Cupping is a systematic method of evaluating coffee.It’s easy to reiterate and no special equipment (except your tongue, nose and eyes) is needed. It’s so extremely simply that it’s accessible to anyone with a grinder and hot water. Want to try?
How to cup
Without further ado, you will need: a hot-water kettle, cupping bowls or glass with capacity of 175-300ml, cupping spoons, one spittoon per cupper, cupping forms or notepads, a timer, a grinder, a gram scale, and few tall cups filled with water for rinsing spoons. Coffee roasting expert, and coffee specialist Scott Rao (who I blindly trust) recommends to take following steps:
- Boil a kettle containing more ater than you require.
- Plan to taste as many as five or six samples, but ideally no more than tat in one session (due to taste adaptation)
- Grind 10,0g of each coffee into 235-295ml widemouthed glass or ceramic cup. The grind should be medium-fine, similar to an appropriate manual pourover grind; I recommend using refractometer to determine the grind setting that produces your target extraction. These days, scales with resolution of 0,01g are readily available online for USD 20. Please use such a scale to weigh grounds of cupping (if you want to do it professional – footnote of the author)
- Sniff the fragrance of each sample. The most volatile aromatics, or those with the lowest bowling points, make up the dry aroma. ITS INTENSITY INDICATED THE FRESHNESS OF THE ROAST AND GRIND.
- Once the kettle boils, remove it’s cover and allow the water to cool to 96°C (204-205°F) , before pouring. This usually takes about 45-60 seconds, or longer for larger kettles.
- Tare the first cup on the gram scale.
- Start a timer.
- Pour 170g of water over the grounds such that the water’s turbulence mixes and wets all the grounds. (Alternatively, use 7g of ground and 120g of water in smaller cups.)
- Bring your nose close to the cofee’s surfce and sniff. At this moment, the coffee offers the most aroma. DON’T MISS IT!
- Pour th other cups in quick succession, taking a moment to smell each one.
- After 4 minutes haveelapsed, “break the crust” of the cups in the order in which they were poured. To break the crust, dip the bowl of a cupping spoon halfway into the coffee, push aside the crust of grounds aith the back of the spoon and brind your nose close to the surface od the coffee without touching the grounds with your nose. Sniff th aromatics released as you break each crust.
- Inhale slowly and deeply as you break each crust. Long, slow inhalations provide better aroma detection than short sniffs. Take notes on your impressions.
- After breaking all the crusts, remove the grounds, foam and oils from the surface od the cups. An efficient method is to skim the surface using two cupping spoons simultaneously.
- At 9:00, begin tasting the coffees. Dip a cupping spoon just below the surface of the coffee, raise it to your lips, and vigorously slurp the coffee, spraying it throughout your mouth. (Many cuppers prefer to wait for the coffee to cool further before sampling. I recommend tasting the coffees at the highest temperature that you can comfortably tolerate, but not before 9 minutes have elapsed. It-s advantageous to taste the coffee at a wide range of temperatures.)
- Focus on the cofee’s aromatics, mouthfeel, flavor and other impressions. Take notes.
- Spit out the coffee. If you’re not sampling too many coffees in the session, consider swallowing the occasional spoonful. Swallowing promotes RETRONASAL OLFACTION and ensures the cupper exposes his farthest-back taste buds to a sample.
- Move on to the other coffees, slurping and spitting as needed to get suficient impressions of all of them. There is no need to “cleanse the palate: between each slurp, but swishing some water in the mouth every few minutes may help refresh the taste buds and forestall palate fatigue.
- Record copious notes while cupping.
- Take breath for few minutes. Slurp and spit the coffees again when they are lukewarm.
- Allow the coffees to cool to room temperature, about 15-30minutes, and repeat the process of slurping and spitting. You will find the coffees offer much new information after they have colded.”
It’s good to cup coffee the day after they’re roasted. Ensure yourself that your cupping is performed blindly. Blind cupping is the most effective way to learn and improve tasting skills. Extremely important is that all samples must be cupped in the same conditions (amount of water, coffee weight, steeping time etc.). Adding even 10ml water more can noticeably change sample’s taste.