A specialist guide to understanding good coffee


Jon Wilkin, co-founder of Manchester city centre speciality coffee house Pot Kettle Black, shares his top tips on choosing, buying and enjoying quality coffee. 

Coffee tastes and preferences are changing. More and more people are recognising the difference in flavour and quality of speciality coffees and are turning to smaller, independent coffee shops for a quality, well roasted coffee, over the larger chains.

So what’s the difference between speciality, premium, and gourmet coffee and how should it be served?

Beans grown in microclimates

Speciality coffee is hand-picked in coffee farms and is only grown in special microclimates. The term ‘speciality coffee’ was first used in 1974 to describe beans of the best flavour which are produced in these microclimates.

Taste the difference

Its distinctiveness is due to its full taste and depth and the fact that it has few or no defects. The unique flavours are a result of the special characteristics and composition of the soils in which they are produced.

Point scale

Speciality coffees are graded by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE), which scores 80 points or above on a 100-point scale .

Don’t use wanky words

‘Gourmet’ and ‘premium’ are marketing terms with no defined standards,

The right temperature

Different temperatures of water or milk will give coffee a different flavor. Speciality coffee is best served a at 70° to 80°C so the subtle flavours are noticeable.

If serving the coffee with milk, eg as a latte or flat white, the milk temperature should be between 57° and 70°C. Above this temperature the milk will lose its sweetness and may begin to scald or spoil the rich flavours of the coffee.

Pot Kettle Black is reopening its doors in the Barton Arcade on Monday 6 June at 8 am after an extensive refurbishment and extension. It serves only speciality grade coffee from the Arabica plant variety. Why not pop in and try one?


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