• QA 114
    Is espresso coffee 'specialty' or 'mainstream'?
    We read about the meaning of specialty in QA 110. But what are we to call espresso? Specialty?
    Asked by:
    Exporter - Ethiopia

    As in the traditional roasted coffee market there are also many different qualities of Espresso, ranging from purely mainstream blends to top-of-the range offerings of great quality. 

    Global consumption of Espresso coffee is such that it is a separate, stand-alone market alongside the market for Whole Bean, and that for Roast and Ground coffee. And in the Espresso market one also finds blends* that consist of commonplace, if not ordinary coffees alongside really good quality. Basically an entire range of qualities that are all sold as Espresso. So the answer really is that Espresso can be both mainstream and specialty…

    Views on this tend to differ between the United States and Europe. The US view is that, mostly, it ranks as specialty. This is probably due to the fact that for many in this market Espresso is a relatively new consumer product and, one that is 'different'. But Europe has known Espresso for many, many decades and consumers there definitely look at it as a separate life style product. But one whose quality, as is the case with traditional coffee, can range from ordinary to truly exceptional.

    For exporters it is important to recognise that the green bean quality requirements for Espresso are different from those for the traditional roasted coffee market, particularly when it comes to high quality. Espresso is made using hot, boiling water under pressure. This results in a more pronounced exploitation of the flavour components found in a roasted coffee bean than is obtained from the traditional percolation or filter process. The pressure process accentuates and sometimes even changes certain flavour aspects. And the result of this is not always positive because some flavours may become too intense or, in extreme cases, may even 'turn', i.e. they become unpleasant…

    For more on coffee quality see Chapter 11 of the Guide. For more on Espresso itself see topics 12.09.04 and 05. But for a thorough, in-depth overview we recommend to read 'Espresso Coffee' by Andrea Illy and Riantonio Viani, Academic Press London, ISBN 0-12-370670-X.

    *The vast majority of Espresso brands are blends.

    Posted 31st of August 2006.


    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    QA 110 QA 104 QA 081