Here are the ways you can use to determine the black & white pepper quality without any special equipment.
If the smell is weak, its volatile oil has depleted, it is a sign of poor quality. It is usually caused by poor processing or pepper is not fresh.
For white pepper: it may have a musky odor. Not because the white pepper goes bad, is because the white pepper is soaked in closed water. Consumers don’t like the smell. Hence, the musky-odor white pepper is low-grade pepper. White pepper that is soaked in the running stream has no bad odor, its smell is pleasant.
High-grade pepper has a sweet scent. It is an indication that the berry is more mature.
If it lacks the pungent flavor, it is a sign of poor quality, lack of piperine. It can be caused by poor processing or pepper is not fresh.
Take a biting test at the pepper berry, if the berry feels soggy, it is an indication that the berry has a lot of moisture. Excess moisture will alter the taste in the long term (due to enzymatic and chemical reaction) & reduce the shelf life of the pepper (due to microbial activity).
High-grade Black pepper appearance characteristics:
- should have its pericarp nicely intact.
- the pericarp color shouldn’t be pale, it is an indication that the pepper is not fresh or too dirty.
- shouldn’t have tiny white spots on the pericarp, it is an indication of mold.
- the seed shouldn’t be too small, damaged or broken.
- the bigger the berry, the better, it is an indication that the berry is more mature.
- shouldn’t have holes that were eaten by insects.
- should be free of any other foreign matter like stalk, debris, leaf, etc.
White pepper appearance characteristics:
- the skin should be bright in color, the brighter, the better, for consumer acceptance.
- low amount of black seeds (the pericarp that is not completely removed).
- same as no. 4,5,6&7 of the high-grade black pepper appearance characteristics that I have mentioned.
Good quality pepper is heavy. Heavy pepper usually means it is more mature, has more caramel-like aroma & well-balanced pungency (not overly spicy). Most traders are using the bulk density to determine the grade of pepper. High-grade peppers are more than 580g/L in bulk density.
And also, good quality pepper is hard, shouldn’t break apart easily when pressed with fingers. If it breaks, it is considered as light berries. Light berries are the berry that matures but failed to develop the seed inside (empty inside or very lightweight).