The art of cupping

Just like a wine tasting, coffee cupping is a formal tasting technique developed to identify specific flavours, qualities and faults.

Carefully conducted to internationally recognised standards, ‘coffee cupping’ is a formal tasting process designed to engage the senses and allow coffee to be professionally evaluated and appreciated.

Just like a wine tasting, coffee cupping is a technique developed to identify specific flavours, qualities and faults.

Cupping is vital to our business as it guarantees the quality and consistency of our origins – many of which make up the blends. It also enables us to select the best from around the world for our Bean of the Month program.

The six key components assessed are: fragrance/aroma, acidity, flavour, body, balance and aftertaste.

how to cup
To set up a coffee cupping session, arrange cupping spoons for each cupper, a grinder, weighing scale, the desired beans, hot water, SCAA coffee flavour wheel observation/scoring sheets and at least 3 cups per coffee.

The ratio of coffee to water is 1:17 so actual quantities depend on cup capacity.

1. Weigh out 8.5g of fresh beans per sample to be cupped.

2. Grind the beans on a medium plunger grind.

3. Place samples of the ground coffee into separate cups.

4. Cup your hands around each cup and put your nose as close as possible to smell the characteristics of the dry fragrance.

5. Boil the water and allow it to sit momentarily. Boiling water should not be used as it scalds and burns the coffee grounds. Aim for 92°c.

6. Pour 150ml of hot water into each cup over the ground coffee to the brim and allow it to sit for 3 minutes to infuse. Ensure all the coffee is wet as the water is poured into the cup. Do not stir the coffee at any stage.
7. Next, using a cupping spoon gently ‘break the crust’ of foam sitting on top of the coffee, use the back of the spoon to push the foam away from you across the cup while keeping your nose as close as possible to inhale the wet aroma.

8. Then the foamy grounds sitting on top need to be removed by skimming the surface with a spoon and disposing of the grounds.

9. After approx 10 minutes from pouring, the cups are now ready to taste, gently take ½ a dessert spoon of coffee from the cup and put your manners aside. As you sip the coffee from the spoon you are required to slurp as loudly as you can. Embarrassing as this sounds, it is required to ensure that you aspirate the coffee onto your tastebuds so as to heighten your tasting senses. Note acidity, flavour, aftertaste, body and balance on your sheet.

10. Tally the points marked in each column for bean characteristics and decide which you prefer the best.

Download your coffee cupping scorecard here.

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