Featured Coffee quality scores explained

When buying coffee from the Taylors Discovery website, you will notice each coffee has a ‘cupping score’ on the description page. This number is a score out of 100 and has been decided by our professional coffee tasters (Q Graders) and is part of a wider coffee grading system created by the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) in order to help objectively decide the quality of a coffee.

Each coffee on the Taylors Discovery website has their SCA cupping score.

Each Taylors Discovery coffee will have it's SCA cupping score on the product page


To even be considered ‘specialty’ a coffee must score above 80. Anything between 65 and 80 is classed as ‘commodity coffee’ (the kind that goes in most supermarket blends) and anything above 90 is a ‘presidential coffee’ and is incredibly rare - and exceptionally good. 

Quality score or SCA score: 

As specialty coffee has become more popular, people have increased their coffee knowledge, and so quality scores have become more common as a way of communicating the quality of a coffee. The higher the score the better the coffee, but how are these scores decided upon? 

 

When a Q Grader is scoring a coffee, they have lots of specific things they giving individual scores to, it’s only when all these elements are put together, that a final score is given. Some of those elements are listed below:

This is the SCA cupping score sheet that Q graders use to grade coffee

This is an SCA cupping score sheet that Q graders use to score each coffee that Taylors of Harrogate buys.


Defects 

Defects are unpleasant flavours that detract from the overall flavour of the coffee. Defects significantly reduce a coffees score, so it is very unlikely that a specialty grade coffee will have any.

Aroma / Fragrance 

Before any coffee even crosses the lips of a Q Grader, the aroma is assessed (they give it a good sniff) both as dry ground coffee and wet (after water has been poured over the grinds). The coffee is smelled at both stages, and then an over all score is given. 

Flavour / Acidity / Body / Balance 

Flavour is about the quality and complexity of flavours found in the cup. The SCA flavour wheel is a good reference tool to compare how the coffee tastes to well known positive flavour notes.

Acidity could be malic (like apples), tartaric (like red berries), or citric (like limes). Acidity should be bright and not sour and if its quality is pleasurable, it can score well no matter how intense it is. 

Body is based on how the coffee feels in your mouth, think of the difference between full fat milk (heavy body) and skimmed milk (light body). If the body is pleasing, both light and heavy bodied coffees can score well. 

Balance is how all the elements work together. If the intensity of the acidity overwhelms the sweetness, this would make an unbalanced coffee. The elements of the coffee do not have to be equal but do have to work in harmony with each other to score highly. 

Sweetness in the context of this scoring system is as simple as a yes or no. Does the coffee have an inherent sweetness? If not - it is typically not specialty grade.

The final score is decided upon by adding together the scores of all the elements. To reach the score of 80 needed to be classed as specialty, a coffee would not only need to score well in all areas, but also have almost no defects and unpleasant flavours. 

For a coffee to make it on to the Taylors Discovery web shop, you can rest assured, it will have been tried and tested by our team of super slurpers, multiple times. The majority of the coffees on our website score 85+ points. So it will always be some of the best coffee available in the world.  

What are the different grades of coffee?

Table to show SCA scores and specialty coffee grading