Most coffee beans sold in the market are cleaned and removed of twigs, nails, rocks, stones, etc., but not all coffee beans are thoroughly sorted.
The trickiest and perhaps the most important of all steps in sortingcoffee beans – is called “color sorting”, or separating inferior beans from quality beans on the basis of color. And with most exceptional quality coffees, the best color sorting is done by hand, (also called as the “European preparation”).
In color sorting by hand, teams of people sit in rows of sorting tables and remove beans that are not satisfactory in color. They also remove beans which are damaged by insects, unripe or over-ripe beans, over-fermented, unhulled, or otherwise lacking in quality.
Coffee Heritage Project shares knowledge on coffee grading, and hand sorting GCBs twice (also called “double-picked”) since they are sold as “whole bean” and customers can easily examine the beans they get. Not all coffees are double and sorted due to the cost of this labor-intensive process.
Unlike coffee picking, coffee sorting can be mechanized. However, these machines are not widely used in most coffee producing regions around the world. Perhaps the biggest deferment to mechanized sorting is that hand sorting coffee beans generates much-needed work for small coffee-growing communities like Coffee Heritage Project’s origin.
The scene of a room filled with women painstakingly sorting through piles of green coffee beans may be offending to some people, but the economic suffering caused by replacing these women with modern machines operated by a highly paid technician does not come as a comfortable alternative, particularly in most Coffee Heritage Project’s origin where local tribe culture feature strong communal values.