You might have heard about coffee cupping, but have no idea what it is. There are no right and wrong ways to cup, but those who are serious about their coffee have very stern ideas about how it should be done properly. You can follow the serious direction of professionals who choose coffee flavors for major coffee houses, or you can adapt it to fit your needs.
What is Coffee Cupping?
Before we talk about the process, let’s discuss what coffee cupping is exactly. Coffee cupping allows the cupper to compare various coffee beans under the same conditions. When you are trying to find the best coffee bean, you want to assess them when they’ve been brewed the same way, with the same kind of system, and the same kind of water. All of that makes a difference in the taste of the coffee itself. During the coffee cupping process, it’s important to evaluate and make note of the smells, look, and taste of each bean.
Why Have a Coffee Cupping?
Each batch of beans can have a different flavor and smell that changes based on the region, farm, or country where it’s farmed. This method allows you to assess coffee beans whether they’re from a local farm or someplace across the world.
How to Run a Coffee Cupping
The way you run your coffee cupping will depend on how much experience you’ve had with the process. You shouldn’t let your lack of experience deter you against cupping. It’s a great way to pick the best beans for your morning brew. It’s a fun way to bring other coffee lovers together, too.
Coffee Cupping Supplies
- 6 – 10 cups or small bowls approximately 6 ounces
- Cupping spoons
- Grinder – Burr grinder is recommended
What is a Coffee Cupping Spoon?
The spoon you choose for cupping will perform a few duties. It’ll be used to break the crust on the cups, scoop out the wet grounds after brewing, and for slurping the coffee when it’s ready to be tasted. It should be quite deep like a good soup spoon.
How to Perform a Coffee Cupping
First, you’ll need to measure out 2 tablespoons of freshly roasted grind into each cup. You can use the scale to ensure that you have the same amount in each cup. Swirl the grind around in the bottom of the cup before placing your nose in there to really inhale to get the aroma.
Make note of whether the grind smells fresh, stale, underroasted or overroasted. The smell could be spicy, nutty, sweet, or malty, too. Actual note-taking is encouraged.
A kettle of water should be brought to just below boiling. Start the timer and pour water into each cup until it’s at the very top of the rim. Once all the cups are filled, you’ll wait two minutes and place your nose close to the crust and inhale deeply. Note the differences between the dry and wet grounds.
Once the timer hits 4 minutes, you’re going to use the cupping spoon to break the crust on the first cup. You’ll want to place your nose directly over the cup as you break the crust. Circulate the spoon three times to push down on the wet grounds. You’ll want to note how the aroma has changed between the dry and your first smell of the wet grind.
Between every dip of the spoon from one cup to the next, it’s vital that you’re rinsing the spoon. You want each cup to stay pristine and separate from the next.
It’s important to wait 15 minutes before tasting the coffee. The timer should still be running as you remove the grounds from the tops of the cups. Use the cupping spoon to skim the used grounds out of the coffee.
Use the spoon to scoop out a bit of coffee from the first cup and take a sip. Swirl the coffee in your mouth and consider whether it tastes sour, acidic, fresh, tart, or delicate.
You’re looking for 4 things when you’re tasting the coffee.
Acidity/Liveliness -Not all acidity in coffee is a bad thing. Some coffees without it can be boring and flat. Consider the words that would describe the acidity. Is it mild? Neutral? Soft?
Body – The body is how full and rich the coffee is in your mouth.
Flavor/Depth – Flavor is the tastes it has. There could be flavors like caramel, chocolate, honey, or fruits.
Finish – The finish or aftertaste is how it develops on the tongue after being swallowed or spit. Not every cupper will swallow the coffee, especially professionals who will taste coffees all day.
You can have your own coffee cupping parties and invite friends over, or you can do a tasting yourself as you try to find the best coffee beans for your morning coffee experience. It’s important that you keep notes of what you like and dislike about each bean, so you’ll have a detailed record of the coffees you’ve tried.