|"Cupping" coffee is different from "tasting" coffee. It's
how the professional coffee buyers select and compare coffees and,
like professional wine tasting, the process is much messier than
a consumer-level tasting. To get the full effect of a coffee's aromas
and flavors, "cuppers" sniff, slurp, and swish the coffee around
in their mouths, swallow a tiny bit to evaluate the aftertaste,
then spit the rest out. The spitting keeps coffee cuppers' caffeine
buzz to a minimum (no matter how much you love coffee, drinking
it as a job could make you pretty jittery after a while).
|Consumers generally prefer coffee tastings rather than cuppings,
but if you want to try a coffee cupping, here's how:
- Prepare one 6-ounce cup of thick glass or porcelain for each
type of coffee you will cup. Cups are usually arranged around
the edge of a table.
- Grind the coffee beans to the consistency of coarse cornmeal,
and place 8 grams of freshly ground coffee in each cup. (You
can also place a tray of the corresponding types of whole coffee
beans in front of each cup so the cuppers can look at the beans
while tasting the brew.)
- Deeply sniff the ground coffee. The character of the fragrance
indicates the nature of the taste: Sweet scents lead to acid
tastes, pungent to sharp tastes. The intensity of the fragrance
reveals the freshness of the coffee (the time elapsed between
roasting and grinding).
- Heat filtered water to just below boiling (195-205 degrees
Fahrenheit), and pour 5 ounces of heated water into each cup.
- Let steep about three minutes. The ground coffee will float
up and form a crust on the surface.
- Break the crust with a spoon, stir the coffee, and sniff the
aroma, noting whether it's fruity, herbal, nutty, etc. Most
of the grounds will sink to the bottom as you stir the coffee.
- Skim off any remaining coffee particles from the surface of
- Using a round spoon (preferably silver-plated to dissipate
the heat), raise a spoonful of coffee to your mouth and slurp
it up with plenty of air. This causes some of the liquid to
change into a gas that reaches the olfactory receptors, enriching
your sense of taste.
- Vigorously roll the coffee around in your mouth, making sure
the coffee reaches all parts of your tongue. This ensures that
the tongue's sensory receptors for sweet, salty, bitter and
sour tastes all come into contact with the coffee.
- Keep the coffee in your mouth for three to five seconds. Note
the intensity of flavor on different parts of your tongue and
whether the flavors change as the coffee cools slightly in your
- Swallow a small amount of coffee and spit out the rest. Note
the aftertaste that lingers on the palate, which may be reminiscent
of chocolate, tobacco smoke, spicy like cloves, or resinous
like pine sap.
- To assess the body of the coffee, slide your tongue around
the roof of your mouth and note the sensations of thickness
and richness the coffee produces.