Coffee cupping is the process of evaluating the flavor of coffee, the step of stopping and smelling the roses in your development as a coffee drinker.
Have you ever seen a wine taster stirring an old Cabernet in a glass and sniffing it before taking a small sip?
Well, cupping is the world's equivalent of coffee. And it has layers of flavor. Awaken the taste buds on your tongue as it flows around your mouth. The coffee becomes tastier as it cools.
Where wine drinkers credit the relaxing qualities of wine for giving their drinkers more flavor towards the end of a glass, coffee drinkers cite the uplifting quality of coffee as a flavor enhancer. That means the second glass is often tastier than the first.
A classic cupping operation uses small ceramic coffee cups, but china or crystal glasses also suit the technique.
If you get together with others, you can prepare separate samples for each participant. If sharing, rinse your spoon as you eat it. People who drink often get a special drinking spoon that is wide like a soup spoon, almost round in shape with a flat nose.
- Kettle or kettle
- 1 6-ounce (180 ml) ceramic cup for each coffee sample
- 1 glass of water per participant, to rinse spoons 3 to 6 samples of freshly ground coffee
- Scale, to weigh the coffees
- 1 tasting spoon per participant
- Record book to qualify and describe the coffee.
- 1 portion of sparkling water for each participant, to cleanse the palate between sips of different coffees.
- Optional spittoon, such as a tall glass or bowl, optional to spit out the coffee.
Tasting is best done in a relaxed style. It requires freedom from colds or other barriers to smell and taste and the taste buds free from strong, competing flavors. Allowing enough time is the only practical way to allow for multiple tastings as the coffee cools, so allocating enough time is important. Allow a minimum of one hour to drink up to six coffees.
Keep a journal.
It is interesting to keep a tasting journal, keeping a record will help the experience last over time and if you will be able to identify which farms are making or developing excellent coffees. If not, your tasting experience will only last a few minutes.
A tasting kit consists of a kettle, a water jug, small cups with ground coffee, a spoon and a tasting record.
To spit or not to spit?
That is a question for which there is no answer, or rather, the answer is a personal choice. Professional tasters keep a spittoon nearby. For them, it's necessary because they drink a lot of coffee in a day (and still need to sleep through the night). If you only have a few of your favorites, I recommend fully enjoying coffee by drinking it. Always keep a spittoon or other container nearby in case a coffee doesn't taste right. Consider using a large glass, bowl, or other container that you can empty and reuse. Also, sparkling water does wonders to refresh the palate. Keep a bottle handy sipping in between tasting sips.
- Fill a kettle (plenty of water required) with good-tasting, filtered water and bring to a boil on the stove.
- Place small glasses, one for each coffee sample. Place a few large glasses of water in the center of the arrangement.
- Place 2 tablespoons (10 g) of freshly ground, finely ground coffee into each ceramic cup for each 6-ounce (180 ml) sample. Tall water glasses should not contain coffee.
- Once the water boils, turn off the burner and wait 1 minute.
- Pour 6 ounces (180 ml) of hot water into each cup. Do not stir the ground coffee. Fill tall glasses two-thirds of the way with hot water. You will rinse your spoons in these glasses, as needed.
- Let the coffee brew for four minutes. Then, using a large sipping spoon, break up the ground rind into each coffee sample. As you do this, place your nose as close to the sample as possible and inhale the aromas of the coffee. In your cupping log or notebook, record your observations.
- Scoop out and discard any floating bits of bark from each sample. Wet coffee grounds clump together and are easy to remove.
- Rinse the spoon in a hot water bath. Dip the clean spoon into a sample and carefully sip into your mouth. The stronger the sip, the more likely it is that you're doing it authentically.
- Note the various taste sensations in your cupping log or notebook. Rinse your spoon before moving on to a new sample.
- Taste all the samples, noting all the flavors on your tasting log. There are professional tasters whose records go back forty years or more.
- Repeat sipping as the coffee cools. You may be surprised at the difference in your results. The flavor of the coffee can change dramatically after it cools.
- Once you've inhaled and tasted all the hot, lukewarm, and room temperature coffees, you're done."