Tradicional: At least 70% arabica, no more than 20% PVA defects. Superior: At least 85% arabica, no more than 10% PVA defects. Gourmet/Premium: 100% arabica, 0% of PVA defects.
There’s also a sustainability certification add-on, requiring at least 60% must be sourced from certified sustainable sources.
When buying green beans to be roasted, #TODO
The SCA defines a Green Arabica Coffee Classification System (GACCS) based on counting defects on a 350 g sample of beans. The beans are manually inspected for defects, each defect being categorized and counted. The number of occurrences of a given type of defect is normalized to a Full Defects point system based on their severity:
|Severe Insect Damage||5|
|Slight Insect Damage||10|
Because SCA mostly cares about Specialty Coffee only, even though GACCS scoring is used to define several unofficial categories, SCA’s Green Been Grading protocol is concerned just one: Specialty Grade. The rest is just not Specialty Grade.
Specialty Grade Green Coffee:
The COB classification by defects is pretty similar to the GACCS in that it translates different severities of defects into a Full Defects scoring system. It’s more punitive for most defects: no such thing as half blacks and half sours; insect damage also scores according to severity but more harshly; hulls, floaters and foreign matter are much more penalized. On the other hand, beans with parchment or fungus damage aren’t evaluated. Here’s the full scoring table:
|Sour or Stinker||2||1|
|Insect Damage||2 to 5||1|
|Small Hull||2 to 3||1|
|Large Foreign Matter||1||5|
|Medium Foreign Matter||1||2|
|Small Foreign Matter||1||1|
As for grading the final tally of the sample, the Brazilian system doesn’t specify named categories. It uses binning to separate ranges into “quality types”.
Curiously, the grading starts at 2. No official sources explain this but, according to some industry professionals, it’s because type 1 would be perfect coffee and there’s no such thing in the real world; which is amusingly corny and aspirational to formalize in commercial classification system.
In practice, this grading system isn’t used very much, even by Brazilian producers. Most buyers of high grade beans will perform their own bean sample analysis instead of trusting the producer’s numbers, while most buyers of low grade beans will buy whatever. In fact, it’s estimated that about 80% of the beans commercialized in the Brazilian internal market are below grade 8, with defects ranging in the 600 to 800 per sample (PDG, 2022). The lowest quality producers supposedly accept up to thousands defects.
Some of the terms used to define COB grades are out of date, featuring the common characteristics of the beans where the coffee were grown until the middle of the twentieth century, when Brazil only produced naturals. The characteristics in “Rio,” for example, were named after the coffee harvested in Rio de Janeiro state in that time. The beans named “Rio Zona” were called in that way due to the low quality coffees harvested in the Zona da Mata region more than half a century ago. Today, high-quality coffees are being harvested in all of Brazil’s established growing areas.