What’s a cupping?

Well, you can easily resume it in one sentence: It’s the purest form of tasting coffee.
Whether farmers, producers, import companies, roasteries or coffee shops, literally everyone in the coffee industry does cuppings on a regular base. Cuppings are mainly being done to determine the characteristics of each coffee.

From each cup, you can define the following categories:

  1. Fragrance/Aroma
  2. Flavor
  3. Aftertaste
  4. Acidity
  5. Body
  6. Balance
  7. Sweetness
  8. Uniformity
  9. Cleanliness

And depending on the origin of the coffees, these categories can vary exponentially. Coffees from Africa, such as Ethiopia or Kenya e.g. are known to taste very fruity, floral and citrusy while Colombian coffees have more of a chocolatey/nutty note. This huge range of different flavor notes is compiled in the “Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel” established by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) in 1995 and updated in collaboration with World Coffee Research (WCR) in 2016. All these different flavors makes cupping coffee so interesting and entertaining! It’s a fun way of helping people develop their gustatory and olfactory senses while drinking the most popular hot drink there is. On a professional level, Q Graders (professionals certified by the Coffee Quality Institute) “grade” coffees, while cupping, and score them on a scale from 0 to 100. The score of the different coffees defines the prices of them. If the coffee is graded below 80 points, then it’s no “specialty coffee” and sold as “commodity” coffee. And everything above 80 points, is “specialty coffee”. Other than that, roasters do cuppings to see if they created the right roast profile for their coffees.

How to do a cupping?

Step 1: the basics

Freshly grind your coffee to a fine/medium coarse texture. You should be using a proportion of 8.25 grams whole bean coffee. Make sure to use filtered water in order not to manipulate the coffee with unpleasant aromas or odors.

Step 2: smell the dry grounds

Close your eyes and put your nose very close to the coffee. Smell the dry grounds and try to get a first smell of the aroma.

Step 3: when water meets coffee

Pour 150 ml water over the coffee and make sure to moist the whole ground. Temperature of the water should be approximately 94 °C. After pouring the water, smell how the coffees developed compared to the first smell.

Step 4: break the crust

After 4 minutes, break the layer which swims on top of the water while stirring the cupping spoon 2-3 times. Make sure to keep your nose really close to the beverage and have a nice smell. You’ll definitely notice that the coffee changed again.

Step 5: remove it

In a next step, remove the crust with 1 or 2 spoons and wait about 12-14 minutes for the coffee to cool down and the floating particles to set down.

Step 6: finally taste it!

Finally, you can taste the coffee and enjoy it to the fullest. Take a cupping spoon and dive it into the coffee, but only scrape it from the top. This is the fun part, because now you can explore how the different coffees on the table taste and how much they differ from one another. Try to guess some of the flavours you get. Is this more chocolatey, more berry like or what do you taste? Find it out for yourself. The most important part of a cupping experience is to have fun and to discover the delicious flavours and unique characteristics of each coffee.

Happy cupping!

31.05.2019, Ken