Coffee Beans have a grading system just like a fine wine. There are so many levels to the grading and certain conditions must be met to classify types of beans. Different countries have variations on their ratings, but most will follow standard grading scales. Explanations of these categories will be explained below.
Coffee Bean Grades
Grade is usually referring to the coffee bean size. The larger the bean usually means the harder and denser the bean, which is correlative to better flavor. Coffee bean size is determined by putting unroasted beans through a sieve. Grade 18 beans, also known as AA, are passed through a sieve with 18/64” diameter holes. Grades for Arabica beans are 18, 16, and 14 and Robusta beans are graded at 17, 15, and 13. Supremo beans are just another term for Grade 18 beans and the Excelso beans rating is another term for Grade 16 beans.
Hard Bean - This rating is synonymous with high grown (HG) and hard bean (HB) and refers to beans that are grown in high altitudes (4000-4500 feet above sea level). Beans at this altitude are harder and denser due to the maturation process happening more slowly.
Good Hard Bean - This rating of good hard bean (GHB) refers to beans grown at altitudes of 3300 – 3900 feet. These beans are in between the hard beans and soft beans and will have a medium, rounded flavor that is better than the strictly soft bean, but not as flavorful as the strictly hard bean.
Strictly Hard Bean - This rating is synonymous with strictly high grown (SHG) and strictly hard bean (SHB) and refers to beans that are grown at altitudes of 4500+ feet above sea level. This bean will be hard and dense and provide a quality taste that people will pay top dollar for.
Strictly Soft Bean - Beans given this rating of strictly soft (SS) are grown at low altitudes (under 3000 feet). These beans will have a more rounded flavor than the more flavorful Arabica beans grown at higher elevations.