Coffee labeled as specialty often has two ratings: a bean grade and a cupping rating. Beans are graded on a scale of one to five during sorting and processing. Only the best beans are used in specialty brews. These meet the highest standards for:
- Number of allowable defects
- Moisture content
Grade is calculated based on a 350-gram sample of beans sorted and sized using screens.
Once coffee has been graded and the first sample roasted, it undergoes the cupping process. Ratings for this stage look at characteristics like aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, flavor defects and the quality of flavor through the whole cup. Based on these characteristics, coffee is rated on an SCAA scale of 80 to 100. Anything below 80 can’t qualify as specialty, and only the most outstanding coffees receive a rating of 100.