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Quality Control and Sample Management at Equatorial Traders is a fundamental part of our business.

Quality Control with a scientific approach 

To achieve the highest level of quality control we have developed strict measures and procedures to manage coffee samples from our purpose-built coffee grading facilities in our headquarters at King’s Cross, London. 

From here, we provide fair and unbiased analysis using a combination of modern technology and traditional techniques to test, taste and record green coffee samples through physical and sensory analysis. 

We understand your individual coffee preference is unique, we cannot tell you what you like. 

We can give you scientific test results for coffee samples allowing you to procure and choose coffees in confidence.


We record a fully detailed coffee report for each sample that passes through our lab, supplying science-based specifications and coffee evaluation to assist you in sourcing the right coffee every time and allow you to trade with us in full confidence.

Our laboratory facilities have been designed and built using state-of-the-art technology and equipment throughout. The lab is equipped with instruments to measure moisture content, water activity (aw), bean density, defect counts and screening.

All equipment is regularly calibrated to ensure precise and accurate results at all times. 

Our quality team, with two fully CQI certified Q-graders, is led by Gary Ellis. 

The team have many years of experience and are trained to follow industry-standard protocol and procedures in coffee evaluation and grading. 

All samples are roasted, brewed and cupped on site according to SCA methods.

We strive to ensure all tests are fair and controlled. The lab is fitted out with Brita  filtered water and a large eco-boiler to maintain the correct water quality and temperature for cupping samples.

Equatorial Traders  feel a growing commitment and responsibility towards all stakeholders in our value chain. To satisfy the success of all parties we know that strict and transparent quality control is vital for smooth operations and trading.  

We believe that sensory analysis combined with scientific testing provides our suppliers and our clients with the best possible and fairest evaluation of green coffee samples. 

Although coffee trading will never be completely without risk, through this rigorous control and careful sample management we aim to make trading with us a streamlined, enjoyable and hassle-free experience for all of our suppliers and customers.

We aim to ensure all of our coffees and contracts meet customer expectations every time.

On occasion clients may need to use different or specific methods to assess coffee which is why alongside the physical testing we also offer alternative solutions for cupping and roasting.

For example, samples can be roasted to a specific program using the Ikawa Pro-V3 instead of the Probat drum roaster.

Alternatively we can brew coffees differently using a drip filter teapot to deliver a more homogenised liquid for sensory evaluation or run an espresso tasting using the one-group La Marzocco Linea. 

Ethiopia remains a focus origin for the company where we know that having extra checks at each stage of our coffees’ journeys is even more important. In Addis, our rep office with fully equipped coffee lab facilities is managed by Eden Kassahun, also a certified Q-grader and experienced coffee expert. 

Eden oversees and inspects all our shipments out of Ethiopia. When she is not sampling containers during packing, you will find her either liaising with producers and cooperatives or out in the bush, visiting the farms herself. A team of seven help her complete this crucial role. 

Quality Management

Green Coffee Physical & Sensory Analysis for Quality Management and Control 

Results-driven reports 

Our newly developed coffee sample report provides clients with a full analysis of their beans. The document pulls together all vital information  and test results to enable a fast and accurate review of any coffee sample. 

Easy to read, the report offers a snapshot of a particular coffee to assist purchasing and maintain quality control management. 


All samples are screened using traditional sieves manufactured by Pinhalense in Brazil. 

A 300 gram sample of green coffee beans will be sieved to determine the screen size.

Screen size (1/64 inch)
Diameter of sieve holes (mm)
Very Large
Very Large
Undergrades & Defects

Moisture Content

A standard measure of physical quality that provides a basis for contracting green coffee, moisture content gives us a clear signal for quality management and control. We use the handheld, industry standard Sinar BeanPro 6070 moisture reader for quick and simple testing. We further ensure all readings are highly accurate using the recently installed high-tech TEWS MW1150 at-line Moisture measuring system. The MW1150 is set up and calibrated via PC connection enabling frequent, exact and reliable measurements in less than one second.

Water Activity

Water activity (aw) can be measured in natural products to give an idea of the stability of a product.  This can be helpful in determining a product’s shelf life: too much activity and the product is more likely to become contaminated from bacterial or mould growth; too little activity and the product will deteriorate faster as it becomes overly dried out. 

We now have the technology to give an accurate reading of water activity for our coffee samples using our Aqualab 4TE from the metergroup. This water activity meter is fast and precise giving a direct measure of water activity (aw) accurate to 0.003.

Defect Count

This involves a manual inspection of a 300 gram sample of beans where the percentage of defective beans is calculated and physical appearance is assessed. At this stage the sample will also be checked for any visual or sensual signs of contamination.

Fair Testing

All coffees are brewed using water that has been filtered using BRITA Purity C Quell ST filter cartridges that reduce carbonate hardness of the water which reduces limescale and minimises substances that can negatively impact taste and aroma (such as chlorine residues).

We use a Marco Eco-Boiler to provide continuous supply of water at the set temperature (91-93C) for brewing. Not only does this reduce energy usage of boiling kettles but the temperature is controlled and steady.

Coffee samples are roasted using our four-barrel Probat sample roasters or if preferred using the IKAWA PRO-V3 sample roaster. The  roasted beans are ground using the classic industry standard Mahlkonig Kenia Burr Grinder.  We use KERN PFB precision balance scales to weigh out samples of green coffee and roasted and ground samples for cupping.

Coffee samples are prepared for cupping following the SCA protocol. We use 220 ml porcelain cupping cups by W.Wright and 12 grams of ground coffee for brewing cups.

For detailed information on all our equipment and standards please download the PDF factsheet here.