Information on commercial coffee, speciality coffee and coffee roasters…

Just for all the coffee lovers.

coffee cup

Commercial coffee & speciality coffee

Commercial coffee is usually roasted and packed in large factories under nationally advertised brand names. Specialty coffee is usually roasted in small stores or factories, using traditional methods and technology, and is often sold where it has been roasted.

What Is Commercial Coffee and What Exactly Is Specialty Coffee?

Coffee is coffee, right? Wrong. Commerical coffee and speciality coffee are very different. It is the differences between the two that make each suitable for their purposes. If you’ve ever gone to the grocery store and purchased a bag of coffee, you’ve likely had commercial coffee. There is nothing inherently wrong with it. However, there are differences worth considering. Throughout this article, you will learn about some of the differences and what makes speciality coffee worth the extra cost. 

What Is Commercial Coffee?

Commercial coffee is the coffee you will find being sold by larger brands and roasters. This is the coffee that populates the retail stores and that generally makes up the larger displays in these stores. It is coffee that is bulk roasted and sold in mass quantities. 

What Is Specialty Coffee?

Speciality coffee is almost the exact opposite. Rather than being produced on a massive scale, it is produced in smaller amounts. Generally, it is produced by speciality shops or roasters and it typically isn’t available at many retailer outlets. Therefore, you will usually have to purchase it directly from a speciality coffee shop where you can get it much fresher.

Main Differences: 

1. Price

This is the big one. If you’re in coffee for the caffeine, just about anything will do for you. However, if you enjoy the flavours and the subtle nuances of coffee, you will likely be willing to spend more for your coffee fix. Price is a big differentiating factor when it comes to comparing the two. Commercial coffee is much cheaper because the manufacturer can bring the cost down through economies of scale. Because speciality coffee is produced in limited quantities in comparison, it is going to be sold for a much higher price per unit. After all, they need to account for the extra processing and time it takes to produce smaller quantities. 

2. Beans

Another major difference would be with the beans themselves. When a brand is targeting the mass market, they aren’t necessarily going to be out to appeal to the coffee enthusiasts. Instead, they are out to lower costs and maximize profit margins. While they are still looking to produce a quality end-product, their target market is very different. The majority of consumers don’t necessarily care where their beans are originating from. Nor do they care if they are Arabica or Robusta. Instead, they are much more concerned with the flavour and whether it tastes good or not. With speciality coffee, you will see a lot more effort in the branding and marketing to target coffee connoisseurs. You will see a lot of the bags featuring the bean origin and even details like the farm it was picked from. These things can dramatically influence the end-product. After all, several things can impact the quality of a bean. For one, the altitude, the richness of the soil, and more. All of these things can play a role in determining how fresh and ultimately how good the coffee tastes. However, for major commercial coffee brands, you won’t get any of this information on the label. 

3. Quality Control

Another major difference you will notice with commercial coffee and speciality coffee will come with quality control throughout the entire process. While commercial brands are very much concerned with the quality of their product, they aren’t going to be willing nor able to do it at an exorbitant cost. After all, they are competing with other companies that have economies of scale. Therefore, they are competing much more on having a low price. Whereas, the companies specialising in speciality coffee are going to have less negative pushback against higher pricing. Consumers they are targeting are not only used to paying higher prices for higher quality, but they have come to expect higher pricing. Thus, commercial coffee will typically deploy a method to get as many beans picked as possible with limited to no selection process. Whereas, speciality coffee companies will focus on employing the most skilled and experienced pickers to ensure all of the beans that are picked are consistent in quality. Likewise, there will be multiple stages that beans must go through to ensure quality control is maintained. Typically these processes will be done all by hand. 

4. Packaging

While you may think that fancy packaging that speciality roasters are using is a complete waste of money and that you are only paying for a fancy bag, you would be wrong. Packaging matters with coffee perhaps more than any other product. After all, your packaging can dictate the freshness of your coffee. Unfortunately, coffee can go stale very quickly. When you purchase a bag of commercially available coffee, you may even have a bag of stale coffee within days of opening it. First, it’s been roasted a long time before hitting the shelves. Then you had to purchase it and open it. With speciality coffee, everything is typically done in a much shorter timeframe. Speciality roasters usually roast in smaller batches which means everything is as fresh as can be. Some will even roast after you order it. Because of this, you are getting a much fresher product, to begin with. From there, they have packaging that limits oxygen and moisture. This can keep your coffee beans as fresh as possible to ensure you can enjoy your coffee the way it was intended.

In summary

As you can tell, there are all kinds of differences that you will want to be aware of when you are searching for coffee. If you are someone who isn’t necessarily a coffee enthusiast and you just want a cup of decent tasting coffee, commercially available coffee is likely good enough for you. However, if you are someone who values the finer things in life and you want to experience coffee in its best form, you will want to pay the extra money for freshly roasted speciality coffee. This is especially true if you are willing and able to take the time to brew it the right way. In the end, your taste buds will thank you for it.