Speciality coffee describes a range of high quality coffee that is selectively grown in the best conditions to enhance the power and overall flavour of the coffee bean.
Out of the four common coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa and Liberica, many speciality coffee uses Arabica beans, due to the plentiful amount of aromatic notes it produces. Common coffee including Lattes, Americanos and Cappuccinos can all fall under the speciality coffee bracket since what makes a coffee known as ‘speciality’ is the grade of bean that is used.
How is coffee graded?
Coffee is graded according to its value and strength of flavour and is scored from 80 to 100 on the Q grading system. The closer to 100 the point score is, the better the quality of the coffee. Anything graded below 80 differs in quality and is not considered speciality coffee.
A Speciality Coffee Association (SCA) certified coffee taster inspects the coffee bean using two methods to identify its quality: by cupping and a visual assessment.
The visual examination involves taking a sample (usually 350 grams) of green coffee beans and identifying the amount of primary and secondary defects that occur within the batch. Primary defects are the amount of black or sour beans and secondary defects include the amount of broken beans that appear in the sample. In order for the coffee to qualify and become known as ‘speciality’, the batch needs to have no primary defects and less than five secondary defects in total.
The cupping process involves roasting the coffee and combining it with hot water. The brew is then analysed and scored for taste, aroma, acidity and body. The cupping process may happen multiple times before and after the beans are shipped, in order to check for any deterioration and to correctly reclassify the beans if they have reduced in quality during the journey.
The process from coffee bean to liquefied coffee:
Speciality coffee starts with the production of coffee beans, a process that has been refined throughout generations. It involves understanding the growing patterns and the climate conditions that promote optimal growth.
There are multiple stages that occur within the process of identifying the bean’s quality to the final stage of implementing the bean into liquid coffee. The stages involve monitoring its initial growth on a coffee farm to an assessment from a certified coffee taster to decide its grade. Next, it is handled by a coffee roaster who understands the scientific balance required to effectively roast the beans. Lastly, it is transferred to the barista who understands how to effectively brew the coffee to maximise its flavour potential.
Through a variety of methods, baristas can extract the coffee. To ensure it maintains its unique flavour and aromatic qualities, the method in which the coffee is brewed may impact its overall impression. The whole process from the growth of the beans to the selection process, to the roasting and extraction stage, all allow for the creation of your favourite cup of speciality coffee to remain an art.
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