Cupping the Coffee
Coffee is not only a culture, it’s a massive market, and this commodity market is dependent on coffee quality among many other things, to perform in the marketplace.
The coffee trade is so serious about this, that it employs ‘cuppers’ who test the coffee beans and poured coffee for quality, both good and poor. They also assist in creating new blends by using this process.
Coffee and The Olfactory Senses
Cuppers use at least three main senses to test coffee beans and coffee. They are: smell, feel and taste. Taste and smell tend to inter relate with each other, in that the aroma often lends to the flavour. The notes on taste of the coffee are classified into the taste groups; salty, sweet, acid and bitter or sour. The scent from the coffee grounds are tested by inhaling via the nasal passage. The description of the scent is noted.
Hot water is then poured over the coffee grounds and the aroma is immediately inhaled and recorded. It is a critical moment for the cupper. The coffee grounds may be lightly stirred with a silver spoon to mix the grounds, at this point. These spoons are often kept at a similar temperature to the coffee. To ensure that the most potent aroma is tested, the cupper will break the crust or surface of the liquid coffee with the spoon.
Sensing Coffee from the Coffee Cups
Cupping judges use more than the three senses mentioned above. They also use their olfactory senses and sensation or feeling to evaluate the body of the coffee. Body relates to the coffee’s weight and texture while in the mouth itself. Coffee testing takes place firstly in the region or production area during along with grading and then later on when it is being sold to market.
The coffee samples having been poured into the best coffee cups, are allowed to cool and from here the Cupper slurps back the liquid over the tongue to the rear of the throat. This is done with a degree of force, so that the coffee droplets are spread over the throat and throughout the nasal passage. The Cupper is then able to note down the overall quality of taste including acidity of the coffee, it’s weight and individual flavour. Finally, the aftertaste or remnants of texture and flavour are noted.
Tools for the Coffee Cupper
The SCAA sets the standards or requirements of the professional coffee cupping methodology. You can get detailed information by visiting their website. Here is a list of items needed for a serious cupping:
- coffee measure
- burr coffee grinder
- coffee bean samples; you may like to select gourmet coffee beans
- coffee grounds
- coffee cups, ( rocks glasses 5- 6oz or porcelain bowls 175-225ml; no discount k cups or biodegradable coffee cups)
- silver spoons
- 2 glasses
- garboon (spitoon)
- boiled water ( unflavoured, un-distilled and odourless)
- coffee grinder