Why Are Proper Sorting Techniques Important?


State of the art sorting equipment at Don Pedro Urbina’s processing mill in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

To ensure the best quality specialty coffee, sorting during harvest and post-production is of the utmost importance. Only a few defective or low-quality beans can reduce the quality of an excellent lot.

Before fermentation, the cherries are placed in tanks of water to check for defects. The cherries that float to the top are either hollow or have defective beans an must be removed immediately.

After fermentation, the beans are placed in washing channels with running water. It is important to recycle the water so there is less impact on the environment. The dense, good-quality beans sink to the bottom of the channels and get caught in the weirs. Meanwhile, the low-quality lightweight beans float over the top where they are caught. Some producers discard these beans, but many sell them to the local/commodity grade market. These are called “segundas” in Latin American countries.

During the drying phase of the coffee the beans are moved around regularly and workers conduct visual inspections. Beans that have been chipped, broken, machine damaged or have signs of insect damage are removed.

Theoretically, greater cup scores should result in better prices paid by roaster. This helps producers pay the high labour costs of all the workers on their farm who aid in ensuring the consistency of the best possible cup of coffee every single time.


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