Specialty Coffee: what it is, how to prepare it and where to find it

chicchi caffè verde

What makes a coffee…Specialty?

The word "specialty" already indicates that we are talking about a quality coffee, but with what criterion is it established that the coffee is specialty? Its name was born in America in the 1970s and indicates carefully selected green coffee, the result of production carried out in particular conditions which give it a unique taste and aroma.

The institution to refer to is the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) which defines the international standards for the evaluation of coffee.

Its production is characterized by extreme attention to quality, by the selection of the best varieties of coffee , to care during cultivation, harvesting and processing. Farmers who produce specialty coffee often use sustainable methods, growing the plants responsibly to preserve the surrounding environment.

The evaluation of these coffees is very strict and must satisfy strict prerogatives. The search for defects takes place on a sample of 350 g of green coffee and by definition, to be considered a specialty, it cannot have any primary defect and no more than five secondary defects. The presence of light-colored beans (quakers) is not permitted on a sample of 100 g of roasted coffee.

In tasting in the cup, the preparation requires following precise standards on the roasting, degassing and dosing process , grinding, quality, quantity and temperature of the water and use of the tasting card.
Particular attention must be given to the sensory part that occurs "Brazilian style" or "cupping" which consists in tasting the coffee.
Specifically, the Brazilian method is a type of tasting used internationally which is done to outline the profile of the drink. They are placed in cup 8.25g of coffee and pour over 150ml of water between 93° and 95°. An initial olfactory test is carried out by moving the crusts, waiting for the infusion to last 4 minutes, removing the crusts on the surface with 2 spoons and proceeding with the tasting.

How are Specialty Coffees classified?

A coffee is defined as a Specialty only if it has reached the evaluation parameters of green coffee and roasting and which it obtains after I taste a score, given on a scale from 80 to 100, of at least 80 out of 100.

  • 90-100 – Exceptional
  • 85-89.99 – Excellent
  • 80-84.99 – Very good
  • Below 80.0 – Non specialty

How do you prepare a specialty coffee?

The grinding of this coffee is carried out at the moment and must be adapted according to the extraction method which it can be done through different methods: Espresso, Chemex, v60, Aeropress, Cold Brew, French Press, Siphon.

espresso estrazione del caffè

The amount of coffee used depends on the preparation method and personal taste. For pour over methods, the brew ratio (i.e. the proportion between the quantity of ground coffee and the extraction water) is 60 g of coffee per liter of water, but it can be modified according to your tastes.
temperature of the water used also has considerable importance, and is around 92-94 degrees. Specialized bartenders are essential in ensuring an excellent final result. They have in-depth knowledge of the different coffee varieties, extraction techniques and perfect blends to create unique drinks.
Specialty coffee lovers are often interested in knowing the
traceability of the product, the origin of the beans and their processing methods. In addition to the quality perceived on a sensorial level, the transparency that specialty coffee offers allows it to be a highly appreciated coffee today.

The phases of Specialty Coffee

- Cultivation:

piantagione di caffè - coltivazione del caffè

To have high quality coffee we start from the producer, a figure who knows the secrets, who cultivates the plants in a workmanlike manner in order to obtain an excellent product grown in suitable soil with specific altitudes and a certain climate. Only the Arabic species can be classified as specialty.

Green coffee and the Green Coffee Buyer:

The Green Coffee Buyer, or the buyer of green coffee, has the task of tasting and evaluating the coffee following the protocol defined by the SCA, is responsible for selecting the best coffees and is the one who contributes to providing the first evaluations on the sensory notes.

- Roasting:

la tostatura del caffè

The selected coffee is passed to the Roasters, which roast the coffee. The roasting phase is very delicate and usually for a specialty coffee it is medium-light.


estrazione o preparazione del caffè

Once roasted, the coffee can be extracted for up to 6 weeks after roasting without losing aroma. It can be extracted with different methods taking into account that the grinding, which changes in the different methods, is very important to have unique cups.

Where can we find a Specialty Coffee?

Specialty coffees are usually available in all specialty coffee shops.
These coffees are characterized by high quality of the supply chain and traceability.

Cellini Caffè has developed thanks to its Q Graders some blends of Specialty Arabica and Fine Robusta. The first blend features refreshing notes of citrus and a subtle touch of bitter cocoa, offering a unique tasting experience. The second blend, however, stands out for its fruity notes and hints of cereals, creating a truly special combination of flavours.
Both blends have been specially designed to allow lovers of traditional espresso to appreciate a variety of complex aromas and a light acidity that remains accessible even to palates accustomed to the classic Italian espresso.