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Coffee Cupping

Today we have become much more knowledgeable about coffee. Using words like Barista for the one who prepares our specialty coffees, roasting and grinding our beans at home and generally becoming more discerning about our coffee flavor. This sophistication has birthed the phenomenal growth of the specialty coffee market including such expensive coffees as Blue Mountain from Jamaica, Kona from Hawaii and Kopi Luwak from Indonesia.

One of the processes used in evaluating our coffee is cupping. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, “Cupping is a method of systematically evaluating the aroma and taste of coffee beans. It is often used by growers, buyers and roasters to assess the quality of a particular coffee sample.”

Cupping is done many times in the life of a coffee bean. It begins at the farm to determine the quality of the lot and is done again before exporting, at the roasters, by the buyers and may be done again by both the coffee connoisseur and the average coffee drinker alike.

Cupping reveals the nuances of coffee beans. It can tell the story of the life of the bean including the region where they are grown, the quality of the crops from that year and even different lots within the same farm. For the average coffee drinker it can determine the characteristics of the type of coffee you love--or hate for that matter.

Like wine evaluation, the process of cupping is based on basic criteria such as the post-grinding fragrance, aroma after brewing, flavor, body, aftertaste and the balance of it all.

Here is the basic cupping procedure.

Items needed:

Whole beans
Small clean glass
Boiling filtered water (so as not to impart its own flavors into the mix)
Pen and notepad for recording observations

Basic Process:

Observe beans
Grind coarsely
Smell and note your findings
Pour boiling water over beans
Wait a few minutes
Use spoon to break the crust that forms at the top
Smell and note your findings
Skim crust
Taste with a slurp aerating the coffee in your mouth
Using all of your senses observe what you taste and smell

If you would like to do a bit of cupping on your own the Psychohistorian.org web site has a downloadable sheet to assist you in cupping like a professional.


The New York Times online has a great video about cupping:


Definition of cupping from the Specialty Coffee Association of America


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