• Inspection and classification

    Each coffee producing country has its own export presentation system.

    Whatever form this may take, it is essential to ensure that the coffee offered for sale does not contain excessive amounts of defective beans or foreign matter, and that it is clean in the cup. Some origins and exporters only assess robusta quality visually and do not liquor the coffee.

    This is to be discouraged: coffee is meant for human consumption and its taste is of paramount importance. The roaster liquors it before using it, so the shipper should liquor it before dispatching it.

    Based on visual quality
    , robusta beans could be categorized into three grades: above FAQ (fair average quality), FAQ (average) and below FAQ.

    Above average coffees would have good colour (grey with a hint of blue when washed and golden brown when unwashed), possess uniformity in size and shape and conform to the prescribed grade specifications, emit a normal smell (cereal-like when washed and fruity when unwashed), and would contain hardly any defectives. The beans would be free of extraneous or foreign matter, mould or toxins, and have a moisture content definitely less than 12.5%.

    Average coffees would be of a colour that is not faded, conform to the grade description, have no mould or fungal growth and contain a limited proportion of defects that do not adversely affect the cup quality.

    Below average coffees could be of varying qualities, ranging from beans which have high moisture content and are defective such as broken beans, blacks, browns or extraneous matter, to very poor, bleached and mouldy beans. Remember that coffees with more than 12.5% moisture content should never be shipped, and that many receivers stipulate their own moisture content limits, both at the time of shipment and upon arrival.

    Based on liquor quality, robusta beans could be classified as follows:

    Fine and special, where the liquor quality is soft, smooth and buttery, with good body, hardly any bitterness, and clean. This quality can be seen in robusta coffees which are washed and processed with care, in robusta beans which are grown at high altitudes and under shade, and in plant strains which have the inherent characteristics of lower caffeine content, softness and mellow flavour notes.

    Good, where the liquor quality could be described as good body, neutral, light bitterness, clean, with a hint of chocolate notes.

    Average, with a cup quality of fair body, fair neutrality, average bitterness, and clean.

    Below average, where the liquor, though of fair body, has harsh notes of the robusta fruit, is bitter though clean, and is flat with no flavour notes.

    Poor, a cup which is unclean, having medicinal, phenolic or rioy off notes, or strong harsh robusta notes, with or without body, bitter and unpleasant to the taste.

    What has been said above is not a universal methodology followed by all robusta producing origins. It is only a means to explain the quality attributes that could be encountered in a robusta cup and the manner in which these attributes could be classified. Individual buyers have their own classification and evaluation methods, but usually the attributes and ratings will be comparable to those above.

    See also 12.11, Grading and classification.
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