What you should pay attention to when buying specialty coffee beans

What to look out for in specialty coffee

Specialty coffee is a term you may have noticed in the world of coffee. It's more than just a marketing term; it is a recognition of quality and craftsmanship. But what exactly does specialty coffee mean and what should you pay attention to when buying specialty coffee beans? These questions aren't always easy to answer, especially if you're new to the world of coffee.

In this blog we delve deeper into the world of specialty coffee beans, what sets them apart, and give you some tips to make the best choice. Whether you're a seasoned barista or someone just starting to explore the coffee lover's path, this guide will help you get the most out of your next cup of specialty coffee.

Origin of coffee

The origin of the coffee is a crucial factor that influences the taste and character of your cup of specialty coffee. Each coffee-producing country or region produces beans with unique flavor profiles, influenced by the local soil, climate and processing methods.

Asian coffees, for example from countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, are known for their spicy and sometimes earthy flavors. These coffees can contain notes of spices such as pepper or cloves and have a full, rich body, making them perfect for espresso preparations.

African coffees, especially those from countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, are often bright and fruity. They can have a range of flavors, from berries to citrus, and are known for their lively acidity and floral aromas. These coffees are fantastic as filter coffee and show the versatility of coffee as a specialty product.

South American coffees, such as those from Colombia, Brazil and Peru, often have more earthy and nutty flavors. They can have notes of chocolate, nuts and caramel and are often medium to full bodied. These coffees are excellent for a variety of preparation methods and represent the warm, inviting side of specialty coffee.

Understanding how origins influence the flavor of your coffee can help you better inform your next purchase of specialty coffee beans and deepen your appreciation for this complex and fascinating product.

Processing method

The processing method of coffee , also known as 'processing method', is an essential aspect of specialty coffee production and has a significant impact on the final flavor of the bean.

One of the most commonly used methods is the 'washed' method. The coffee cherries are stripped of their pulp and then washed to remove any remaining residue. This results in a coffee that is clean, clear and often with pronounced acidity.

There is also the '(pulped) natural' method, in which the pulp of the berry is left partially or completely intact during drying. This leads to a sweeter, fuller taste in the coffee, often with notes of fruit and honey.

Finally, there is the 'honey' method, which follows a kind of middle path between the crops and the natural method. This involves leaving part of the flesh intact during drying, giving the bean a sweet, complex flavor reminiscent of honey.

Understanding these processing methods can help you select your next specialty coffee. By considering the influence of these methods on the flavor of the bean, you can choose a coffee that perfectly matches your personal taste preferences.

specialty coffee processing method

Roast Date

It is essential to consider the roast date , or 'roast date', when purchasing a bag of specialty coffee. Why is this so important? Well, coffee is a fresh product and the taste quality decreases as the time after roasting increases. On Zwarte Roes coffee bags you will find this date stamped on the back of the seal edge, under 'Roast Date'. A quick look at this date can tell you a lot about the freshness of the coffee you buy.

Ideally, specialty coffee tastes best within 6 to 8 weeks after the roast date. So, while it may be tempting to buy in bulk to save money, we recommend not buying more coffee than you can consume in this time. Buying coffee that has been roasted too long ago will result in a diminished taste experience.

So when you are looking for the perfect cup of specialty coffee, not only pay attention to the processing method and origin, but also look at the roasting date. It's a small effort that can make a world of difference in your coffee experience.

Roast Level

The roast level, or ' roast level ', is a crucial factor that determines the flavor profiles of specialty coffee. This is the process by which green coffee beans are transformed into the dark, fragrant beans we know and love.

At Zwarte Roes, we opt for light or medium roast levels. A light roast, often chosen for pour-over or filter coffee, retains the unique characteristics of the coffee bean and its origin. The beans get a soft, subtle finish, retaining the fruit flavors and a pleasant acidity. This roast is perfect for coffee lovers who want to discover the complexity and unique character of the bean.

On the other hand, we have the medium roast, used for espresso coffees. In this case, the beans are roasted a little longer, which caramelizes the sugars more and creates a perfect balance between acidity and bitterness. This roast is known for its rich, full flavor, with a smooth, velvety finish.

Although (extra) dark roast has a place in the world of coffee, you will not often find this roast level in specialty coffee. Extra dark roast was originally intended to mask the low quality of beans and give a uniformly burnt taste. At Zwarte Roes our mission is to emphasize the purity and real flavors of the coffee bean, which is why we choose a light or medium roast.

Type of bean

When talking about specialty coffee we must also talk about the type of bean we use. The basic assumption is that it is always a specialty bean, and almost always an Arabica bean. Arabica beans are known for their superior flavor profiles and high quality. They have a wide range of flavors and aromas, ranging from sweet and fruity to chocolate and nutty. But we must not forget that there is enormous diversity within the Arabica group.

There are hundreds of subspecies of the Arabica coffee bean, each with their own unique flavor characteristics. These varieties are created by geographical location, climate, soil conditions and post-harvest processing methods. For example, the same Arabica variety can taste very different in different regions. This makes the world of specialty coffee so fascinating and complex. At Zwarte Roes it's all about discovering these differences, selecting the best beans and honoring their unique qualities. It's a never-ending journey of experimentation and learning, and it's what drives us to continually push the boundaries of what's possible in the world of specialty coffee.

Flavor profile

flavor profile

When choosing your specialty coffee, the flavor profile plays a crucial role. This profile shows the various nuts and fruit flavors that you can taste in the coffee. You can find coffees with hints of chocolate, fruity notes, acidity ranging from lemon to apple, or even floral notes. However, it is important to point out that taste is a very personal experience. What is fruity and sweet to one person may be sour or even bitter to another.

When selecting your specialty coffee, it is therefore essential to choose a flavor profile that suits your personal preference. If you like a sweet, mild coffee, go for beans with a chocolate or vanilla flavor profile. If you prefer floral or fruity coffee, choose a light roast with notes of fruit or flowers.

The brewing method can also affect the flavor profile of your coffee. For example, espresso can bring out the sweeter notes in the coffee, while a V60 can emphasize a fruity flavor. It's a matter of experimenting to find your ideal combination of bean, flavor profile and brewing method.

In the world of specialty coffee there are no hard and fast rules. It's about what suits you best and what makes your coffee experience the most satisfying. So, experiment, discover and enjoy the journey through the fascinating world of flavor profiles in specialty coffee.


The altitude at which the coffee cherries grow plays a crucial role in the flavor profile of specialty coffee. Coffee berries that grow at higher altitudes are usually exposed to cooler temperatures and a slower ripening process. This results in higher acidity and a more complex flavor profile, often with more fruity and floral notes. These coffees are known for their brightness and vibrant flavor characteristics that are highly desired by coffee lovers and connoisseurs.

For example, coffee berries that grow at elevations above 4,000 feet above sea level, such as in the mountains of Ethiopia or Colombia, are known for their high acidity and complex flavor profiles. They possess a wide range of flavors, from fruity and citrusy notes to sweet and chocolatey notes.

However, as always with specialty coffee, the final taste also depends on other factors, such as the variety of the bean, the processing and the preparation method. It is therefore important to experiment and discover which flavors appeal to you most. But in general, the higher the growing height, the more sour and complex the taste.


The world of specialty coffee is one of limitless possibilities, endless flavor variations and intriguing complexity. Aspects such as the roast level, roast date, flavor notes and growth height all have a profound influence on the final flavor profile of the coffee.

Whether it's the deep, rich notes of a medium roast or the vibrant, fruity notes of a coffee berry grown at high altitude, every cup of specialty coffee offers a unique experience. But above all, remember that the ultimate coffee experience is one of personal preference and discovery. So experiment, be curious and enjoy the journey through the fascinating world of specialty coffee.