Consulting & Analysis for Coffee & Tea
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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Why test coffee & tea?

As natural products, coffee & tea are subject to differences in flavor depending on processing, grade, time from harvest, and in the case of coffee species and variety of plant. Manufacturing variations including processing, blending, roasting, grinding and packaging will affect the quality of the finished product. Coffee & tea are constantly changing in all its forms, from the farm to the cup. In order to maintain a consistent level of quality for sale (or for consumption), one needs to understand the nature and rate of these changes to make appropriate business decisions about the quality of product being served or sold. This can only be accomplished through regular scientific analysis.

How often should coffee & tea be tested?

Testing one sample is a benchmark analysis, providing one data point in time and does not reflect the overall quality of quality trends in a coffee or tea program. The frequency of testing depends upon the level of risk to be managed. It is common for specialty roasters to test every batch produced. The critical decision is to determine testing schedule that reflects the variability of the raw materials relevant to production schedules, balanced with cost and practicality. Coffee Enterprises recommends a trust but verify approach when evaluating supply chain or manufacturing quality. Once a quality trend is established less frequent testing may be appropriate. We help our clients determine the most appropriate testing schedule that corresponds with their ability to make actionable decisions on the data provided. Testing schedules for business critical items may be as frequent as every day, or quality controlled at weekly, monthly, quarterly, intervals.

How much does testing cost?

Prices are determined by the requested tests, the quantity of products and the frequency of scheduled tests and the level of required customization to data collection and reporting. Discounts are provided based on the project size and operational efficiencies in our laboratory. Standard green coffee, roasted coffee and tea testing packages include physical, chemical and sensory evaluations. Annual service contracts are available.

How are test results reported?

For each product received, a comprehensive report is issued in PDF format via email. The report details information about the product submitted, quantitate and qualitative data collected. Coffee Enterprises has flexibility in our technical operations and customized data collection and reporting is available.

What is meant by “quality?”

The word “quality” has many definitions throughout the global farm to cup supply chain. Physical and chemical quality is determined by quantitative measurements using calibrated analysis equipment. Sensory quality is determined by qualitative analysis using our sensory panel. Quality may be measured by adherence to specification, intrinsic quality of the raw materials, or manufactured quality of the financed products. At Coffee Enterprises we may report quality levels using industry accepted terms and specifications or client specific specifications.

What are the main aspects of quality?

Physical attributes, chemical components, and sensory profile.

What is “quality control?”

A system or process of maintaining standards in raw materials and manufactured products by testing a product sample against the specification.

What is “sensory analysis?”

Often called sensory evaluation, it is a scientific discipline that utilizes human senses (sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing) for the purposes of evaluating consumer products. While the human sensory system is sophisticated and able to identify and detect low thresholds of attribute intensity it is subject to a multitude of interferences, both physical and psychological. Good Sensory Practices (GSP) guide and control the conditions of analysis using a panel. Coffee & tea professionals refer to the process as “cupping” or “tasting” depending on how the sample is prepared.

Can’t anyone perform sensory analysis?

Yes, however the validity of the data and confidence in the results are increased when an aligned, trained panel or an expert, calibrated panel is utilized. Increased training and professional experience will enable increased detection abilities along with the skill of accurate articulation of the perceived aroma and taste attributes.

Why are sensory methods so central to coffee & tea quality analysis?

Coffee & tea are vastly complex, capable of producing thousands of chemicals that can be perceived, depending on the origin, processing and preparation. These various chemicals, perceived viscosity, product sweetness can enhance attributes, cancel each other out, present independently of one another, or combine to create new perceptions. Great strides have been made in automatic instrumentation, but the simplest, least expensive, and most replicable results are obtained by sensory analysis by professional, calibrated panels.

What do the other methods of testing reveal?

The combination of physical and sensory analysis or both the raw materials and financed products will help identify quality issues and the critical source of the issues as well. Typically one test will not provide all the information required to formulate a judgement on the supply chain or process controls. The evaluation of multiple test must be reviewed and interpreted by qualified professional to make conclusion and judgment based on the data collected and their experience.

Can you test my coffee or tea to make sure it is really organic?

Coffee Enterprises is not aware of a chemical test that would determine such a conclusion. Organic certifications identify the farm or garden and the chain of custody throughout the supply chain are for the farm and the supply chain.

Who performs the actual tests?

All staff members are trained quality technologist and laboratory technicians. Our technical operations are supervised by our senior staff who have decades of industry experience and are credentialed and certified to preform analytical functions. Our technical staff attend industry training and have obtained a wide variety of credentials and certification for the evaluation of coffee and tea products.

What testing methodologies are used?

The testing methods used are published by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), Green Coffee Association (GCA) the Association of Analytical Chemists (AOAC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM) or published by other recognized scientific testing organization. Explanation of the method used for analysis are available to our clients.
Testing methods fall into two general classifications: primary and secondary. A primary testing method is one that directly measures the aspect being tested to a highly accurate degree, while a secondary standard measures other aspects of the sample to conclude a measurement (indirect measurement). For example, the primary testing method for moisture testing of green and roasted coffee is the Karl Fischer titration. This requires elaborate sample preparation, specialized laboratory equipment, and a skilled chemist to perform the test. As a result, the cost of testing by this method is several hundred dollars. While secondary methods may not be as precise, they are almost always of adequate precision for making decisions and more economical for the customer.

What equipment is used in performing the tests?

Coffee Enterprises uses professional laboratory equipment that would be found in any analytical laboratory. Our equipment is calibrated per the manufactures schedules and certified to the manufacturer standards.

How do I know if my coffee or tea is fresh?

The easiest way is to smell it in the dry state. Stale aromas appear first at this stage are commonly perceived as straw, paper, cereal, malt, or rancid oil.