A Guide to Speciality Coffee


Sophisticated caffeine fans may well have heard of speciality coffee – although may not be completely sure of what it is. To demystify it, we teamed up with Amir Gehl, founder of Difference Coffee Company, who is bringing a wealth of knowledge and the finest speciality coffees to those with a taste for the very best.

First things first, what is speciality coffee?

Speciality coffee comprises just 1% of the world’s coffee supply. Its rarity is matched only by its quality, with the most significant difference between speciality and “normal” coffee being the extreme level of care taken at every stage of the process. Much like wine, coffee beans are graded on a 100-point system to identify the highest grade beans. The scoring sheet measures everything from flavour, aftertaste and aroma to acidity and balance. These tests are conducted by licensed Quality Graders, coffee experts who number as few as 50 in the UK. Only beans scoring 80 or above are considered of the highest quality, earning them the coveted label.

We know it’s not just about the beans themselves, why is the process of grinding and roasting so important?

Roasting and grinding the coffee is almost just as important as finding the best coffee beans. The characteristics that make a coffee special, such as its aroma or taste, are developed during roasting, creating a unique flavour profile. Speciality coffee is roasted to a light to medium heat for around 7 to 10 minutes ensuring a mild taste. Anything more than that will likely burn the beans, caramelise them and disguise the flavours.

The coffee beans are then ground evenly to secure a balanced taste. Due to the different levels of coarseness, easy type of bean will need to be ground differently.

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We’ve heard you stock the famous Kopi Luwak coffee, what is so special about it?

Indonesian civet cat coffee, also known as Kopi Luwak, is one of the most expensive coffees in the world thanks to its flavour characteristics and lack of bitterness. Civet cats carry out the most important task; they pre-select the beans by only eating the ripest and sweetest ones. Enzymes slowly digest the beans in the cat’s stomach, partially fermenting them. And once excreted, the beans are roasted resulting in a smoother coffee with a stronger and lasting aftertaste. Despite its peculiar nature, coffee connoisseurs swear by its quality.

What’s your top tip for coffee making at home?

Whilst brewing, coffee is extracted in different layers. To achieve a smoother cup, you should stir the coffee as soon as it’s ready. This will ensure a creamier and better-balanced taste.

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