How to recognize a real Specialty Coffee

The world of coffee is vast, but there is a category that stands out for its extraordinary quality: "Specialty Coffee". This term doesn't just refer to a drink, but to an experience subjected to rigorous evaluation by professional tasters known as "cuppers" or "Q-Graders."

Specialty coffee is a category of very high quality coffee that is evaluated and classified based on rigorous criteria that take various aspects into account, let's look at them together.

1. The Origin: a journey to the lands of Specialty Coffee

Origins specialty coffee

One of the distinctive aspects of specialty coffees is their origin from unique geographical regions, within the so-called " Coffee Belt " . Lands such as Ethiopia, located in the heart of Africa, Kenya with its fertile lands in East Africa, Colombia, the jewel of Latin America, just to name a few, are famous for their unique geographical conditions that shape determining factor in the aromatic profile of these fine coffees .

2. Coffee varieties: a world of botanical diversity

variety of specialty coffee

The term "variety" refers to botanical subgroups of the two most widespread species: Arabica and Robusta .

To fully understand the importance of this dimension, we can compare coffee to an equally varied fruit, such as apples. Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji and Red Delicious apples, with their peculiar nuances of color and flavor, find an analogue in the diversity of species and varieties of coffee, such as Arabica and Robusta, and the distinct varieties such as Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, Geisha, Catuai .

This botanical approach adds a level of complexity, creating unique and distinct flavor profiles.

3. Altitude of coffee crops

The altitude of coffee crops emerges as a crucial element that significantly shapes its quality and sensorial profile . Coffee plants that face the challenges of higher altitudes exhibit slower growth, leading to the formation of denser beans . When we refer to "dense" in this context, we mean that the beans are more compact and concentrated . This characteristic often results in superior flavor complexity , as denser beans can contain a greater amount of flavor compounds. Density also contributes to more complex acidity , as slower growth processes allow plants to develop richer flavor profiles . On the other hand, coffee grown at lower altitudes often offers a tasty combination of sweetness and body , highlighting the nuances of flavors that characterize this variety of origin. In this sensorial journey between the peaks and valleys, altitude reveals itself as a determining element that gives coffee its unique and inimitable identity.

4. Specialty Coffee cultivation methods

Coffee is grown in specific geographic regions . Growing quality coffee is no easy task. It is a process that requires skill and attention, since planting an excellent variety of coffee at the wrong altitude or in the wrong soil can irreparably compromise the final result. However, consideration cannot be limited to terrain and altitude alone; climate plays an equally crucial role. The cultivation of a specialty coffee is the result of the intersection of multiple fundamental variables , masterfully managed only by expert and attentive producers. In many cases, these producers dedicate generations to perfecting the art of growing specialty coffee, focusing on improving quality rather than quantity.

5. Harvesting and Selection of Beans

collection and selection of specialty coffee beans

The manual harvesting of beans , known as "picking" , plays a fundamental role in the production of superior quality coffee . This method involves the careful selection of ripe and healthy drupes, ensuring that only perfectly ripe fruits are harvested. This meticulous attention to selection contributes significantly to elevating the overall quality of the coffee. In this context, the Green Coffee Buyer takes on a key position, guiding the choice of the best beans and helping to guarantee the highest quality standards and preventing possible defects from compromising the quality in the cup.

6. Specialty Coffee Processes

processing processes of all types of coffee, including Specialty Coffee

The transformation of specialty coffee goes through an artisanal process that requires meticulous attention to detail and precision to ensure the high quality of the final product.
The main processing methods for producing all types of coffee, including Specialty Coffee are:

  • Wet washing: This method uses water to remove unwanted parts from the coffee beans. After harvesting, the beans are immersed in tanks of water, undergo a fermentation phase to remove superfluous material, are then washed to eliminate the last residues and, finally, dried in the sun or in dryers.
  • Dry Cleaning: In this process, the beans are dried while retaining the outer coating. They are placed on drying tables or beds of sand, where they are turned frequently to ensure uniform drying. After complete drying, the beans are separated from the rest through a mechanical process.
  • Controlled Fermentation: This method involves using selected yeasts or bacteria to direct the fermentation process during processing. Although it requires greater attention to detail and resources to control, controlled brewing can significantly improve the flavor and aroma of coffee .

The choice between these techniques depends not only on the geographic region and coffee variety, but also on the specific preferences of the producer. This tailored approach is essential to ensure the highest quality and encourage the unique expression of flavors and aromas that characterize specialty coffee.

7. Specialty Coffee Score

specialty coffee score

In the world of coffee, the rating to define a specialty coffee is based on a Specialty Coffee Association scoring system that ranges from 0 to 100. A coffee that gets a score of 80 or more is considered Specialty . This score reflects the overall quality of the coffee, including factors such as cleanliness of flavor, complexity, lack of flaws, and balance between sweetness and acidity. A coffee with a higher score indicates higher quality, with more complex and pleasant flavors. This scoring system helps consumers and professionals distinguish specialty coffees from commercial or lower quality ones.

8. Quality control of specialty coffees

Specialty coffees are subjected to rigorous quality controls , including laboratory tests and sensory testing, ensuring they meet the required standards. Green coffee analysis plays a crucial role in this process, as it evaluates several key parameters that contribute to defining the quality of the coffee . The size and weight of the beans , standardized internationally, are carefully considered, as is the degree of humidity which should remain between 9% and 13%. The presence of defects, such as black or misshapen beans, is scrupulously examined and defective beans are removed during this stage.
Furthermore, the analysis of green coffee evaluates the acidity profile, aroma and flavor , crucial factors that influence the perception of specialty coffee. Finally, caffeine content is taken into account , which varies depending on the coffee variety and growing region, but generally falls in the 1% to 2% range. This meticulous and comprehensive approach ensures that only the highest quality beans are selected and used for the production of specialty coffee.

9. Roasting Specialty Coffee

specialty coffee roasting

The roasting of Specialty Coffee is a crucial phase entrusted to Roasters , experts in transforming selected coffee. This delicate process often features a light or medium roast , a carefully considered choice that aims to preserve the unique characteristics of the beans . At this stage, we work with precision to ensure that the coffee achieves the right balance between flavor development and preservation of aromatic notes. Roasting results in a cup of specialty coffee that fully expresses the nuances of taste and aroma that distinguish and respect the original blend.

10. Traceability of Specialty Coffee

Specialty Coffee stands out as a product of exceptional traceability , equipped with a detailed identity card that reveals the details of its origin. The aromatic notes, precisely described , act as a sensorial guide, allowing consumers to anticipate and appreciate the unique flavor nuances that this coffee offers. In summary, the traceability of a Specialty Coffee reveals itself as an informative and sensorial journey that adds depth to the simple experience of enjoying a cup of coffee.

11. Sensory evaluation of Specialty Coffee

Exploring the organoleptic characteristics of specialty coffee becomes an enriching experience thanks to the application of sensory analysis , a scientific discipline that uses objective methods to measure, analyze and interpret the sensations perceived by the senses: sight, smell, taste and touch. This practice involves tasting sessions and sensory tests conducted in the laboratory, entrusted to a group of selected and specially trained tasters , also known as Q-Graders .

Cellini Caffè Delizia and Meraviglia embody the excellence of Specialty Coffee. These very high quality grains offer a unique and unforgettable sensorial experience capable of leading those who taste these blends on a real journey of taste.

The world of "Specialty Coffee" is a real journey through the origin, the varieties, and the artisanal processes that give this coffee its distinctive quality. From altitude to harvesting, from processing to roasting, each phase contributes to shaping a unique character.