What makes Specialty Coffee special?

specialty coffee definition

Like other food and beverage worlds, the specialty field was born in the coffee industry a few years ago from a desire for great things.

Known as specialty coffees or single origin coffees, not to be confused with gourmet coffees (a marketing term used to sell more coffee) and used as a synonym to describe high quality coffees.

We always use wine and whiskey as examples.

Coffee professionals, farmers and roasters have evolved in new practices, training, methods and all kinds of processes that highlight the coffee flavors in order to make it a memorable sensorial experience.

whole bean specialty coffee from mexico

In the US exists the Specialty Coffee Association who regulate the standards to evaluate, roast, taste and prepare coffee the right way. 

But wait, what is a Specialty Grade Coffee? What makes it different from regular coffee like those we find at the grocery store?

There is a scale of 0-100 where coffees scoring 80 points and more are considered special coffees.

And who does that evaluation? Q-graders (coffee sommeliers) people certified and trained with very sensitive palates to discover defects and wonders in coffee beans.

What are the Specialty Coffee qualities?

When buying specialty coffee, be on the lookout for some helpful information on the bag to help you make the best possible decision for your tastes and preferences. Below is some of the information that may help make that choice:


  • Origin or farm: where the beans were grown
  • Variety: type of bean
  • Process:  bean process (washed, natural, honey)
  • Flavor notes (uhhh…flavor)
  • Altitude: how high in elevation the beans were grown
  • Acidity (low, medium, bright & can be citric, lactic, malic, etc.)
  • Type of roast (light, medium, dark)

Again, like a bottle of wine, you can see the traceability of the beans and get a better idea of the environment and where the premium quality coffee comes from.

 We have created an infographic to illustrate better this process:


what is specialty coffee

Why specialty coffee?

We are pretty sure everyone has had terrible burnt, stale, old, and bad quality coffee.

Maybe you have even become accustomed to those flavors. GROSS!

Open your mind and broaden your horizons! Aim to try new and different things experiencing what other types of coffee can offer.

If you are an adventurer like us, we challenge you to try the marvels of great quality coffee beans.

If you want a place to start, check the best specialty coffees from America in 2022.


specialty coffee cupping

Is specialty Coffee organic?

Being a specialty coffee and being organic does not necessarily go hand in hand, as the certification to be able to showcase the organic label associated with your coffee needs to be purchased and many of the small farmers and communities that grow coffee simply cannot afford it.

Regardless of if they follow the rules and guidelines, they still need to pay for the certificate.

Being organic is not a requirement to be a specialty coffee nor is it associated with the grading system or the point structure.

For information on being organic, you will need to read the tag or ask your barista/roaster if the beans are sourced from a farmer using organic methods.

FYI, Killer Coffee sources our coffee from farmers using organic and sustainable methods (Wink wink nudge nudge).

Who drinks specialty coffee?

Anyone and EVERYONE! Premium quality coffee is not reserved just for coffee snobs or coffee professionals.

There is only one requirement for enjoying this delicious beverage: a desire to experience remarkable coffee.

people coffee tasting

Where to buy Specialty Coffee beans

These coffee beans still belong to a small niche but are growing rapidly.

The pandemic made many of us become home-baristas (voluntarily or lack of other options) while learning more about the coffee we drink and how to prepare in new different ways.

So, where to buy fresh specialty coffee?

A somewhat simple recommendation is to follow what our grandparents used to do: when you need meat you go to the butchery, when you need bread you go to the bakery and when you want specialty coffee you go to a coffee company.

Quality can be purchased from a specialty coffee store online like ours. You would also be supporting a small business with a passion to provide you with the best option.

The best coffee brand

You might be wondering which coffee brand is the best to begin your specialty coffee adventure.

Hundreds of micro-roasters offer specialty coffee in their menu and more pop up what seems like every week!

So, the thing that matters is to check your options, try their coffee, and ask for basic information covered in this article to better understand what you will be buying.

In the specialty coffee realm, there are so many options and everyone’s tastes are different with no real best/worst coffees the sky is the limit.

Shoot for the moon and experience different magical coffees!😉

Stay Tuned!

READ NEXT: How to Prepare Specialty Coffee?

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