What is Cupping?
The practice of getting to know a particular coffee.
During the process, participants will observe the taste and the aroma from the brewed coffee. Professionals also known as Master Tasters will score the coffee based on the following categories:
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has detailed protocols on cupping and scoring on their website. (SCAA Cupping Protocols)
The focus of cupping would no doubt be the coffee. It is good to learn about the origin of the coffee that you are cupping.
If you are new to cupping, have the coffee supplier provide you with the known tastes that the coffee provides. (Only compare the tastes and aromas after you have done your cupping. This prevents any pre-formed biasness.) This will give you a good baseline to work with during cupping.
3 points to note when selecting Coffee Beans for Cupping
1. Fresh coffee is highly recommended for Cupping.
Make sure that your coffee beans are fresh (check with your supplier) by looking at the roasting date. Usually, 2-3 weeks from the coffee roasting dates are acceptable.
As you get more accustomed to cupping, yo can check with the roaster or supplier for the recommended rest period and the optimal time frame to cup a fresh batch of coffee.
2. Grind only before brewing.
Coffee lose their freshness (and aroma!) very quickly once they are grounded. So make sure to grind your coffee just before you brew it for cupping.
3. Use at least 2 different types of coffee
Cupping requires some form of comparison, especially for beginners.
It takes years for a professional to decide if a particular coffee has more acidity without a comparison.
How detailed must you get for cupping
The Specialty Coffee Association of America has outlined stringent cupping protocols which you can read if you are interested.
For coffee lovers who would like to try this at home, such stringent protocols are not required.
As long as you take note of this key ‘rule’, it’s sufficient:
Consistency allows for accurate comparison during cupping. Ensure that the preparation of your coffee samples are more or less consistent.
Before the brewing process
Make sure that the coffee you use are grounded at the same grind size, and exposed to the air and to water for about the same amount of time.
During the brewing process
Take note that the cupping bowls and the amount of water you use are similar.
Keep the brewing time close across the different samples as well.
During the tasting
Make sure that you clear your palate before each tasting. You can do so by sipping water with some lemon.
If you are interested to experiment with cupping, stay tuned to the next article for a step by step breakdown of cupping procedures for new coffee tasters!