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What are coffee defects?

A Guatemalan beneficio, or coffee mill, in the middle of August is a bit of a lonely place. The coffee is unripe on the trees and except for the occasional worker walking by outside with a cart full of pruning debris, the whole place feels rather empty.

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There are a few bags of coffee stacked about. One sits upright and open in the corner. You take a look. Inside the bag is the ugliest raw coffee you've ever seen. Take your pick, its all there: black beans, broken beans, immature beans, fermented beans. These are known as defective beans. How can this be? Guatemala is one of the worlds largest producers of specialty grade coffees. What is this stuff? Piled all together green coffee defects are called triage, a word of French origin that means, essentially, to sort or sift. In terms of coffee, triage is quite literally the stuff thats been sorted to the bottom of the barrel. In Brazil, they call it PVA coffees. Ask the beneficio manager and hell say it is para consumo interno for internal consumption, meaning it will be blended with slightly better coffee until drinkable, roasted and sold locally. Coffee is an agricultural products and defects are a part of nature and no coffee farm can produce 100% specialty grade coffee. Coffee farmers will say, every coffee has its market. By any and except for the occasional worker walking by outside with a cart full of pruning debris, the whole place feels rather empty.

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After all, it doesn't look like coffee, it doesn't act like coffee, and it most assuredly doesnt taste like coffee. Defective beans don't substantially transform chemically during the roasting process and therefore retain a much higher concentration of undesirable acids. Alone, these beans are so sour and bitter they're simply unpalatable and can only be used as filler. But never fear, in the simplest terms, specialty coffee is defined not only as coffee that tastes great when properly roasted, but contains none of the defects that affect flavorzero. Defects that have a significant impact on flavor are called Category One defects and specialty grade coffee has zero Category One defects. So this is one of the reasons specialty grade coffee is more expensive. Defects do not remove themselves from the coffee, they must be removed, usually by hand and usually through several sorts to capture everything. If quality is not important, defects do not need to be removed, or fewer defects can be removed, which lowers the cost of labor and the cost of the coffee, which is one reason you can find such great variance in price on the grocery store shelf.

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Of course there will always be coffee drinkers who buy on price alone and therefore an eager industry segment lining up all the way back to the farm to give them what they pay for, coffee that is nothing more than good enough. At Batdorf we expect our coffee to be more than good enough, and so do you, which is why we search for exceptional coffee treated with extraordinary care from the nursery to your cup.

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