Back to Blog Home

Speciality coffee: quality scores explained

We pride ourselves on selling speciality coffee. That word ‘speciality’ is important to us. It means our coffee has been awarded with a Quality Score of 80 or above. But where does that Quality Score come from, and what does it tell you about what’s in your cup?

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

Coffee Quality Scores broken down:

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.

What’s a coffee’s Quality Score based on

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

- Lack of defects

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.

- Sweetness

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

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

- Balance

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

- Mouthfeel

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.

- Flavour

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.