Q graders weigh the coffee and grind it into a cup. They sniff the dry grounds, taking notes on the fragrance. Water heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 Celsius) is poured over the grounds and the graders smell the wet coffee. After 4 minutes, the crust that forms on top of the cup is broken and grounds and foam are removed. After waiting 15 minutes for the coffee to cool, and only then is the coffee slurped up in a spoon. Then Q graders use their human fair judgment to tell which beans fit what market.
Demetria, an Israeli company developed a gadget to determine the quality of beans when used with hand-held sensors. The machine will be able to classify the quality of the bean before it’s even roasted. The company has completed a pilot program with Carcafe, the Colombian division of Volcafe, one of the world’s largest coffee traders.
The introduction of the computer technology would probably replace the traditional way doing the coffeecupping in the near future. The highly trained examiners, or Q graders, at the ICE Futures U.S. exchange in New York conduct the lengthy task of determining the quality and value of the coffee beans received by the traders. Trading houses, roasters and exporters also have their own graders.
Recently Demetria raised a $3 million initial investment funding led by Latin American-Israeli investor Celeritas and a group of private investors including MercantilColpatria, the investment branch of Colombia’s GrupoColpatria.
Volcafe, a unit of ED&F Man, will be one of the first companies to use and adopt the technology to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the new gadgetat its purchase points and in the field according to the general manager, Sebastian Pinzón.
Demetria’s Chief Executive Officer, Felipe Ayerbe added the tool will also help growers generate coffee with the characteristics buyers want, possibly helping fetch better prices.It could also help resolve quality disputes in the market. If adopted by the exchange, traders could also potentially use the device to scan their coffee before they ship it, reducing the risk beans will fail the bourse’s grading.
Demetria is also working with the Colombian National Federation for Coffee Growers to develop a series of apps that help farmers control and track bean quality, and price it accordingly.
The result is Demetria’s spectrometer, a small, handheld gadget that will measure bean size, weight, humidity levels and other parameters and relay that information to a mobile app, saving coffee growers, traders and buyers a lot of manual labor, costs and troubles according to Demetria’s VP Eliran Lazar.
“You need to make sure that you don’t accidentally lose the characteristics we wanted from that coffee,” he notes. “Today, that’s only done manually. At each point that you want to check the coffee you need to bring in a professional. We’re here to do this in a technological manner.”