Better Beans, Better Coffee: Part I thumbnail image

Better Beans, Better Coffee: Part I

Jan 11th 2024

For 30 years we have roasted our coffee to perfection, using only the top 2% of beans grown in the world, Specialty Grade 1 Arabica to give you the best cup of coffee. Yes, you read that right, Top 2%, meaning 98% of the coffee grown in the world does not meet our standards. As the first installment of our Better Beans, Better Coffee series, we will dig a little deeper into the difference between Specialty Grade 1 Arabica and the other beans on the market.

There are 2 main types of coffee beans grown from the genus Coffea – Arabica and Robusta. Each type is a different species of the same plant family. Both plants or coffee trees produce a fruit called a coffee cherry. The seed of the coffee cherry is the coffee bean. The fruit of each cherry is discarded, and the precious seed is what is roasted, ground and brewed into this wonderful beverage we call coffee.

All coffee beans are not created equal and we would like to share the differences between Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica Beans

  • -Grown at higher altitudes above 2,500 ft. above sea level
  • -Prized for their mild, well-balanced, smoother flavor
  • -Naturally lower in caffeine content
  • -More expensive based on classifications of Arabica
  • -Generally used in Gourmet & Specialty Coffee


  • -Grown at altitudes under 2,500 ft. above sea level
  • - Stronger, harsher and slightly bitter taste than Arabica
  • -Twice the caffeine than Arabica
  • -“Robust” in nature and more resistant to disease
  • -Generally used in instant and commercial coffees – not specialty coffee

Based on these differences, Arabica Coffee is considered better tasting and more desirable than Robusta and is generally purchased by premium or gourmet coffee roasters.

Not only is Arabica the better coffee, but there are GRADES of Arabica that further define the quality and taste.

. How can you tell the difference? While hard to SEE the difference, the coffee industry relies on the Specialty Coffee Association to grade the coffee. They grade the green coffee based on where the coffee is grown (region), the altitude, the size, shape and the number of defects and of course, the taste in the cup. There are 5 grades of Arabica Coffee shown below:

  • Specialty Grade 1 –This is the highest grade of beans and to be classified as Grade 1, the beans can have no primary defects and contain 1 to 5 defects in a 300 gram sample size
  • Grade 2 – Premium Grade Coffee – This is the 2nd highest grade and allowed to have a maximum of 8 defects in a 300 gram sample size
  • Grade 3 – Exchange Grade -This coffee allows 9 to 23 full defects
  • Grade 4 – Standard Grade – This coffee allows 24 to 86 defects
  • Grade 5 – Off Grade – This coffee allows more than 86 defects

Defects? That sounds bad. Coffee is an agricultural product and by nature, contains imperfections, which are referred to as defects. The more defects, the more “off” or undesirable the taste of the coffee. Defects can be anything from insect damage, water damage, broken beans, sour, or fermented beans. Sorting is critical to remove any of these defective or imperfect beans.

To ensure the absolute best quality coffee, Door County Coffee buys only Specialty Grade 1 Arabica coffee, which is almost free from any imperfections. We know we will never be the biggest coffee roaster, but we aim to be the best. To do that, we need to start with the best quality coffee beans we can find. We gladly pay more for this quality of green beans because the higher prices provide a better living for the coffee farmers who we depend on to continue to grow, harvest and cultivate Specialty Grade 1 Arabicas well into the future.

There are so many reasons we are proud to roast Specialty Grade 1 Arabica beans and these are just a few. From Dark Voyage to Black and Tan, we hope you can truly taste the difference in each and every sip. Stay tuned for more fun facts about the coffee we roast! Coffee Cheers!