Tasting coffee or what we refer to as “cupping” is a method used to evaluate the aroma and taste characteristics of a sample set of coffee beans.
Cupping allows us to ensure our current roasted coffees are up to our standards, as well as a way to evaluate new coffees.
This process is fairly easy and very fun. We thought we would show you how to set up your own cupping laboratory at home. Enjoy!
Weigh out 8.5 grams of coffee. If you don’t have a digital scale use 3 tablespoons. Grind the coffee using a fine grind setting, similar to a paper cone filter.
Sniff the grinds. This is referred to as the fragrance. The character of the fragrance indicates the nature of the taste.
Sweet scents lead to acidity tastes
Pungent scents lead to sharp tastes
Fill with hot water (just off the boil) to the brim and set your time for 4 minutes.
This allows the coffee particles to steep, and you’ll notice a crust, or cap on the surface of the brew.
Take another sniff. This is referred to as the aroma.
Note how different the coffee smells this time around.
Do you notice anything new? Has the aroma brought out a more intense smell from the dry fragrance earlier?
Break The Crust
Yes, there is a special cupping spoon.
No, you don’t need one for this exercise.
Yes, my dad’s version has it’s own leather case.
Before you start breaking anything, grab the other two cups.
Fill one cup with hot water and leave the other one empty.
After 4 minutes, it is time to “break the crust.”
Dip the head of your spoon into the coffee. Create a clockwise motion by swirling the spoon around the cup.
At the same time bring your nose very close to the cup (1″ away) and smell the full range of aromatic characteristics.
Dip your spoon into a clean hot cup of water.
Gently slide your spoon into the crust and slowly dump the material into an empty cup.
Left Cup – used for dumping extra crust
Middle Cup – your sample coffee
Right Cup – used for rinsing your spoon
Check the temperature of the cup. The coffee is extremely hot, and we need it to cool down. High temperatures mask flavors and burn your tongue and mouth. Put your spoon in the cup and slurp it into your mouth. Slurping is not only encouraged, but necessary. You want to mix air with the coffee to taste the complex flavors. Splash around in your mouth then spit the coffee into a separate container. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I find it best to cup two different coffees to get a better sense of what I’m tasting. Start with two very different coffees like Bella Finca & Henry’s Blend. These two coffees will be a perfect start to your cupping experience.
As you can see, you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the cupping process. Try different coffees, share with your friends, compare notes, and have fun with it.