Specialty Coffee

Specialty Coffee is a label to distinguished coffee through different qualities.


The coffee qualities are according to its physical condition (the grading and classification) and its chemichal condition (the cupping).

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), coffee which scores 80 points or above on a 100-point scale isgraded “specialty.”  Specialty coffee refers to the whole process from farmer to cup using single origin coffee.

Specialty Grade Coffee Beans

Specialty Grade Coffee Beans: no primary defects, 0-3 full defects, sorted with a maximum of 5% above and 5% below specified screen size or range of screen size, and exhibiting a distinct attribute in one or more of the following areas: taste, acidity, body, or aroma.

Example: 3 full defects, less to 5% out of buyers size specification from the riddle of 13/64 inches to 20/64 inches so let’s say #16 and above to say [16,20] from size #16 included to #20 and only 5% less than size #16.
With a cupping punctuation of 85 to say that coffee is having in average high distingushed characteristics, and a high probability each other characteristic with no less than 80 points.

Density is the major element related to the Coffee Quality

The Coffee Notes relies on:
#1. The variety in particular (Java, Bourbon, Maragogype, etc). 

Coffee Varietals
Specialty Coffee Varietals

#2. The density which at the same time depends on: 
2.1. The Altitude, like SHB refers to the High Density Bean, which according to its latitude varies the reference height, example 1200 m in Costa Rica = SHB = 1000 m in Nicaragua. 

Finca Matagalpa 1400 meters
Finca Matagalpa 1400 meters

The altitude condition will affect the coffee seed density in certain possible ranges according to varietal, Latitude North or South insde the Tropic of Cancer range, and photosynthesis. 

The phtoshyntesis depends on rain or irrigation, and the Sun or light conditions during the year. In combination with the soil preparation, the soil nutrients the Coffee Seed density will have a higher value, but much more if the altitud is higher. 
That is the reason to name Coffee as SHB, SHG, and HG in accordance to the Farm/Lot altitude and its own country standard that change the value for SHB depending on its relative distance from the Ecuador line, Latitude.
Example: Costa Rica has its standard for SHB above 1.200 m over the Sea level, if we use the same standard for North Nicaragua Region that makes that an SHB become 1.000 m over the Sea level.  
SHB: Stricly Hard Bean
SHG: Stricly High Grade
HG: High Grade

2.2. The chemical composition of the Coffee Seed in which the CHLOROGENIC acid is the compound that determines the density. 
High density is a Coffee Seed that contains between 6.0%, 6.5%, 7.0%, which in turn defines that its density is 0.68 g / mL, of 0.70 g / mL, of 0.72 g / mL respectively. 

#3. The chemical composition of the soil, for this the preparation according to the analysis and evaluation in the leaves determines the deficiencies and the repairs. 
#4. The Water: Rainfall, or irrigation, is important at the time of the growth of the seed, the endocarp, and in itself of the fruit and the plant. #5. The level of light and its use in the process of photosynthesis and maturation (beta carotene) is essential in combination with the above factors: type of variety, water, composition of soil and nutrient, and height.

The Grading and Classification

The diversified classification terminology used in the trade is illustrated with a few examples below.
It should be noted that descriptions such as ‘European preparation’ differ from one country to another. The examples refer primarily to the trade in mainstream coffee and do not reflect the often more detailed descriptions used for niche

The elements for classify Greenbeans are:
Process: Conventional (Washed), No conventional (Un-washed in fruit, or Semi-washed in pulp mucilage)
Riddle size
Colours allowed
Defects allowed (imperfections in 350 grams of green coffee sample)
Specialty Grade samples must have zero Category 1 defects and no more than five Category 2 defects.

Coffee Primary Defects

Primary DefectNumber of occurrences equal to one full defect.
Full Black1
Full Sour1
Large Stones2
Medium Stones5
Large Sticks2
Medium Sticks5

Coffee Secondary Defects

Secondary DefectsNumber of occurrences equal to one full defect
Insect Damage2-5
Partial Black2-3
Partial Sour2-3
Small Stones1
Small sticks1
Water Damage2-5

Pressed or Crushed Bean

Check out all pictures for each type of coffee defect at cafedecolombia.com

Crushed beans
Bruised beans with partial fractures

Some examples of Country standards for Specialty Coffee

El Salvador SHG EP max. 3/5 defects
Strictly High Grown (above 1,200 m on a scale which also includes High Grown from 900–1,200 m and Central Standard from 500–900 m). EP (European preparation) permits max. 3–5 defects per 1,000 beans according to some exporters, others indicate defects per 300 g. 

Ethiopia Jimma 5 
Sun-dried (i.e. natural) arabica from the Jimma region. Type 5 refers to a grading scale based on screen, defect count and cup quality. 

Guatemala SHB EP Huehuetenango 
Strictly Hard Bean is from above 1,400 m. Scale includes five altitude levels from below 900 m (Prime washed) to above 1,400 m. European preparation: above screen 15, allows max. 8 defects per 300 g (American preparation: above screen 14, allows 23 defects). 

India Arabica Plantation A 

Washed arabica, screen 17. Classification is PB, A, B and C. Other classifications apply to unwashed (naturals) and robusta. 

The coffee grading and classification (the coffee preparation) relies on each different physical condition in order to grade the coffee, usually at the laboratory and then in the dry mill using high tech machinery such as Optical recogniser selector, automatic densimeters, and size sorting machines.
The objective is to separate the coffee – the buyers want – as the Premium Coffee, and in the other side to get each other sub qualities from the Farm Production Batch.

To drink specialty coffee vs to grow specialty coffee

The difference bewteen to grow specialty coffee and to drink specialty coffee?
Very simple.  To grow specialty coffee is the intention of get the best varietals accordingly to consumer and cuppers experience, and harvest those varietals in accordance to its best conditions to grow.
To drink specialty coffee is that one that overpass the condition of being above 80 points on cup, and within a physical condition of  permissible defects.

Drinking Specialty Coffee.  American Roast.
Drinking Specialty Coffee. American Roast.

The Premium Coffee

The Premium Coffee is the best part of a particular ‘Specialty Coffee’. The Premium Coffee is also referes to those GreenBeans (Unroasted and Graded Coffee Seeds) that are chosen because profile. The profile is usually intended to call a more flowerly or fruity note, but over 85 points on cupping as a minimum. 

Premium Coffee is also an awarded coffee that you buying directly in an open bid. Let’s say the Specialty Coffee Contest of a particular country in origin from the best #1 to the best #10 Coffee.

Specialty Coffee Roast 70 on Agtron Scale
Specialty Coffee Roast 70 on Agtron Scale

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