What is Specialty Coffee and Why it is So Important

In recent years, we have started to hear concepts such as specialty coffee, 3rd generation coffeemaking, 3rd wave coffeemaking often, and surprisingly someone has created fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh waves, but it is futile. First of all, let me give you some peace of mind. I can say there is no such fourth wave that we agreed on. I believe, three is enough 🙂

Let’s start with waves and then it will be easier to tell about specialty coffee. It is also a good idea to know where these waves start and end. No matter which coffee specialist you listen to, you will be confused about history. So I’ll try to describe history without going into much detail.

1st Wave (1st Generation)

Coffee firstly traded by Yemeni merchants a few hundred years after being found in Ethiopia in the 8th – 9th centuries. If you ask this to a Yemeni, he will say that “we discover the coffee first, not Ethiopians!” and if you ask Ethiopian, probably you will hear the opposite. There is a serious debate ongoing between these two countries. But it is certain that coffee export starts in Yemen. Al-Mukha port is the starting point. Also, the word “moka” takes its name from this port.

When the Ottoman Empire siege Vienna, coffee meet with Europe and spread to the world with colonies.

Finally, Italians invent the espresso, but we still don’t call it the 1st wave.

1st Wave Coffee

The first wave begins exactly with the entrance of the coffee to the houses. In 1929, with the invention of the French Press, and Moka Pot in 1933 we can say the first wave has been started in these years. This is nearly the same time that Nescafe appears. Which caused coffee to enter the houses the most in 1930.

Because of the high level of coffee production in Brazil, farmers, and traders started to pour the unsold coffee into the sea. The Brazilian government has applied to Nestle to find a solution to prevent this loss. After serious research, Nestle succeeded in keeping the essence of the brewed coffee into a granular form (Nescafe).

On top of theses developments, In the 2nd World War American soldiers found moka pot coffee so strong to drink. They started to add water to Moka pot coffee and espresso. Eventually, the espresso with hot water started to call “Americano”.

As a summary, we can say the 1930s / 1940s were the years when the revolution started in the name of coffee.

2nd Wave (2nd Generation)

Dear Starbucks! We, the coffee lovers, often talk behind you (!). But we tell the truth when you deserved. Honestly, we wouldn’t be able to make coffee “that good” without you.

The 2nd wave is a coffee culture movement that started by Starbucks. The 1st wave, let people brew coffee in their houses, and with the 2nd wave, coffee began to walk everywhere with Starbucks. Take a cartoon cup and roll your self to the streets of Seattle, London, Paris and now eventually in Italy;). Sit wherever you want, drink your coffee and chat.

2nd wave of coffee

Although Starbucks’ coffee recently is not tasty for us, it is a revolution for the sector. After 1930, it brought a different perspective to the coffee industry which continued unchanged for 41 years.

After that, it experienced tremendous growth. With the growth of other large coffee companies, coffee trade started to dominated by a few large companies. This large scale of production impact on prices and prices started to go down.

Due to farmers cannot make money at low prices or even lose. This situation triggered the migration/immigration of farmers and their next generation to other countries or changing their way of living. With the impact of this situation, coffee production interrupted and decreased seriously. At this point, local initiatives started to classify the coffee beans.

3rd Wave (3rd Generation)

Some coffee shops between 2008-2009 started to roast these classified specialty beans to reveal the flavor inside. Naturally, this flavor difference and taste decomposition triggered a new trend. Then we call this trend “the 3rd generation coffee” or “the 3rd wave of coffee”

Hand Picked Coffee

The research of the new taste triggered new brewing styles and types of equipment. We started to see many different equipments in coffee shops.

Well, if you say brewing coffee on this equipment is making the coffee third wave? NO! The brewing equipment is just the helper of third-generation coffee making.

These types of equipment enable us to invent new tastes in specialty coffee. But if the coffee is not a specialty coffee, it is futile. Of course, the separation of these coffees according to their qualifications did not settle to standard overtime and some problems arose.

SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) created a tasting tally and started to grade each coffee on demand. This rating made out of 100, If the coffee passes over 80 points, they started to classified as specialty coffee.

What is Specialty Coffee?

The Coffee id card processed at each step of the coffee. We know the type, tasting notes, the region, the farm, and the harvest year.

We also know the washing station, processing conditions and where the beans stored besides transporting, duration, and storing conditions.

Roasted date, roasting profile and the roaster’s notes while cupping also known. Even the drinkable date (degassing end-date) now exist on packages.

Of course, not all of the information that tracked and kept written on coffee packages. But a real specialty coffee shop or roaster has been able to provide you this information. If they can not give this information to you then it means they are not selling specialty coffee.

Specialty Coffee - 3rd Wave Coffee

Apart from all these, there are many criteria. All beans need to be hand-picked.

Picking machines only work in flat farming areas but the picking machine can damage the beans and not recommended for specialty coffee. Also, handpicking should be done carefully.

Specialty Coffee Criteria

In specialty coffee, this manual picking is more precise. Immature cherries are left on the branch and mature ones are picked. Corrupted, defective products are decomposed. Wash stations are washed carefully and dried without damaging the beans.

Coffee, transported and stored under special conditions and temperatures. Trial roasting is done many times and when the most accurate profile is found, collective roasting begins. After roasting, it is left to rest for degassing. This takes for 5-6 days and has to be consumed in a maximum of 15-20 days.

If you’ve seen coffee beans roasted by commercial big companies, you might remember something black and oily. Although this view seems fancy at the first step, actually it is not.

These looking means, coffee beans are roasted more than required and that they are carbonized (almost to the point of being coal) and even the oil in it is released. Just because the old type of roasting was done only to darken the beans, not for the perfect taste.

The big coffee companies, who said they would offer the same taste every year in every package, would only do so with excessive roasting. “They are all the same when they burnt.”

However, in specialty coffee beans, they are less roasted in order to expose the aromas they contain. This brings us access to a slightly more acidic, but flavored flavor.

Btw, don’t jump on yellow beans after reading my words. Under roasting is also as bad as over-roasted coffee. Specialty coffee roasters make many measurements during the roasting process.

  • Level of heat in the coffee roasting machine by every second
  • the color of the beans began to change
  • time of the first crack
  • time of the second crack

Roasters always kept these details in charts with seconds. The perfect tasting profile is tried to be achieved by fine-tuning with these settings.

Why Specialty Coffee is Important?

Coffee prices in the coffee market are set on the coffee exchanges in the US and the UK. Of course, when it comes to the stock market, all kinds of speculative and even manipulative movements can be experienced.

We have experienced that the price of coffee sometimes comes to lower than the cost of the farmer.

Because of this unfair price change, farmers do not want to produce coffee.

But this is not the case with specialty coffee. Even the companies that trade coffee internationally are now looking at the grade of coffee according to the SCA norms and proposing a price according to it, and it is not difficult to predict that the price is higher than the stock price. Thus, both the farmer wins and the workers earn.

Moreover, the direct trade period has started in specialty coffees. In other words, the person who will roast coffee can go directly to the farmer and trade with them without intermediation. This not only increases the farmer’s earnings but also reduces the cost of the roaster.

Right Here: If you are looking for a coffee maker you might want to read this article: Best Filter Coffee Maker | Review and Advice

What is not Specialty Coffee?

Neither every coffee brewed with sexy brewing equipment nor coffee in the cool looking packs specialty coffee, the coffee that you feel compelled to add sugar and milk when drinking (most probably) is not specialty coffee at all.

Specialty Coffee - 3rd Wave Coffee Fake Barista

Don’t assume that the coffee served to you by a bearded barista is a specialty coffee. I really don’t want to blame on the beard baristas who do his job perfectly, I am just warning you the shape not always reflect the soul.

When is the 4th Generation of Coffee Making?

Obviously, the generations before the 3rd wave lasted at least 40 years. Now we started to hear not only the fourth 6th or 7th generations as well. But I believe we have more time to see the 4th generation.

“You put me in a trap with a coffee.”

Harvey Specter / Suits
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Omer Demir

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