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What is Specialty Coffee?
Specialty and third-wave coffee have become synonymous terms, but specialty coffee refers to a coffee of a specific grade.
Coffee is graded several times before making it to your cup, at origin, by importers, and finally by the roaster who decides to purchase the coffee. A coffee grade ultimately indicates quality; a coffee above 80 out of a 100 point scale is considered a specialty coffee.
Coffee receives its grade from a certified coffee taster or a licensed Q Grader, who evaluates coffee for Fragrance/Aroma, Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, Balance, Uniformity, Clean Cup, Sweetness, Defects, and Overall taste.
The coffees score on a 100-point scale determines what is considered not specialty up to specialty and outstanding.
90-100: Outstanding - Specialty
85-99.99: Excellent - Specialty
80-84.99: Very Good - Specialty
< 80.0: Below Specialty Quality - Not Specialty
The difference between Light, Medium, and Dark roasts
The difference between light, medium, or dark roasted coffees goes deeper than their appearance in color and touches on their depth of roast (development) and intended taste notes.
We define coffee not only by the color but how far along in the roasting development process we take a coffee. We also "cup" or sample our coffees to ensure they hit on certain flavor profiles to hit on that a perceived roast color flavor. All-in-all, color is an excellent initial determining factor for what a coffee might taste like and give consumer hints on what to expect in their brewed cup.
Single Origin Coffee vs Blends
Single-origin coffee is sourced from a single location (country, region, city), while blends can be made of a combination of origins or different producers from the same origin.
Coffee roasters create blends for several reasons:
1. Blends allow coffee roasters to create something unique; think of their own signature recipe that no one else on the market has.
2. Coffee Blends allow coffee roasters to offer a consistent product throughout the year (like a House Blend). Blends allow roasters to rotate coffees in and out throughout the year to help with freshness and consistency, while Single-origin coffees are typically offered seasonally.
3. Finally, coffee blends help roasters manage costs during a constantly changing c-market. Coffee blends can help offset costs by using a slightly lower costs product with a higher-end, higher-scoring coffee.
What coffee is best for Espresso Drinks?
When searching for the perfect espresso blend or coffee for espresso, you must start with what type of drink you will be making. Those looking to drink straight espresso shots (single or double) have a wider selection than those who enjoy their espresso with milk. Lighter roasted coffees can make outstanding and sweet espresso, but their flavors may get lost when any addition of milk. For those who enjoy milk-based espresso drinks, look for coffees labeled as medium or dark roasts, as the bolder flavors will more easily cut through the milk.
What coffee is best for drip or pour-over?
Pour-over or drip coffee is a brewing method where any coffee roast type (light, medium, or dark) can work well and depends mainly on consumers' taste preferences. In contrast, we recommend being more thoughtful about your coffee choices when brewing for espresso or milk-based drinks.
As a simple rule of thumb, look toward light-roasted coffees if you enjoy bright and sweet coffees. Those who prefer bolder coffees and may even add milk to their morning brew look toward medium to darker roasted coffees.
Does coffee go bad?
While coffee does not technically go stale, it is worth noting that it is best enjoyed within 30 days after roasting. Other factors determine the freshness of the coffee, such as its age unroasted (is this coffee from the latest harvest), how the coffee is stored at the roasting facility, and if the coffee delivered to you was either whole bean or ground.
A good rule of thumb is as follows:
0 – 5 days after roasting: The coffee may need more time to settle before drinking
6 – 30 days after roasting: The sweet spot where coffee begins to open up and taste the best. Depending on the brew method, coffee starts to shine around days 10 – 20.
30 – 90 days: The age of the coffee starts to show, and you start to lose clarity and brightness
90+ days: The coffee is drinkable, but any unique flavor notes present on days 6 – 30 are gone.
Can you freeze coffee beans?
Yes, you can freeze coffee to keep them fresh for longer, but only if you follow these few simple steps.
Step 1: Freeze coffee after it has gone through the degassing process – 3 – 5 days after roasting. Freezing coffee at this point means you are locking it in at its optimal flavor.
Step 2: Separate your coffee into smaller air-tight batches you can pull from weekly. It doesn't make sense to freeze an entire bag if you will not drink it within a week or two after pulling it out of the freezer.
Step 3: Put it all in the freezer (this is the easy step)!
Step 4: Important—when you take the coffee out of the freezer, don't open it! You must let your beans completely thaw to room temperature before you open the bag/container. Otherwise, you'll get that rush of air and moisture… and all your hard work will be for nothing.
What is Third Wave Coffee?
The third wave of coffee is a movement within the coffee industry that emphasizes quality and ethical sourcing throughout the entire coffee experience, from cultivation to cup. It is focused on producing the highest quality coffee, as determined by its distinctive attributes and score on the Specialty Coffee Association's 100-point scale, with 80 and above considered specialty coffee. This movement differs from previous waves of coffee in that it places a greater emphasis on the process of crafting a superb cup of coffee and understanding coffee at all stages of production.