Cupping is one of the best ways to learn more about flavour, aroma, and to share that with other people. We cup every batch of coffee that we roast to make sure it meets our quality standards, but it’s also a chance for us to talk about flavours.
What you'll need
- - 20g each of different coffees
- - Identical ceramic cups (160-200ml)
- - Soup spoon for each taster
- - Coffee grinder
- - Scales
- - Bowl to collect wet grounds
- - Glass to hold spoons
Step 1. Prime the grinder
Run 2g of the first coffee through the grinder and discard as this will remove any stray grounds from the last coffee used, we want to taste only the flavour in the coffee we’re tasting.
Step 2. Grind 9g for the first cup
Use a medium-coarse grind setting, and put the grounds in the first cup. Label the cup and sit on the bench (hide the label under the cup or face-down for a blind cupping).
Step 3. Grind the second 9g of the first coffee
Put the grounds in the second cup, sit the cup alongside the first then group the cups of the same coffee together.
Step 4. Repeat steps 1–3 for each coffee
Prime the grinder because you’re switching coffees, and space the two new cups slightly apart from the previous so it’s easy to see the groupings.
Step 5. Smell the grounds
Make a note of any flavours you notice: there’s no wrong answer, write whatever you smell.
Step 6. Start timer, and pour 150ml of hot water
Heat water to approx 94°C and pour 150ml (~150g) of water into each cup. Make sure each cup is at the same level.
Step 7. Fill spare cup with remaining hot water, and heat your spoons
Step 8. Break the crust after 4 minutes
You’ll notice a ‘crust’ on top of most cups after 4 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to break through the crust.
This will release gases from brewing: as you break the crust, put your nose near the surface and inhale. Take note of any new flavours your notice.
Step 9. Remove the remaining crust
Using one or two spoons in a circular motion, remove any remaining grounds floating on the surface of the cup so you don’t end up drinking them later. If there’s not many, you can run the back of the spoon over the surface gently and it’ll collect most of them.
Step 10. Start tasting after 15 minutes
The cups will have cooled and you’ll be able to taste more flavours.
Take a spoonful of each coffee and slurp quickly: the aim is to aerate the coffee so it coats your palate and you can taste more flavour and aroma.
Rinse your spoon in the spare cup of water between every slurp.
Step 11. Take notes
Take notes of flavour for each pair of cups, or for an individual cup if you notice a difference between a pair.
Step 12. Repeat
Once you’ve tasted all the cups, work your way around at least once more and you’ll probably notice differences that you missed the first time as your palate adjusts to the subtle changes between cups.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America’s SCAA Flavor Wheel is a great reference for referencing flavours. It’s a great visual prompt for identifying flavour and aroma: work from the inside out to get more specific if you can.