an excellent idea of how one sample of coffee beans is differentiated from another.
Black Bean: Insect-damaged; dead cherry fallen from tree pre-harvest; decomposed bean; overripe; metal contamination.
Bolden Bean: The size falling between medium and large.
Broken: Over-dried brittle beans, easily broken into pieces during hulling.
Brown Bean: In arabica, a color denoting overripeness; over-fermentation; under-fermentation (brownish tinge); or souled, lack of pre-washing.
Discolored Bean: Any bean outside the range of normal (green/blue in arabica, khaki/brownish/yellowish in robusta) color, indicating poor processing, with possible defective flavor.
Elephant Ear: Malformed cherry containing one large bean partly encircling a smaller; the two interlocking parts can separate in roast, but flavor is not impaired (East Africa).
Elephant Bean: Slang name for Maragogype variety, world's largest coffee beans; generally prized for appearance, good roast, smooth flavor; gradually drying out as financially unprofitable. Not to be confused with the malformed elephant ear bean.
Floater: Under-ripe, or overripe bean, or brown bean that surfaces in washing - lacks density.
Foxy: Off-flavor from beans either with red tinge, perhaps overripe; over-fermented (delay in pulping); yellow cherry; frost.
Hard Bean: Fairly mediocre arabica beans, indicates lower altitudes in countries where "strictly hard bean" is the best quality; not to be confused, however with "hard" flavor.
Hull Coffee: Dry-processed beans before hulling has removed the surrounding dried cherries.
M'buni: East African word for dry-processed (sun dried) cherry. Also over-fruity, tart, sour flavor.
Natural Bean: Denotes dry-processed coffee bean.
Pale: Yellow in color, from immature cherries or drought-affected; will not darken satisfactorily in roast; unpleasant nutty flavor of several can spoil batch (see Quaker).
Parchment: Protective covering or jacket (endocarp) enclosing bean within the cherry, which must be intact if bean is to germinate; also "pergamino".
Parchment Coffee: Wet-processed beans before hulling has removed their parchment coverings.
Peaberry: Also, perle, perla, caracol; small rounded bean (malformation) produced singly in a small cherry; sorted together they command a higher price than normal benas, even ones from the same trees.
Pod: Beans still encased in the dried cherry after hulling, constitutes defect in sample.
Pulper-Nipped: Bean damaged during pulping; subsequent appearance can lower quality assessment.
Quaker: Similar to pale, but not caused by immaturity, although terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Ragged: Bean not fully developed die to drought.
Stinker: Overripe cherry; or over-fermentation; insect or microbe-damaged bean; bean flavor is powerfully pervasive and rotten, sour odor when crushed; undetectable by human eye, glows unter ultraviolet light of electric sorting machines; contaminates entire batch.
Strictly Hard Bean (SHB): Quality arabicas grown at highest altitudes, where density of bean concentrates flavor.
Strictly High Grown (SHG): Different grading terminology for basically the same conditions as strictly hard bean.
Triage: Lowest grade of coffee, never exported; left-overs; figurative factory floor sweepings.
Unwashed: Dry-processed beans.
Washed: Wet processed beans.
Yellow Bean: In arabica, bean color caused by over-drying.