Coffee Cupping



Coffee comes in an endless range of flavor notes.

“Sweet floral, melon, and citrus notes.” Here is how the label describes the coffee.

Doesn't it sound crazy? This may have appeared on a menu, or a barista may have described a coffee this way.

How does a professional decide how to describe a coffee?

The answer is through coffee cupping. Cupping is a term you've probably heard in a shop but might not realize what it is. So let me explain.

Coffee Cupping at Sonny's Coffee

Coffee cupping

A coffee cupping might sound like a fancy way to serve coffee, but actually, it is not like that. Cupping coffee is the act of tasting or sampling coffee. A tasting experience. At the store level, we use it to check for quality and consistency in the coffee we roast every day. At the international level coffee cupping is the process whereby coffee is evaluated, graded, and finally priced on a global level. The process is a universal one that is followed everywhere in the world the same way. During the early 1900s, cupping was implemented in the US as a means of evaluating a coffee's quality. Since then, it's become the industry standard for evaluating coffee based on factors such as.

  • Fragrance
  • Aroma
  • Flavor
  • Body
  • Acidity

The scores from all of these factors are tallied to give a numerical score up to 100. For a coffee to be called specialty, it must score at least 80 points.

So, it is a side-by-side comparison to compare the characteristics of different coffees. To ensure an even and fair comparison, all coffees are brewed the same way.

Coffee Cupping, Step by Step

Step 1: Setting the Table

In the first step, a collection of cups will be placed on the table for each coffee being tasted that day. Many times, you will be tasting several coffees on the same day, so several groups of cups will be arranged. The number of coffee beans in each cup will be exactly 10 grams, all of which will be ground on the same setting. For each coffee being tasted, we brew multiple cups to ensure each gets a fair chance since so few beans are used in each cup, even a single bad bean can affect the quality of the cup as a whole. We can get a more well-rounded tasting of the coffee by using multiple cups.

Step 2: The Fragrance

Take note of the smell of the dry grounds after the beans are ground. This is called the fragrance. The smell is one of the strongest senses. Sometimes when we smell coffee, we recall a particular food. Each of these pieces of information helps us understand what's going on within the cup. It is a good idea to smell the back of your hand between each cup of coffee, as this helps you reset your sense of smell.

How to do Coffee Cupping

Step 3: The Brewing Begins

We will pour 6 ounces of hot water (about 200 degrees) directly over the grounds after you smell their fragrance. It is the most honest way to experience the potential of coffee. You don't need filters, coffee machines, or fancy brewing methods, just the grounds, and the water. Each cup will develop a crust of coffee grounds once the water is added. The coffee should now be allowed to brew for four minutes. To avoid jostling of coffee grounds, it is recommended to leave the cups on the table from this point forward. Each cup should be smelt again during the 4 minutes the coffee is brewing. Coffee aroma refers to the scent of wet grounds. You might smell something entirely different from the fragrance in the aroma, or the aroma might reinforce your thoughts associated with the fragrance!

Step 4: Breaking the Crust

You will then take a spoon and "break the crust." This will release all of the pent-up aromas trapped in the crust. After that, gently stir the top of the cup so that the previously floating grounds will now fall to the bottom. Then you will have to use a spoon to scrape away the film from the surface. Oils and particulates in this film would interfere with the taste of coffee.

Step 5: Tasting Round 1

After adding the water, the coffee must sit for an additional six minutes to cool to a proper tasting temperature (about 10 minutes should pass since you added the water). Once it's done, you will use a spoon to taste the coffees, rinsing the spoon after each use so that you will always start afresh with every new one. You should slurp as loudly and as much as you can when you taste. Slurping has two purposes.  It first engages your olfactory system, which is important since 75% of your taste comes from the smell. Additionally, it makes sure your entire palate is exposed to the coffee at once. So, slurp proudly! Often, the first round of tasting takes place in silence (or at least without any discussion). People are incredibly susceptible to suggestion, so when someone says, “Oh, this tastes like strawberries!” then everyone else will taste the same thing. Before the discussion, all participants will have an opportunity to develop their thoughts.

Step 6: Tasting Round 2

During the cooling process, your coffee might take on new flavors. Therefore, you will need to taste it multiple times. When the cupping host signals that it is okay to start talking about what you are tasting, you can start.

Importance of coffee cupping

It is fun for everyone to hold a coffee cupping and it can be a great way to discover your favorite coffee.

However, for coffee industry workers, it is an important exercise that helps maintain the quality of your product. Coffee roasters see it as how they design and test their blends. Cupping helps baristas better market and serve different types of coffee by gaining an understanding of how they taste. By cupping, we can compare and contrast coffees and gain a better understanding of each one.

As part of creating a new blend, we need to choose coffees that meet our guidelines and satisfy our customers' tastes. We use cupping to find the perfect coffee combination. In addition, it's critical to weed out coffees that don't meet the standard.

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