There are well over 800 aromatic compounds in coffee (while perhaps 200 aromatic compounds in wine in comparison) and it can be rewarding to take some time to experience a coffee cupping. Cupping is a method of evaluating coffee beans and roasts, and it is useful at every stage of coffee production,from the farm to the roastery to the café. Learning how to cup coffee will enrich your coffee drinking experiences and help you appreciate your coffee more.
What do you need for cupping?
- Weighing scales
- Glasses or cups
- A timer
- Cupping spoons, similar to soup spoons
- A grinder
What happens at a cupping?
When we cup, the coffee is steeped in water for a long time, a method of brewing which eliminates brewing variability. The coffee and water is weighed out according to the Specialty Coffee Association cupping protocol to ensure consistency. We usually do a “blind” cupping to be fair to each sample. The coffee is coarsely ground in order to slow down the brewing process and brew the coffee gently.
We start by smelling the ground coffee to experience the dry fragrance. We add water and brew the coffee for 4 minutes. The coffee forms a crust which is removed after we have analysed the wet aroma. As it cools we taste the coffee using a cupping spoon.
We describe the fragrance, aroma, acidity, flavour and finish (aftertaste) of each coffee. We record our observations on our Cupping Form.
The comprehensive Coffee Tasters Flavour Wheel allows us to ask, for example, “is this coffee fruity?”. If yes, you can ask yourself “is the fruity flavour more like citrus, dried fruit, or berry? Is the citrus flavour more like lemon or grapefruit?”
The flavours of the coffees change as they cool because our ability to taste depends on the temperature. So we often do a few rounds of tasting the coffees on the table.
At Stash Coffee we cup every batch of coffee that we roast, to ensure that each roast meets our stringent quality control. We also cup because we keep learning and challenging ourselves to improve.