How Speciality Coffee is Scored

How Speciality Coffee is Scored

Posted on 06-06-2016
By Rachel

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We take great pride in exclusively selling speciality coffee. The word ‘speciality’ means a lot to us, because it means our coffees have been awarded a Quality Score of 84 or above. But where does this Quality Score come from? And what does it tell you about the coffee in your cup?

What is speciality coffee?

As many of our customers will know, every coffee has its own unique personality. They’re tricky to compare, so the SCAA (Speciality Coffee Association of America) came up with a system to give every coffee a score out of 100.

To earn the title of speciality, a coffee must score at least 80/100 and it must also be free of any defects. This is what sets speciality coffee apart from the crowd.

Speciality Coffee Scores Breakdown

65 – 80 = Commodity Coffee The type used to make supermarket coffee, blends and instant.

80+ = Specialty Coffee The flavours are more subtle, the cup more balanced. At Pact we only buy coffees of 84+, though most of them score 86+.

90+ = Presidential Award These prestigious coffees make up less than 1% of the specialty coffee market, they’re just that rare. And that good.

How is the Quality Score of a coffee decided?

Following a series of ‘cuppings’ from coffee tasting pros, a score is awarded based on a number of different criteria:


A coffee with any defects is unlikely to score more than 80 points, as the penalty is so high. Between 1 and 3 points can be dropped if a defect is detected in the cup, and multiplied by the number of cups in which it’s present.


There are lots of different types of sweetness in coffee; fruit, honey and sugar are three examples. The more distinct and pleasant, the higher the score.


Acidity can be malic (apple), tartaric (grapes) or citric, for a high score the acidity won’t be overwhelming.


We all know coffee is bitter but the bitterness can often be pleasant. The best coffees have a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness.


Coffees all have a slightly different viscosity. Think of the difference between the feel of butter, juice and tea in your mouth, if consistent, they all have their own merits.


All of the above happen in your mouth, but when you taste anything there’s also usually a lot going on behind your nose. A high Quality Score will reflect well-developed flavours, which might include peach, chocolate, cherry, blackcurrant and even Earl Grey tea.

How do our coffees score?

All of our coffees are speciality and score no less than 84/100 points. Our Micro-Lots, which are produced in limited batches from a specific region and variety, score at least 86/100. Occasionally we get outstanding Limited Edition coffees - these can score 90/100. Very special(ity) indeed.

So whichever of our coffees you choose, you can be confident that you will be getting a quality brew. 

How is Pact Coffee different from supermarket coffee?

The coffees you usually find on the average supermarket shelf will often have a lot of defects. These defects could be anything from coffee cherry insect bites to the use of unpleasant chemicals. But because the coffee has been processed and ground by the time it gets to the shop, these defects are not apparent to you, the consumer. 

Pact Coffee is different because we have a direct trade relationship with farmers. Working closely with farmers means we can be sure that only the best coffee cherries are selected and used in our coffees. This gives us complete transparency about the coffee we produce. 

Why is speciality coffee better for you and the environment?

We use only the ripest coffee cherries and we add no chemicals, flavourings or other nasties. So you know that your coffee contains just coffee, and excellent quality coffee at that!

We also work exclusively with farmers who repair and restore farms and do not contribute to deforestation. Because we work directly with them and pay an average of 65% above Fairtrade base price, we are able to help them farm in a way that is both sustainable and profitable for them. 

Further Reading:

If you’re looking for more coffee knowledge, check out our A-Z of Coffee Terms.