Coffee Cupping- What Is It?

coffee cupping

To evaluate the quality of your coffee, you only need a few utensils from your kitchen and a little time. With a little practice, however, you will be able to determine the quality and special features of your preferred or first-time coffee in a very short time and will be able to choose from the now wide range of (specialty) coffees yours Taste and their ideas come closest.

What is a coffee tasting?

Like wine, tea and many other food products, coffee is tasted in a professional way. These tastings  (called coffee cupping`s) are part of the overall assessment of a coffee, and they are usually not carried out by the producers themselves, but by exporters (private or cooperative associations), by state institutions (e.g. for quality control and / or export approval), from importers (who decide on the basis of the tasting results which coffee they buy for the open market or a specific customer), from so-called agents (who usually convey coffee to very specific customers, usually large roasters) and find coffee according to the profiles of their customers and finally from the roasters, who, unless they buy directly in the growing country, Request samples of certain coffees from their importers to see if they match your tastes. Raw coffee is always evaluated, of which about 100 g are roasted in special sample roasters for about 6–8 minutes for tasting.

The aim of a tasting is to evaluate the quality of a coffee using a sample. The tasting procedure and the evaluation criteria for the unroasted coffee are largely standardized worldwide, which does not mean that there are
many small differences, especially with the so-called cup tasting, i.e. the assessment of the roasted coffee.

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Cup Tasting

After grinding and brewing the roasted beans, the heart of the tasting follows, the cup tasting. At this point it would go too far to describe this process in detail, as it is practiced in the professional field. Since it is more important to us that you can carry out such a cup tasting yourself at home without major effort to evaluate our coffees, we will give you a simplified form of the procedure
below, but which takes into account all the essential aspects of a professional coffee tasting .

Simple coffee tasting

With the simplified tasting recommended by us, it is not a question of getting lost in details that are difficult to perceive, but to try to find out the striking, dominant characteristics of a coffee and to compare your normally prepared coffee with them.

Beginners Guide To Cupping

Differences to professional tasting

The difference compared to professional tasting is that on the one hand you do not compare several cups of the same coffee with one another to find any defects in one or the other cup, and on the other hand you do not rate green coffee, but a ready-roasted coffee which you have no influence on the roasting process, and which has significantly less acid (if it is a well roasted coffee) than the pure tasting coffee. But ultimately that doesn’t matter, because the goal for you is to evaluate the coffee you have bought in the shop or from a roaster and to optimize the preparation if necessary. From a methodological point of view, these are the only differences from professional tasting. the rest of the process is exactly the same.

What matters

As for sensory perception, you shouldn’t make excessive demands on yourself. In order to perceive defects such as musty, moldy, earthy, fermented etc. (which should not appear in your roasted coffee anyway) or positive properties such as flowery, vinous, berry, citrus-fruity and with a light chocolate aftertaste etc. in terms of aroma and taste a very experienced tongue and nose. In addition, as I said, your coffee is not specially roasted for consumption, but for consumption, and with roasting times over 8-10 minutes, the degradation of the acids makes the perception of such properties increasingly difficult or impossible. It is crucial for you to find out, I will repeat myself here,

The cups

Place a large cup (approx. 200 or 350 ml) for each coffee on the table and the corresponding coffee bag behind it to avoid any confusion from the outset. Add another cup. Fill them later with the hot brewing water to clean the tasting spoon. Thick-walled glasses are often used for tasting.

grinding

Now grind each coffee very roughly one after the other and add 7 g (for a 200 ml cup) or 14 g (for a 350 ml cup) to the corresponding cup. If you do not have a grinder, use ground coffee, but, as I said, as coarsely ground coffee powder as possible. When using coffee that has already been ground, you naturally have to make significant cuts in terms of aroma and taste compared to freshly ground coffee! The water-coffee powder ratio can vary: We ourselves prefer the ratio suggested above.

The scent of the powder

Now take the first cup in your hand, shake the powder a little and smell it. Do the same with all other cups. Repeat the process until you think you can smell the differences. For each coffee, try to describe the fragrance in one or two words in a previously prepared table. Give the column in question the name “Fragrance of Powder”. It is enough if you write down terms such as strong, intense, weak, but maybe you can also perceive properties such as sweet, floral, chocolatey, fruity, etc.

The water temperature

Boil water and leave it to stand for about 1 minute after boiling, so that it reaches the ideal temperature of 92 – 96 ° C for preparing coffee. (Remember: the higher you live, the lower the boiling point! The boiling point drops every 100 vertical meters by 0.5 ° C; water boils at 97 ° C, for example, at 600 m above sea level: it only takes a few seconds to reach the ideal temperature for brewing.)

The infusion

When the water has reached its ideal temperature, pour enough into the cups until they are half full. Stir each coffee several times with a spoon so that the powder sinks more or less to the bottom, and then quickly pour in enough water until each cup is almost full.

Place a cup of the same coffee on the right next to one of the coffees to be assessed, but now prepared in the same way as you normally prepare all your coffees at home, regardless of whether by infusion, filter machine, Bodum jug or in a fully automatic machine.

Use the spoon to carefully scoop off the white foam floating on the surface of the coffee without the coffee water moving. Then leave the coffees to stand for about 6–8 minutes so that the coffee can brew and cool down at the same time.

aroma

Now lean as far as possible to every single cup and smell the evaporating aroma. For a more intense perception, dip the spoon lightly into the surface, move it carefully towards the body, repeat the process several times and smell the escaping aroma, bent low over the cup. This process is called “breaking the coffee”. Write down what you smell in the table in the “Aroma” or “Smell of Coffee” column. The “fragrance” can be seen and evaluated as part of the overall aroma.

Sipping

When the coffees have reached a comfortable drinking temperature, you can start tasting them. To do this, take a normal tablespoon and fill it approx. ¾ with the coffee in the cup. Now move the spoon to your mouth and try to jerk the coffee into your mouth so that it covers the entire tongue. Very important: leave your mouth slightly open so that air can be sucked in at the same time. This “slurping or” sipping “is a matter of practice, and if you generate a loud hiss, an” ssssssssp “after a short time, you are – quite honestly – a natural talent. The best place to start sipping is at the left end of your row of cups and test cup by cup to the right
.

I have worked with many tasters, and everyone, really everyone, has developed their own technique for drawing in coffee and sensory perception in the mouth. Our advice: Simply remove all inhibitions – the table can be wiped, the floor cleaned and the shirt washed again. Just practice until the coffee disappears from your spoon and into your mouth as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

Whether you just leave the coffee in your mouth for a second or two or roll it slowly from one angle to another, there are hardly any limits to the development of an individual technique. Simply try to find out the length of stay and the interaction of tongue, palate and cheeks with which you have the best sensory perception. But you shouldn’t do one thing under any circumstances: swallow the coffee! Spit out any soaked coffee in a small bowl, large cup, or whatever you like to use.

As mentioned, start with the left cup of your coffee line-up for tasting. Sip, focus on what you see, spit out the coffee. Go to the next cup, do the same. Go back to the first cup and repeat the process and compare the two cups. Now go to the third cup, then back to the first u./o. for the second etc.

Take a break of one or two minutes after the first round, clean the spoon in the cup with clear water, rinse your mouth with water and repeat the whole process. You will very likely find that your perception is now becoming more intense, your sensors, in simple terms, are activated. Write down in your table everything you notice with every coffee.

After two or three “slurping” runs, please take a break of approx. 10 minutes and repeat the entire process again. You will probably see more nuances now than in the first run. This is due on the one hand to a certain learning effect, and on the other hand to the fact that the nerve cells have a higher perception when they have cooled drinks than when they are hot. Make a note of what you notice for each coffee.

What needs to be considered?

But what can you notice? What do you need to pay attention to in detail? There are essentially four factors: aroma, acidity, body, finish (aftertaste) and taste, which we have already described in detail here. Try to perceive every single factor and describe it for each coffee in one or two words – always relative to the other coffees in the test series. Since it is impossible for you at home to orientate yourself against fixed, i.e. absolute, criteria for the individual factors, you must always evaluate the coffees among themselves, that is, in relative terms. You can of course also set a coffee of your choice as the standard and rate all other coffees in comparison to this standard coffee.

Once you have finished the tasting and compared the entries in your table, you know, and you can be sure that you have a lot more about coffee. ˙