Skip to main content
Brewing Coffee

What is Speciality Coffee and the differences?

By 11/08/2018April 19th, 2023No Comments

Speciality – That is exactly what it is, special and superb! We could leave this blog right there and tell you no more but, we want to explain exactly what the term Speciality Coffee means.

SPECIALITY COFFEE: Coffee graded and traded on the basis of inherent quality, determined as 80 points or above in a 100-point scale created by the SCA (Speciality Coffee Association). Speciality coffees are distinctive because of their flavours and for having minimal (sometimes zero) defects.


Let’s start at the very beginning…

Speciality Coffee refers to the whole process, from farm to cup. Without the dedication and expertise of the farmers in our coffee-producing countries, we would not have the delicious speciality beans that we all love.

The farmers that grow our coffee have to nurture and care for every single plant on their plantation. The farming families across the world and generations before them have put their heart and soul into making sure that their crop is perfect before they harvest their flawless cherries. Their passion for their plants, and what they produce, enables them to reap the rewards when they export the beans across the world.

The outstanding coffee that these farmers are able to offer give them a chance to not only earn a wage but also enable their communities and families to have food on their tables and allow their children to have an education. It is about quality, not quantity.

There are so many types of coffee available to choose from, the supermarket shelf, the online stores, the independent retailers and of course the big named brands, who hold a huge percentage of the market share.

Are they all speciality – no they are not. Now, don’t get us wrong if you love the coffee that you buy, and it hasn’t been given the prestigious status of Speciality Coffee, the coffee can still taste lovely. If you like drinking it, you will continue to purchase the coffee, over and over again.

HOWEVER, once you have tried a speciality coffee that has been roasted with love by speciality coffee roasters there will be no turning back to the coffee that you once loved.

Who gives the beans the Speciality Coffee seal of approval


Speciality coffee meaning – The Speciality Coffee Association is a non-profit trade organisation for the Speciality Coffee industry. With members located in more than 40 countries, SCA represents different segments of the speciality coffee industry, including producers, roasters, importers/exporters and retailers.

You will see on each of our coffees that there is an SCA score. What does this score mean? The beans will only be graded as, ‘Speciality’ if they achieve a score of at least 80 out of a possible 100. However, it is not quite as simple as giving the beans a score.

A Green Coffee Buyer and a Certified Coffee Taster, or Licensed Q Grader will assess whether the beans are speciality grade quality. He or she will inspect them very closely. These professionals are either certified by either the SCA as a Certified Coffee Taster or the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) as a Licensed Q Grader. They will undertake their testing through cupping, a systematic tasting of brewed coffees. If you wish to know more about cupping then please read our blog on cupping.

Before the beans are exported to the coffee roaster the Green Coffee Buyer will undertake cupping and grading. A speciality level of roasting then must be achieved. This is where the magic happens! Roasting brings the delightful speciality coffee beans to life and into the cups of every coffee lover across the globe.

What is so different about Speciality Coffee

There is a noticeable difference between the graded coffee beans and the non-graded variety. As the score increases, the complexity of the coffee does, too, along with the final delicious taste you will enjoy. The unique tasting notes will shine through and hit your palate – it will be paradise in a cup. Of course, finding the coffee that will become your favourite takes some time. Everybody’s tastebuds enjoy something slightly different. You may prefer a more gentle smooth, and creamy variety. You may want a more intense flavour to kick start your day. Our range of speciality coffee beans online will not disappoint you.

What is the best speciality coffee to buy

You are reading a Quirky Coffee Co blog so of course, we are going to say our coffee is the best speciality coffee to buy in the UK – we believe it is and you will not be disappointed. However, we also love many other brands of coffee that are roasted right here in the UK and we encourage all coffee drinkers to spread their love of coffee and try as many brands as they can!

Speciality coffee comes from many countries across the bean belt and roasted perfectly by so many coffee roasters – it is simply a matter of taste which you, as the consumer, is to enjoy.

A good speciality coffee is one that has not only been graded by the Speciality Coffee Association but also roasted well and of course delivered fresh to a customer. You certainly won’t buy speciality coffee, freshly roasted from the shelf in a supermarket.

Who drinks speciality coffee

There is a very simple answer to this – ANYONE!

Speciality coffee is not just reserved for coffee connoisseurs, speciality coffee can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone and anyone. Speciality coffee is more expensive than regular coffee and it is a certainly a treat, a treat that once you have tasted will be one that you will want to experience over and over again. You can’t argue that when it comes to quality you get what you pay for!

Now that you know that speciality coffee is not just reserved for a certain group of people, read on to find out how to brew and which method will suit you best.

How do you make a speciality coffee

Speciality coffee can be brewed so many ways and it is fun to find out which way is best for you. You may even find that you enjoy a variety of brewing methods and invest in an array of equipment.

Espresso machine

Compared to other coffee brewing equipment the espresso machine can be a pricey piece of kit but well worth every penny and an extremely good investment. There are many types of espresso machines on the market and with some research, you can find the one that best suits your needs.

If you are opting for a manual pour espresso machine then it is wise to also invest in a good burr grinder. Burr grinders are far better than the stainless steel variety as the latter tends to heat the coffee too much and thus ruining it before you even get to the brewing stage.

Alternatively, you may prefer a bean-to-cup espresso machine which means you do not need to grind the coffee beans but just pour them into the machine. Without the need of the manual method of a traditional espresso machine, the bean-to-cup is just a matter of pressing a button for the coffee drink of choice and stand back and watch the magic happen.

We can’t express enough that you must do your research, some bean-to-cup machines do not have milk facilities and therefore you will only be able to pour an espresso shot rather than a flat white, latte or cappuccino.

The prices for all types of espresso machines and bean-to-cup machines range considerably, be wary of the cheaper models and again, make sure you read reviews to ensure it ticks all the boxes.

Our favourite home espresso machine is the Sage Barista Express… it is certainly not the most expensive, nor the cheapest on the market but in our opinion produces a perfect espresso.

We recommend the Sage Barista Express

We highly recommend this espresso machine, if your budget allows. The Sage Barista Express makes a great tasting espresso – from bean to espresso – in less than a minute. The Barista Express allows you to grind the beans right before extraction, with a choice of either automatic or manual operation it ensures an authentic café style result in no time at all. The portafilter offers interchangeable filters depending on whether you want a single or double shot.

The hopper is able to hold a full 250g bag of beans and the conical burr grinder grinds on-demand, with a good range of grind sizing to suit the bean that you are using.

The Barista Express has a digital temperature control that delivers water at the optimum temperature, ensuring perfect espresso extraction every time.

The steam wand performs at the level that allows you to hand texture micro-foam milk that enhances flavour and enables creation of latte art.

This is a great option for any coffee lover that wants the full coffee shop experience in their own home.

Sage also have more expensive models available like the Oracle and the Dual Boiler, more expensive than our choice but if you are able to splash out these are two models that certainly give the wow factor!

Sage Barista Express
Cafetiere brew scaled

Cafetière also known as a French press

We would like to hazard a guess that most coffee lovers have a cafetière, if not already in use but tucked away in a cupboard somewhere. Some say that a cafetière is not as good as other brewing methods, we disagree – there is a place for the well-loved cafetière if brewed correctly. Check out our guide to brewing coffee in a cafetière, for some tips on making your brew taste delicious.

If you have a grinder at home then purchase whole bean coffee and grind on demand – this is the best option to ensure the perfect brew with optimum freshness. However, if you do not have a grinder then make sure you purchase freshly roasted coffee ground for a cafetière.

A cafetière brews your coffee with the steeping method and takes around 4 minutes to prepare. This method of brewing involves fully immersing the coffee throughout the brew time and a mesh plunger, or piston, is pressed to separate the grounds and hold them at the bottom of the beaker.

You can purchase a cafetière from around £10.00 which makes this piece of kit one of the cheapest ways to brew your favourite Quirky Coffee.

V60 – drip coffee

The V60 is a coffee dripper made by Hario (also known as the v60 coffee maker). The device is a ‘V’ shape (hence the name) and a filter paper is inserted into the dripper. Ground coffee is placed within the filter and water of the correct temperature slowly poured over the coffee. The coffee then slowly drips into your cup, delivering a very clean and crisp cup of coffee!

If you want more than one cup of coffee then it would be wise to invest in a V60 drip decanter, this will ensure you and your fellow coffee lovers can enjoy a brew together.

Like the cafetière the V60 is a cheaper piece of kit than an espresso machine. The V60 range by Hario starts from as little as  £5.00 for their basic model. The V60 decanter comes in slightly more expensive at around £30.00 – remember, you have to purchase the disposable filter papers too!

It is worth mentioning that along with either the V60 cup device or the V60 decanter it is worth investing in a goose neck kettle with a thermometer. The perfect brew can then not only be achieved with the correct temperature but also we find the pouring of water with a goose neck kettle a lot easier and actually very therapeutic!

V60  scaled
Moka Pot scaled

Moka Pot also known as a stove top coffee maker

The moka pot is a great way to achieve an espresso like brew without the need for elaborate equipment. An excellent choice that is cheap, compact and simple to use but, be warned, take your eye off the ball and your coffee will burn!

This type of brew method makes a strong cup of coffee using steam pressure. The base of the moka pot holds the water and ground coffee is placed in the basket (the top part) which sits inside the bottom part. When heated on the hob the water rises up through the central spout and infuses through the coffee. The finished brew sits awaiting you in the top of the moka pot and when using a great speciality coffee you certainly will not be disappointed with the results.


This is a relatively new way of brewing, innovative and a manually powered coffee gadget.

Another cheap option compared to that of an espresso machine – giving a delicious espresso like brew! An Aeropress is a quick and clean brewer and fun to play around with for anyone who loves coffee. Experimenting with the grind, dose of coffee and manual pressure makes this a really flexible choice as a piece of coffee kit.

The Aeropress works by steeping coffee in hot water and then forcing the mixture through a filter into your cup using air pressure. The device consists of a brewing chamber with a filter attachment and a plunger.

Speciality coffee in this type of brewing method produces something that is really rewarding that gives a unique cup of coffee once you find that sweet spot of pressure and coffee dosage.

Aeropress scaled

Can I have speciality coffee at home

Speciality coffee is not just reserved for the artisan coffee shops or speciality coffee shops, you can enjoy the delights of speciality coffee drinks at home.

With a variety of ways of being able to brew your coffee at home there is no excuse to not try and ultimately fall in love with speciality coffee. You don’t need an expensive espresso machine like the coffee shops use, you can brew a perfect cup of coffee with a cafetière, V60, Moka Pot or Aeropress, to name but a few types of kit that are widely available.

To enjoy speciality coffee at home just remember to buy fresh!

Just do it… try Speciality Coffee

Every single one of our customers will enjoy our Speciality Coffee.

We have carefully sourced our coffee beans and we ensure that every single bean is freshly roasted to perfection. Roasted right here, in the UK.

Don’t forget to order your speciality coffee, speciality coffee gifts or try our speciality coffee subscription service from our  QUIRKY SHOP



Coffee Quality Institute