January 7, 2021

Cupping – How coffee tasting influences our everyday coffee life!

by Charlie

Sounds interesting. But what is actually a Cupping?
Quickly explained.

“Cupping” describes the practice of professional coffee tasting.

It is a systematic method that helps us to characterize the taste and smell of the coffee beans to finally evaluate and describe the full flavor.

Regular assessments and descriptions are used in the value chain in three areas in particular:

  • Green coffee (valuation, pricing, green coffee buyers, etc.)
  • Roasters, quality managers (roasting profiles, quality assurance, etc.)
  • Barista, wholesale customers, consumers (end product in the cup)

Coffee tasting procedure

During the tasting process, the top priority is to comply with all parameters according to international standards and then to bring them into uniformity. Only then can meaningful results be achieved and comparisons of different coffees be drawn.

Coffee Selection

The first step is to select one or more coffees to taste. It is recommended not to taste more than 12 different coffees in one round.

Smell – dry state (dry-aromas)

Before the coffee is infused (brewed), a first round is made, during which the dry, ground coffee is smelled. This is the first characteristic impression of the coffee on the table.

Brewing

After the coffee has been selected, it is ground to a specific quantity (e.g. 9 g) and a specific grind.

The ground coffee is now brewed with hot water (at least 90°C) in a so-called cupping bowl (150ml-200ml).
For each of the coffees 2-3 cups are brewed. This is done to detect any defects in individual beans. If one had only one cup per coffee, false conclusions could be drawn.

Break the crust

After five minutes, the tasting can begin with an almost ritual momentum, and it opens with the “Break the Crust”. The coffee crust is broken with a tasting spoon and the first volatile aromas already flow into the nose flask. Thus, begins the evaluation process but above all an act of enjoyment.Enter content here

Smelling – wet state (wet-aromas)
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In a first round, you get a first picture and impression of the coffees on the table purely through the nose. From this point on, the order in which the coffees are tasted always remains the same.Enter content here

Tasting

With a cupping spoon, which is slightly more bulbous than common tablespoons, the various cups or filled spoons are slurped in a second and third round.
Slurping the coffee is an important element in discovering the variety of flavors. More about this in the sensory part following.

In a cupping run, at least two rounds are made.
In the first round of tasting, the focus is on taste and aftertaste, while in the second run on acidity, body and balance.
In a final step, we evaluate the sweetness, uniformity and cleanliness of the coffee.

The combined perception of taste, smell and mouthfeel give us an overall picture of the tasted coffee, or scoring.
You can find out more about scoring specialty coffees in this blog post.

Sensory

In coffee tasting, a distinction is made between olfactory and gustatory elements.
The first is the aromas perceived through the olfactory sense, while the second is all about the taste sense and its taste qualities (sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami). Therefore, in the first part of the tasting, the olfactory sense can be used to perceive the dry and wet aromas.
In the second round, in which the slurping is initiated, taste and a mouthfeel are then interpreted.

The olfactory sense accounts for a full 80% of our overall perceived taste & smell.