Coffee Terms

Details you may find used throughout the site

Coffee Grading

Grading is a method used to determine coffee bean size, which is typically associated with quality, larger being better. In general, but with exceptions, larger and more dense beans are achieved at higher elevations and tend to yield better flavor.

Determining coffee bean size is done by “sifting” un-roasted beans through a sieve. The size of the holes is equivalent to the grade. Grade 18 beans (also AA beans) will pass through a sieve with 18/64″ diameter holes but not the next 16/64″ sieve. Even numbered grades are traditionally used for Arabicas (20, 18, 16) while odd numbers for Robustas (17, 15, 13).

Methods for grading coffee vary the world over and may include any or all of these attributes: bean size, bean density, defects, growing altitude, cupping notes or flavor and more.

Beans grown at higher altitudes mature slower than at lower elevations, and therefore also grow harder and more dense. This translates to consistent taste attributes and makes them more desirable, and generally more expensive, than coffees grown at lower elevations. They also hold up better for darker roasts.

HB (Hard Bean)

Also called HG (High Grown), HB refers to coffee grown at elevations between 4000 – 4500 feet (1.22 – 1.37 km).

SHB (Strictly Hard Bean)

Also called SHG (Strictly High Grown), SHB usually refers to coffee grown at elevations higher than 4500 feet (1.35 km).

SS (Strictly Soft Bean)

SS beans are grown at relatively low altitudes, under 4000 feet (1.22 km).

EP (European Preparation)

Indicates that the raw coffee beans are hand sorted in another pass to further remove unwanted beans, or other matter not relevant to great coffee!