What is Specialty coffee?

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Coffee is complex, elegant, and confusing. It has flavor and aroma characteristics similar to wine. My job, as the roaster, is magnifying and bringing out all those luscious flavors in a smooth elegant cup that lingers. I had an Aeropress cup the other morning where everything came together in just one word: elegance.



Specialty coffee is a grade of coffee graded 80 points or above on a 100 scale. This scale is determined by the SCAA or by a grader certified in grading coffee called a Q grader. These coffees are harvested at their peak and what makes them different from other coffees is they are grown at a high altitude, the proper time of the year, the best organic soil, and harvested at the perfect time. This means the most impressive and tasty coffee in the world for the consumer.


Green coffee grading is performed using a visual inspection and a slurping event called cupping.The visual part of grading is taking a 350 g sample and counting the defective beans. Primary and secondary defective beans are the two categories. Primary defective is black or sour beans and secondary is broken beans. Specialty coffee must meet zero primary and less than five secondary defects. This means when I receive this coffee for roasting, I am getting a superior quality coffee resulting in an exceptional coffee for our customers.

Cupping is an exercise of grinding 8.25 g of coffee, adding 150 ml of 200F reverse osmosis water to a cup, and then letting it cool to a specific temperature. The coffee crust that develops is broken releasing the coffee aromas. The coffee cools to a specific temperature and this is where the coffee is slurped from a spoon. If you have gone wine tasting, this is the same exercise of clearing your palette, slurping to get oxygen through the nose to the taste buds, and then spitting out the liquid to retain the savory and sweet flavors.

According to Androit market research, Specialty coffee market revenue is expected to grow 13.3% compound annual growth with market volume to grow at 8.3% over the next foreseeable future. What does this mean for the customer? Higher quality coffee for your daily cup, with more flavors, greater body, and exquisite taste. This is also meant to help you decipher the coffee industry while you are out and about or surfing the internet. Specialty coffee is here to stay and make your coffee elegant, smooth, and beyond your expectations for flavor.

What was your most memorable coffee experience and why was it so remarkable? How was the coffee prepared and was it part of the ambiance of the experience? Send me an email with your experience so I can share it with fellow coffee hunters.

Happy hunting for your perfect cup. Jonathan Lambert

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