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Coffee home - From crop to cup - Green Coffee Beans Classification

Green Coffee Beans Classification

Green Coffee Beans Classification
There many sources of green coffee beans. These descriptions have been added to tell what can generally expected of the type of bean from a particular area. The number represents the caffeine percentage by weight in the bean.
  • Brazil Bourbon 1.20%: Light green through pale yellowish to straw, small, fairly uniform.

  • Celebes Kalosi 1.22%: Dull green to grayish green, bold, generally free of silverskin.

  • Colombian Supremo 1.37%: Bold to extra large, well-sorted, bright green.

  • Colombian Excelso 1.37%: Medium to large-sized, clean, green flat beans with some peaberries.

  • Colombian Decaf 0.03%: German Processed. Tannish, irregularly sized beans.

  • Colombian Decaf0.02%: Swiss Water. Dark brown.

  • Costa Rican Tarrazu 1.35%: Bold to extra large, clean, uniform, flat, bluish green.

  • Ethiopian Harrar 1.13%: Medium, long-pointed beans, slightly coated, grayish to brownish green.

  • Ethiopian Sidamo 1.21%: Small to medium, coated, light green, sometimes with brown tinges.

  • Guatemalan Antigua 1.37%: Large, shiny, dark bluish green.

  • Honduran Strictly High Grown (SHG) 1.2%: Nearly uniform, medium to large, green to blue green.

  • Indian Monsooned 1.26%: Extra large, light-weight,low-density, golden yellow.

  • Jamaican High Mountain: Bold, light blue green, certified quality.

  • Jamaican Blue Mountain 1.24%: Certified the best quality high grown.

  • Java Estate 1.20%: Small to medium, irregular, dark green.

  • Kenya AA 1.36%: Bluish green, relatively small and round.

  • Kona Fancy 1.3%: Uniform, bluish green.

  • Kona Extra Fancy 1.3%: Bold, well-screened, bluish green.

  • Malawi Plantation 1.2%: Small to medium, irregular, green.

  • Mexican Altura 1.3%: Long, wide, clean, bluegreen.

  • New Guinea Estate 1.3%: Irregularly sized, splotchy green.

  • Panamanian Boquete 1.3%: Bluish green, uniform, medium.

  • Peruvian Organic 1.3%: Medium sized, green.

  • Sumatran Mandheling: Uneven, dark green with crusty appearance.

  • Sumatran Decaf German Process 0.02%: Irregular browns and tans, with some broken beans.

  • Sumatran Decaf Swiss Water 0.02%: Irregularly sized, uniformly dark brown.

  • Tanzanian Peaberry 1.42%: Small, round, green.

  • Thai Robusta 3.8%: Irregularly sized, splotchy green.

  • Three-Bean Decaf 0.0?%: (1/3 robustas, 1/3 dry arabicas and 1/3 washed arabicas). Irregularly & multicolored.

  • Vietnamese Robusta 3.2%: Uniform, medium sized, light green with a few brown and black beans.

  • Zimbabwe AA 1.1%: Pale green.

De-caffeinated coffee beans:

Beans are de-caffeinated, soluble caffeine removed or fixed, in two ways; one way is remove the caffeine in a wash process with chemicals to aid in dissolving the caffeine into solution, the other fixes the caffeine with chemical compounds which wax the molecule, fixing it or insulating from the soluble solution. The first having the ability to sell the caffeine in dry form to chemical companies. The latter having sever degrading, or increase in caffeine content, do to aging and other chemicals. Commonly called Decaf.

Standard bean sales to Decaf bean sales is about 5 to 1.


First thing you might get straight is there is no conventional grading system. When the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange was disbanded in World War Two, every country decided to do their own thing. Because there use to be a grading system, some growers and countries use the old systems to some degree. The following is the old way. But, depend on, no way.

Grades are generally referred as AAA-AA-A-B-C for Arabica beansand I-II-III for Robusta in size. This is a size grade. The dried coffee bean is passed through a sieve which passes or retains beans based on size. Sizes range from 13 to 20 sixty-fourths of an inch. AA being between 16-18 sixty-fourths of an inch or about 7.2 millimeters. Generally speaking, this is the width of the coffee bean. However, there are those places which clisify the coffee bean by length. So, I classified the beans by length and width. "L" being length in 64ths of an inch, and "W" being width in 64ths of an inch. Yes, this means that too big is not good, and too small is not good. This is also referred to as classification.

In general, the best production of coffee beans is a consistant size no matter what that size is. This promotes even roasting.

General width classification:

No. 20 - very large bean
No. 19 - extra large bean
No. 18 - large bean
No. 17 - bold bean
No. 16 - good bean
No. 15 - medium bean
No. 14 - little bean
No. 13 - small bean
No. 12 - extra little bean
No. 11 - extra small bean
No. 10 - very little bean
No. 9 - very small bean
No. 8 - unacceptable bean

Another grade is the number of imperfections per 300 grams. NY2 means there are 4 imperfections in every 300 grams; NY3 means 12 and so forth till NY8. NY stands for the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange. Imperfections generally means any garbage, rocks, twigs, rotten beans, etc, found in the finished product. All grades have some amount of contaminants. It is just basically, the number of contaminants per pound which make the grade. Unfortunately, this grading system is different for each producing country. Worse yet, it changes with governments, and how bad someone wants to sell their crop.

Generally speaking 1 imperfection is called a black bean. For many years, the term black bean was used instead of imperfection. Modern time call an imperfection an imperfection. However, the rule for types of imperfections has remained the same:

  • 3 shells equal 1-imperfection
  • 5 quakers equal 1-imperfection
  • 5 broken beans equals 1-imperfection
  • 1 small pod equals 1-imperfection
  • 1 large pod equals 2-imperfections
  • 1 medium size stone equals 1-imperfection
  • 2 small stones equals 1-imperfection
  • 1 large stone equals 2-imperfections
  • 1 very large stone equals 3-imperfections

In older times and in some countries the grading goes:

No. 2 = 6 black beans
No. 3 = 13 black beans
No. 4 = 29 black beans
No. 5 = 69 black beans
No. 6 = 115 black beans
No. 7 = 250 black beans
No. 8 = 500 black beans

Any more are not admissible to the United States.

Another grading concept is points. Very generally speaking, grading is determined by the country of origin. If the country is in favor, the grading system will be change to accommodate that particular government. Very unfair, unscientific, and confusing yes, but that is the way it is.

An example of a numeric grading system is Ethiopian 1, 2, & 3. One (1) being perfect. Two (2) being average. Three (3) being poor. Grade 1 is so perfect that only Royality and the mystics can get it, much less afford it. Grade 2 is sold and shipped. And, Grade 3 is for domestic use. In the Indies, grade 1 is a good selling grade, grade 2 is the average lower cost grade, and grade 3 way down there along with 4.

Now the question: does "Grade 1" mean any thing?

Another classification is based on the coffee bean density; H.B (Hard Bean), S.H.B. or SHB; (Strictly Hard Bean).

H.G. or HG (High Grown), L.G.C. or LGC (Low Grown Central) is both location and an attempt at bean density calassification using the theory that high and low density has something to do with the height on the mountain. To an extent at one location, this might be true. Rain, humidity, and temperature account for density too.

With new technology, yet another grade is appearing: that is of color. Now it is possible to sort beans mechanically by color.

Pea-berry beans are special. They look different than the two bean per coffee berry type. Pea-berry is where the bean does not split and is still connected together with the opposite side. Thus, it is generally round. Because pea-berries are special, they have their own classifications which have grater latitude because of there rareness.

Generally, the commercial coffee bean is packed in 60 kilogram or 132 pound burlap sacks. Then shipped with the silverskin in tact. However, this is not always the case either. Some coffee sacks go as much as 200 pounds.

The waist product in the coffee production process is generally thrown away, or used as fertilizer, or livestock feed.

One may ask; why is grade important? The answer is roasting time and temperature. Smaller beans roast faster than larger beans, thus, they cost less to roast and they roast more evenly. Too small of coffee bean is considered under developed and usually does not have a good extraction rate. Dense beans roast slower than less dense beans, thus, cost more to roast and roast less evenly. However, less coffee dense beans may contain more moisture, and more moisture adds to the roasting time. Density and moisture content of the bean go together to make a roasting environment. Less dense beans with little moisture cost less to roast and roast most evenly. However, more dense beans have grater extraction contents. Rocks and twigs don't roast well at all, and rotten beans taste bad. The same is true with color, beans of different color have different chemical content, thus, taste different and consistency is the name of the game. So, theoretically, bean grade is very important.

An additional note: bean grade was not developed to facilitate trading of the bean itself. It was developed to facilitate investment in the commodities market. When purchasing beans themselves, you look at the product, and you take the product or leave it. When purchasing beans in the commodities market, you never see the product, and you invest on blind faith. Experience at actually purchasing the beans indicates that the grading process is somewhat ambiguous. If you are a company purchasing beans, you go to the source, look at and test the product. If you are buying a boat load, you send someone to the country of origin and they evaluate the product. Either that, or you really must trust the seller, or have a trustworthy agent in the field.

Aging Green Coffee Beans

This is a really good controversy. Many say, aging the coffee beans reduces acidity. Other say, aging the beans makes them taste bad.

Monsooned beans from India are about aging. In fact, it is a process which ages the bean in a particular way. Monsooned coffee beans are stored in such a way that the monsoon winds drys them. As such, the beans take on a light brown look. Some say they taste like balsawood but when the author fried up some, they tasted much like coffee should.

There are those people who like the taste of aged beans. As drinking coffee is an acquired taste, obviously if one acquires the taste of aged beans, then aged beans are what they want.

Aging beans is a process which goes back a long ways. When coffee beans were first introduced to Europe, modern shipping had 400 years to go. Beans aged naturally during transportation. The common description of "hidy taste" came about during this time. Many coffee beans traveled over land in camel caravans wrapped in goats hide.

Coffee beans are aged on purpose in many countries. It is a common practice. The problem is that more modern taste demands fresh beans. That's probably because more modern shipping gets beans to market faster so the acquired taste is for fresh beans. As a consequence, aged coffee beans are loosing their demand in the modern market place.

Then there are old beans. This is different from aged beans. Old coffee beans are beans which didn't sell. Ten to one, they are not kept in a warehouse designed for aging but in one designed for quick movement and they were processed for selling. As such, old beans pick up a musty flavor when sitting around in a steamy musty warehouse because the parchment defends the bean against such incursions and it has been removed for a sale which didn't happen. Because coffee is grown in the tropics, musty warehouses are common place. Think about it.

A second considerations is how the beans were stored. Typically, beans are stored in the parchment until they are sold. Then the bean is milled and the parchment is removed. After the parchment is removed, the bean is dried, sacked, and shipped. One may argue that old beans are those beans which have been sitting around too long with the parchment removed. Aged beans are those which havebeen sitting around with the parchment still intact.

As far as time is concerned, both aged beans and old beans are the same. They are both not fresh. As far as taste is concerned, there is a big difference between aged beans, old beans, and fresh beans. It truth, the green coffee bean buyer has three different flavors to choose form. It is a simple matter of which one do you want?

CC: current corp means fresh. PC: past crop means stored.

Coffee home - From crop to cup - Green Coffee Beans Classification

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