Specialty coffee | What is that?

Specialty coffee | What is that?

In 1974, the term Specialty Coffee was first used by Erna Knutsen. She used it to describe coffees that have special taste characteristics. The term is protected by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) guidelines.

Specialty coffee describes particularly high-quality and at the same time top-quality coffees that achieve at least 80 out of 100 possible quality points (cupping score) according to a clearly defined testing and evaluation process. The determination of the cupping score is carried out by certified Q graders.

How will specialty coffee be rated?

Coffees with a cupping score below 80 points are considered mainstream coffee. Coffee with a cupping score of at least 80 points is called specialty coffee.

To better define quality levels within the “Specialty Coffee” label, there are three classes of Specialty Coffee:

  • 80 to 84.75 points = very good coffee
    These coffees differ from mainstream coffees because they have special taste characteristics. The aromas are finer and the coffee beans do not show any serious defects.
  • 85 to 89.75 points = excellent coffee / Cup of Excellence winner
    Coffees with complex and elegant aromas and a pleasant sweetness. These coffees are sold as special editions by roasters because they usually only have a small amount in stock.
  • 90 to 100 points = outstanding coffee / Presidential Award
    Less than 1% of the coffees harvested worldwide to receive this award. The aromas are even more extraordinary and nuanced than other coffees.

Where can I buy specialty coffee?

As a rule, you rarely find specialty coffee in the supermarket. It is, of course, possible that a supermarket has coffee beans or espresso beans from a regional specialty roastery in its range. We are fortunate to be able to buy coffee beans from the specialty coffee roasting company that we were introduced to lately.

There are a lot of roasters all over the world that sell specialty coffee. We tried many coffees from these roasters, and it tastes great. we recommend you check their websites for more information.


The international scoring model according to SCAA has a long tradition in the purchasing process for specialty coffees and helps roasters immensely to assess the quality in the purchasing process. The note “specialty coffee” also helps you a lot when you buy coffee: with specialty coffee, you can be pretty sure that you are getting really good quality.

And for very special rarities with a score of over 93, you can count yourself lucky to have grabbed a few grams of this coffee treasure. For us, it is a very special moment to taste such coffee highlights. Such coffees are properly celebrated in your own four walls. We enjoy such coffees to a great extent and are grateful for these fine wines.

For more articles about coffee beans, coffee machines, and comprehensive guides on how to make the perfect coffee out there, we recommend you check our guides and articles by clicking on categories above just in the menu bar or consider subscribing to our Newsletter.

Below is a video explaining specialty coffee in detail.

The perfect coffee – fair trade and sustainable | DW Documentary