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What is Specialty Grade Coffee?

Classifying Specialty Coffee

Not all specialty coffee is made equal. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has created a system of standards to help classify grades for different types of coffees. The following is how they classify specialty grade coffee:

Specialty grade

Coffee branded as “specialty” by the SCAA is allowed 0 Category 1 defects (called “primary defects”) and 0-5 Category 2 defects (called “full defects”) per 300-350 grams of water. It must possess at least one unique attribute in either the body, taste, aroma, and/or acidity. No unripened coffee beans (called “quakers”) can be present in the batch and the moisture content must be between 9-13%.

Other Facts about Specialty Coffee

  • As of 2015, specialty coffee comprises 55% of the $48 billion dollar American coffee trade.
  • The SCAA reports that 37% of the coffee in Americans’ coffee cups is specialty grade coffee.
  • A cup of coffee is tested by an employee of the SCAA called a “cupper”. These cuppers are trained to identify specific flaws in the coffee; one cup is tested at least 15 times by different cuppers.
  • Brazil is not only the top global producer of coffee, it is also the world’s largest producer of specialty coffee.
  • Kopi luwak is the most expensive specialty coffee in the world.

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