What is Coffee tasting?
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Coffee tasting or Coffee Cupping – What Is It?

In this article, I will explain a little about coffee tasting, the cup used, the grinding, the water temperature and more.

Should be good, so let’s get right into it 🙂

To evaluate your coffee quality, you only need a few utensils from your kitchen and a little time. 

In a short time, you will be able to determine the quality and features of your preferred or first-time coffee. You will be able to choose from the 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 professionally. This coffee tasting (called coffee cupping) is part of the overall assessment of a coffee.

They are usually not carried out by the producers themselves. The exporters, importers, agents, roasters or state institutions (e.g., for quality control or export approval) usually conduct these inspections.

Raw coffee is always evaluated, of which about 100g are roasted in special sample roasters for about 6–8 minutes for tasting.

A tasting aims to evaluate the quality of a coffee using a sample. The coffee tasting procedure and the evaluation criteria for the un-roasted coffee are largely standardized worldwide. Which does not mean that there are many small differences, especially with the so-called cup tasting.

Cup Tasting

After grinding and brewing the roasted best tasting coffee beans, the heart of the tasting follows the cup tasting. At this point, it would go too far to describe this process in detail. Because it is practiced in the professional field.

Since it is more important to us that you can do cup tasting yourself at home without major effort. We will give you a simplified form of the procedure below. It will takes into account all the essential aspects of a professional coffee tasting.

Simple coffee tasting

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

Coffee Cupping: What is it and steps to do it at home?

Differences to professional Coffee cupping

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.

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.

Ultimately, that doesn’t matter because the goal for you is to evaluate the coffee you have bought. From a methodological point of view, these are the only differences from the professional tasting. The rest of the process is the same.

What matters in best tasting coffee

As for sensory perception, you shouldn’t make excessive demands on yourself. To perceive defects such as musty, mouldy, 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. 

Also, as I said, your coffee is not specially roasted for consumption. Still, for consumption, and with roasting times over 8-10 minutes, the acids’ degradation makes the perception of such properties increasingly difficult or impossible. 

You must find out, I will repeat myself here.

Different steps of coffee tasting at home

1. The cups

Place a large cup (approx. 200 or 350 ml) for each coffee on the table. Place 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.

2. Grinding of coffee beans

Now grind each coffee very roughly one after the other using coffee grinder. 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, use coarsely ground coffee powder as possible. 

When using coffee that has already been ground, you naturally have to make significant cuts in aroma and taste compared to freshly ground coffee! The water-coffee powder ratio can vary: We ourselves prefer the ratio suggested above.

3. Smell 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. You can also perceive properties such as sweet, floral, chocolatey, fruity, etc.

4. 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.)

5. 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. 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. Do it 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.

6. Feel the 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 and 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.

7. Slurping or Sipping for coffee taste

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. 

My advice on coffee tasting

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 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. 

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. Now clean the spoon in the cup with clear water, rinse your mouth with water and repeat the whole process. 

You will likely find that your perception is becoming more intense, your sensors are activated in simple terms. 

Fill the table with best tasting coffee data

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. 

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 taste.

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 in coffee tasting: 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. 

Of course, you can also set a coffee taste of your choice as the standard and rate all other coffees in comparison to this standard coffee.

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

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