What is Specialty Coffee?
The term "specialty coffee” was first coined by Erna Knutsen in 1978. There are certain criteria that qualifies a coffee as specialty coffee.
- Geography and Farming Practices - The beans are selective cultivar and only grown in areas with proper soil, altitude and microclimates. Arabica beans are planted in high altitudes of 3,000 ft. - 6,000 ft. to produce denser and richer beans. Due to the deficiency of oxygen, coffee plants grow slower, and hence, produce a more concentrated flavor. At the coffee farms, coffee cherries are only picked at the peak of ripeness to maximize their glorious flavor.
- Processing - Picked coffee cherries are sent to mills for processing. The time between harvesting and processing has a significant impact on preserving the potential of the coffee. Once the coffee is pulped and washed, the coffee is dried. Proper conditions for packaging and storage is crucial in retaining the freshness of coffee.
- Roasting - In order to produce flavorful and consistent tasting coffee, coffee roasters must pay attention to a variety of factors such as bean size, bean shape, bean density, moisture content and water activity. Roasters strive to accentuate the intrinsic sweetness of the beans by focusing on certain notes (i.e. maple syrup, brown sugar, floral rose, fruits and citrus fruits, etc.). To highlight these notes, they skillfully control applied heat, air flow, and drum speed during the roasting process which is typically accomplished with lighter to medium roast profiles. Specialty coffee focuses on single origin beans graded to scores of above 80. At Revenant Roasters, we only purchase beans above a score of 84.
- Grinding - Grinding coffee drastically increases the surface area of the coffee. If brewed immediately, this releases a plethora of magical coffee aromas; however, ground coffee that is left unbrewed, can become stale very quickly due to oxidation. It is best to grind coffee beans right before you brew your cup for maximum sensorial gratification. The size of grind also plays an important role - too fine, your coffee can be over extracted, too coarse, and you are missing out on its full potential. Decisions on the fineness or coarseness of your grinds will be made when selecting a brew method.
- Brewing - The final step is to brew the coffee. The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) has specific standards in brewing an espresso, drip, French press, etc. The water quality, brewing temperature, and coffee-to-water ratio is carefully measured to standardize the quality of a cup.