A coffee cupping is a fun sensory experience and an important part of the Quality Grading process. You can do this two ways: the quick way or the standardised Specialty Coffee Association way.
What is a coffee cupping?
It is the practice of evaluating and observing the various tastes and aromas of a certain coffee. A standard cupping procedure involves the preparation of several coffees following a set of techniques that allows you to take in all of the aromas and flavours of a coffee. It’s also the ideal way to test the acidity/sweetness of your coffee and an easy way to compare different varieties.
Step By Step Guide
We spoke to our in-house roaster Ion for his tips on how to host a cupping for yourself and/or loved ones with your Q-Grading Experience kit. Here’s a step by step guide…
1. Heat 300ml of water to 93°c.
You want to get as close as possible to 93 degrees celsius for best the cupping results. If you don't have a thermometer, you can use water from your kettle -just give it a minute or two to cool down from the standard 100°c.
2. Prime your grinder. Ignore this step if you have ground coffee.
While the water is heating, prime the coffee grinder. To do this, measure out 2 grams of one of the coffees and grind it to a medium-coarse setting. Discard these grounds. This will remove any grounds from previous coffee beans you used in the grinder, allowing for the most pure coffee tasting.
3. Measure out 20 grams of coffee beans using a coffee scale.
Using the same coffee you just ground in step 2, measure out 20 grams of coffee and proceed to grind it to a medium-coarse grind size.
5. Repeat steps 2-3 with the rest of the coffee beans for the tasting.
As you place the cups on the table, be sure to group them together and label them so you know which cups are dedicated to which beans. You can also use coffee tasting trays and place the beans directly behind the cups to help with this differentiation. The beans themselves also say a lot from a coffee! Size, colour, and even the groove in each bean can help identify a variety.
6. Smell the coffee and write down any noticeable fragrances on your cupping form.
Does it smell nutty, sweet, or do any specific fruits come to mind? Write it down at this stage, and score the aroma of the dry grounds.
7. Prepare your V60.
Set the V60 dripper on the glass server and place a filter on top. Prime the paper and heat the server by pouring 80ml of boiled water. This will remove any loose paper fibers from the filter and heat the server to help mantain the coffees temperature once it's brewed. Keep the water in for about 30 seconds.
8. Let it bloom!
Put your first variety in the filter. You might need to shake the V60 slightly so that the coffee is flat in the filter. Set your timer and pour 60ml of water over the coffee -not the paper filter. Pour in concentric circles and make sure the coffee is fully wet. Let the grounds bloom for 30 seconds.
We let coffee bloom to help release any CO2 leftover from the roasting process. This means that during this 30 second bloom, you'll most likely see some bubbles emerging from the coffee. This way, the rest of the water poured over the coffee will fully absorb the flavours and aromas of the beans.
9. Pour over
Go ahead and start pouring the rest of the water (160ml). It's best to think about this stage as several steps. Don't just pour all the water in one go: Aim to pour 50ml at a time, in concentric circles, giving each pour about 30 seconds in between for the water to filter into the server. Try pouring from a distance, too. This will make it so the coffee grounds move around a bit and every ground is exposed to water.
10. Let it drip
Let the V60 do its magic. By the time all the water has gone through, your timer should say 2 - 3 minutes. Take this time to take in the aromas of the brewed coffee. Do you spot any differences from the dry ground beans?
Dispose the filter and used grounds and serve the coffee to your tasting group. You can serve it in preheated mugs/cups to mantain the temperature for longer.
12. Taste -Slurp!
It’s okay to slurp in a coffee tasting. In fact, it’s the ideal method because slurping the coffee lets you spread the coffee all along your tongue. This allows you to taste the most flavours from each coffee.
13. Score and write down your thoughts on the cupping attributes for each cup.
As you move from cup to cup, be sure to write down your initial thoughts for each coffee and write a score from 0 to 10 for each cupping attribute. You can get pointers and references as to how to describe each flavour by getting inspiration from the SCA's Taster Wheel.
14. Write your final q-grade score for each cup.
The Final Score is calculated by first summing the individual scores given for each of the primary attributes in the box marked "Total Score." Defects are then subtracted from the "Total Score" to arrive at a "Final Score." The following Scoring Key developed by SCAA has proven to be a meaningful way to describe the range of coffee quality for the Final Score.
Total Score Quality Classification
90-100 - Outstanding - Specialty
85-99.99 - Excellent - Specialty
80-84.99 - Very Good - Specialty
Compare scores with your group. Do you agree?
Download the Specialty Coffee Association Arabica Cupping Form Here:
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