What Is Specialty Coffee?

What Is Specialty Coffee?

Specialty coffee isn’t just a brand name or a marketing term for coffee.

It doesn’t just mean coffee that’s a bit more deliberate than instant coffee. Specialty coffee is a classification of coffee grade that indicates quality from bean to cup. And when we say bean to cup we mean from seed to cup — from the farmer to you.

By the 100-point Q grading scale, specialty coffee is coffee that scores over 80.

The Q grading scale specifies the top of the chart as follows:

Score

Grade

90-100

Outstanding

85-89.99

Excellent

80-84.99

Very Good


All “Very Good” coffee is technically considered speciality. The Q grading scale is a bit old school and the Specialty Coffee Association, by way of the Americans and the Europeans, sets their own standards.

The SCA defines specialty coffee as coffee that has 0 to 5 defects for every 350g of beans.

An additional definition includes coffee that’s handpicked from the plant to select only mature beans and cherries but, strictly, modern specialty coffee both scores over 80 in the 100-point Q grading scale and also satisfies the SCA’s 0 to 5 defect criteria.

The SCA’s defect criteria actually breaks down into two categories: Primary and Secondary. See the table below for a breakdown.


Primary Defects

Defect Equivalents

Secondary Defects

Defect Equivalents

Full Black

1

Partial Black

3

Full Sour

1

Partial Sour

3

Dried Cherry/Pod

1

Parchment/Pergamino

5

Fungus Damaged

1

Floater

5

Foreign Matter

1

Immature/Unripe

5

Severe Insect Damage

5

Withered

5

Shell

5

Broken/Chipped/Cut

5

Hull/Husk

5

Slight Insect Damage

10


For more information about what each of these defects look like, check out the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Green Coffee Defect Handbook.

How to look for specialty coffee.

Australians, more than anyone else, are spoiled for choice with speciality coffees almost across the board. Largely eschewing the chains like Starbucks in favour of independent cafés and roasteries — even if they’re larger independents like Merlo or Grinders — we’re used to specialty coffee.

A good way to find out if your coffee supplier stocks specialty coffee is to ask. Modern coffee supply chains are pretty transparent and even the smallest of microlot farmers adhere to stricter, more specific reporting regulations and requirements around the quality of their beans.

Potblack’s signature coffee Wanderer is a dark roast specialty espresso blend that’s designed to help you brew the perfect espresso every time at home or at work.

For more information on the Australian specialty coffee industry, head over to the Australian Specialty Coffee Association’s website to find out more.
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