Tasting Coffee for Defects


After the coffee has been processed, it is sent to the catador for a proper taste and defect analysis. The catador may taste up to 80 lots of coffee a day and he has the final say as to what coffees the beneficio buys and exports, as well as which it rejects. Some coffees may even be sent back for re-grading if the flavor is up to par but it has too many defects for a particular grade.


Lot samples often arrive as parchment coffee. The samples must be milled using this much smaller mill before being roasted.

Defect Classification:

The sampling is examined and the defects are counted in groups of eight. Eight defective beans count as one full defect. Some defects actually impart no flavor on the final coffee, others like black stinker beans impart a harsh flavor to the cup. In general, European standards are stricter than exports to America. After an examination of the green appearance of the coffee, the beans are roasted.

Sample Roasting :

A small sampling of beans is roasted using a small sample roaster. They are roasted very lightly - just into the first crack, the peak of flavor and aroma. Coffee roasted at this level is not typically drinkable for most people and may be very acidic. An experienced coffee taster, or "cupper", is able to taste past these "green" flavors and rate the coffee based on its merit and cup quality.

Tasting, or "Cupping":

Once the coffee has been roasted, it is ground and put into small cups or bowls. Just off the boil water is added directly to the cup (you won't find any filters here!). The aroma of the coffee is rated while the coffee brews. After several minutes, the "crust" or "cap" of grounds at the top of the cup is broken with a special spoon. The aroma is again rated as the catador inhales the steam that has built up below the crust. The coffee is then tasted by scooping up a small amount of liquid in the cupping spoon and slurping it loudly. This slurping is necessary to aspirate the coffee over the tongue - which provides a more full and even flavor on the palate. The coffee is then spit out into a spittoon or container (or plastic cup at this beneficio!). Flavor, body and acidity are rated based on this analysis.



A formal analysis of the coffee is recorded and pinned to the sample. The coffee is either sent back for re-grading, rejected, or bought based on this analysis. Professional catadors are hard to come by and are paid a premium in most countries. A good catador can make or break a reputation.

Storing of the samples:

Once a lot of coffee is exported, a small sample is kept at the beneficio. If the client says that the coffee is not what he originally tasted and thought he was buying, the samples are compared. If the client is not satisfied, or the coffee was damaged in shipment, a third party will determine fault and impose a decision.


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