What is Micro lot Coffee and Why is There So Much Confusion About It?

The world of specialty coffee is full of insider terms that often make the hobby a bit intimidating to the newbie. However, even if you just started home-roasting or are a seasoned professional, there is one coffee term that often gets thrown around a lot and means many different things according to whom to talk to. The term is often used as shorthand to mean “high-quality coffee”.

For an industry that prides itself on having a descriptor for every aspect of coffee; from its cultivation to its roasting, there is one term that has created confusion. The term is “micro-lot” or “micro-lot coffee”. While it has come to mean different things to different people, we will elaborate on what we believe to be the true definition of what “micro-lot coffee” is and best describe the subtle differences in definitions that have floated around the industry.

CBC’s Definition of Micro lot Coffee

Here at Coffee Bean Corral when we classify our coffee bean offerings as a micro lot we are specifically referring to a batch of coffee beans that have come from a larger farm or an estate that has been specifically grown in limited quantities and has been picked and processed separately from the rest of surrounding coffee crop of the area.

Another way to understand what we define as a micro lot is through an analogy. For example, you have an apple orchard, but you notice that in one spot of the orchard, the apples are particularly delicious, even more so than the rest. So, you decide to pay closer attention to how they grow and decide not to mix them in with the rest of your apple harvest and sell them separately a special batch at the farmer’s market.

Other Definitions of Micro lot Coffee We’ve Come Across

Without belaboring the point, we figured we would compare some of the micro-lot definitions we’ve run across to better compare how we use to the term specifically.

  • One of the most common ways we’ve seen micro-lot used is to distinguish a small volume of coffee (that still comes from an estate or farm) that hasn’t been mixed with other lots from the farm. The small volume, however, was not grown in limited quantities itself. It is simply a smaller batch that has been separated from the rest of the crop.
  • Another way that we have seen micro-lot used is to refer to a small lot of specialty coffee varietal that are from one area and processed together. Think like Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
  • We have even seen the term micro-lot to describe all the coffee lots that were processed in a single day.
  • Some have used it to describe carefully monitored coffee throughout its production and processing stages. This is done to try and ensure that the final cupping can be repeatable and replicable.
  • Another way we have seen micro-lot used was to refer to a specific lot of coffee that was roasted in a single session or within a single day.

How Does a Micro lot Differ from Limited Quantity Coffee?

At the most basic level micro-lot does indeed refer to a smaller batch of coffee, but it differs from what we are calling “Limited Quantity Coffee”. While micro-lot coffee may be limited in some sense, it can be continuously grown and sold. Where on the other hand, when we refer to “limited quantity coffee”, we simply mean a coffee lot that we have limited quantities of on hand.

So Why Do Different Definitions Exist?

Simply put the reason why there are so many definitions used by people is that there is no overarching organization to define exactly what a micro lot is. Unlike organizations that can certify and point to organic coffee, fair trade, or even fair-trade organic, there is no central organization that certifies what exactly a micro lot is. Unfortunately, until such an organization comes to exist, the industry, producers, sellers, roasters, and consumers will still have multiple and differing definitions for what micro-lot coffee is.

Interested in Trying a Micro Lot? Stay Up to Date with Coffee Bean Corral

Here at Coffee Bean Corral, we are slowly but surely expanding our offerings constantly and consistently. With micro lots being one of our latest additions. We are currently in the process of cupping and evaluating our recent shipment of samples from micro lots we have received.

Amongst the samples, we are tasting a wide selection that spans the globe from our favorites like Ethiopia and Costa Rica. We are also cupping micro lots from Colombia, Honduras, Kenya, Guatemala, Rwanda as well as a few others that we will keep secret for now!