In the previous blog I talked about the most common tasting notes in coffee, specifically by region. So, how are these flavours decided on or aimed for?
During the roast process, there are a few check-stops a roaster can take to assess flavour. By pulling samples throughout the roast, the aroma is followed as it transitions from wet and earthy, dry and hay-like, to roasted and bright, or bold and sweet. When a fresh roast is dropped into the cooling drum, you can grab a few beans and munch on them for an idea as well (or a quick caffeine kick).
Taking it a step further, cupping is a great way to evaluate a coffees flavour, aroma, mouth-feel, and quality. It can be a standard or professional practice either for coffee buyers sampling from farms, roasters, or for in-cafe sampling.
Cupping is typically done in large batches to compare, test, and evaluate various coffee leading to a larger sample size, such as three-four different beans and two-four samples of each. It’s just me going through the process with one coffee (specifically a fresh batch of our Guatemala), you’ll see two of the same cups in the photos rather than a table full.
There are plenty of great instructional on how to cup at home which you can find here, here, and one more here. (Upon many others).
Why do it? Cuppings are a fairly neutral in tastings as there isn’t exactly a suggested brew method, just legitimately tasting… well bean water. Though that’s not to say there isn’t a ‘recipe’.
8.5-9 grams of medium-coarse ground coffee integrated with water boiled at 200 degrees F. After four minutes, floating grinds have created a crust, remove, sniff, wait 10-15 minutes, slurp away! That’s the very, very simplified run through of tasting a coffee pretty directly.
Cuppings can be done fresh off the roast, but more often than not, a 12-24 hours is pretty standard as the beans will be releasing some Co2 post roast. Some roasters will wait up to a week before putting their beans on the shelf depending on the type of roast. After the degassing process, there will be a significant change in flavour which will be much more developed.
Diving a Bit Deeper
Professionals who use cuppings are called Q-Graders, they have specific training in understanding how to ‘read’ a cupping and translate it into flavour by guidelines set by the Speciality Coffee Association. With a grading sheet and various sensory tests, the coffee is then discussed thoroughly and compared which leads to a language that we as coffee roasters, or home brewers can understand. By using tasting notes, it creates a familiarity and a guideline to best replicate that beans best face.
We definitely aren’t that in depth, especially when a lot of that work has already been done, but it’s always a good idea to cup each roast as part of the evaluation that I had mentioned before. There are a lot of variables that can come into play when roasting, so adding a bit of monitoring and checking helps adjustments and progression.
The Fun Part
I mean, especially when I enjoy being as in depth into coffee as I can be, it’s all kind of fun.A big aspect though is getting to showcase your coffee!
I personally think it’s a terrific way for the coffee community to connect as I had recently attended a public cupping at Monogram featuring Sweet Bloom from Colorado. You learn more about coffee in general, discuss the similarities and differences by person and connect with some pretty big names in the coffee industry. Good coffee, good community. I really encourage you to seek out some public cuppings in the city from your local roasteries and cafes! (Don’t be too surprised by all the slurping and the mess, it’s a great time!)