Grading and Classification of Green Coffee

Grading and Classification

Green coffee is graded and classified for export with the ultimate aim of producing the best cup quality and thereby securing the highest price. However, there is no universal grading and classification system – each producing country has its own which it may also use to set (minimum) standards for export.

Grading and classification is usually based on some of the following criteria:  

  • Altitude and/or region
  • Botanical variety
  • Preparation (wet or dry process = washed or natural)
  • Bean size (screen size), sometimes also bean shape and cooler
  • Number of defects (imperfections)
  • Roast appearance and cup quality (flavor, characteristics, cleanliness…)
  • Density of the beans

Most grading and classification systems include (often very detailed) criteria, e.g. regarding permissible defects, which are not listed here. ‘The Origins’ Encyclopedia’ at is an example of a website which gives information on the export classification of coffees of most origins. Terminology on size and defects as used for classifications is also found at

The diversified classification terminology used in the trade is illustrated with a few examples below. It should be noted that descriptions such as ‘European preparation’ differ from one country to another. The examples refer primarily to the trade in mainstream coffee and do not reflect the often more detailed descriptions used for niche markets.

Brazil/Santos NY 2/3

Screen 17/18, fine roast, strictly soft, fine cup.

Brazil/Santos NY 3/4
Screen 14/16, good roast, strictly soft, good cup (often seen quoted as ‘Swedish preparation’).

Colombia Supremo screen 17/18
High grade type of washed arabica, screen 17 with max. 5% below. Often specified with further details.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) Robusta Grade 2
Grade 2; scale is from 0 (best) to 4 based on screen size and defects.

El Salvador SHG EP max. 3/5 defects
Strictly High Grown (above 1,200 m on a scale which also includes High Grown from 900–1,200 m and Central Standard from 500–900 m). EP (European preparation) permits max. 3–5 defects per 1,000 beans according to some exporters, others indicate defects per 300 g.

Ethiopia Jimma 5
Sun-dried (i.e. natural) arabica from the Jimma region. Type 5 refers to a grading scale based on screen, defect count and cup quality.

Guatemala SHB EP Huehuetenango
Strictly Hard Bean is from above 1,400 m. Scale includes five altitude levels from below 900 m (Prime washed) to above 1,400 m. European preparation: above screen 15, allows max. 8 defects per 300 g (American preparation: above screen 14, allows 23 defects).

India Arabica Plantation A

Washed arabica, screen 17. Classification is PB, A, B and C. Other classifications apply to unwashed (naturals) and robusta.

Indonesia Robusta Grade 4
The export grade scale goes from 0 (best) to 6. Grade 4 allows 45–80 defects. Region or other details are sometimes specified as quality, e.g. EK-1 and EK-Special. Processing depends on the region (island.

Kenya AB FAQ even roast clean cup
Kenya arabica grade AB, fair average quality. Internal grading system (E, AA, AB, PB, C, TT and T) is based on bean size and density, further detailed by liquor quality into 10 classifications. Top cupping coffees are mostly sold on actual sample basis.

Mexico Prime Washed 
Euro prep
Prime Washed (prima lavado) from altitude between 600 m and 900 m, on a scale from 400 m to 1,400 m; Euro prep is retained by screen 17 and allows max. 15 defects per 300 g.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) Smallholder Y1-grade
Y1 is one of the grades on a scale covering bean size, defect count, color, odor, roast aspects and cup quality; AA, A, AB, B, C, PB, X, E, PSC, Y1, Y2 and T.

Viet Nam Robusta Grade 2 max. 5% blacks and broken

Grade 2 out of six grades: Special Grade and Grade 1 to 5, based on screen size and defects.

Descriptions are often supplemented with further details on moisture content, acceptable mix of bean types, bean size, etc.