Cupping is coffee jargon for cup-testing and is the primary means for quality control in any roasting facility. In short, it’s a simple way to brew coffee that over time has become the standard method for assessing flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel of a given coffee. While it’s ubiquitous within the industry cupping coffee at home is a great way to expand your palate, and step into the shoes of coffee producers and buyers the world over.
When we drink coffee at home it is almost always a singular experience, rarely if ever are we going through the trouble to make more than one batch. Cupping provides an efficient opportunity to compare coffees against each other. Its’ simplicity grants ease of access. If you have coffee, water, a cup, and a spoon then you can set up a cupping.
The low barrier to entry and ease with which you can taste multiple coffees at the same time are the reasons that cupping has become the standard method for coffee analysis. There’s no need for filters or an expensive machine, and it eliminates the brew method as a variable when coffee buyers make purchasing decisions. For instance, if a coffee producer prefers to drink their coffee as a French press while a roaster decides to brew it as a Chemex the two are getting very different experiences.
Cupping creates common ground. When roasters, coffee buyers, and growers discuss a given coffee they know they have all brewed it the same way, and when you decide to cup coffees at home you are tasting coffee in the same way as many others in the coffee supply chain.
So, if you’re staying in with family or friends and you all have different coffee preferences try a cupping so that you can compare and contrast different roasts, origins, and flavors. Here’s how:
Before you get started you will want to get your supplies together. You will need:
When the coffee is at its hottest the flavor and acidity are less perceptible, so the body of the coffee is typically considered at first blush. Is it heavy and oily? Thin and watery? Balanced?
With the next pass it’s common to consider the acidity of the coffee. Is it mellow with almost no acidity? Is it sharp or bright? When we talk about acidity in coffee we’re referring to the perceived acidity – the pH of coffee will always be the pH of the water used, which is ideally neutral.
Finally, flavor, which is the combination of taste and aroma. As you taste consider what the coffee reminds you of, starting generally and getting specific when you can.
If you’re interested in cupping coffee at home then grab three different coffees and download our companion simplified tasting sheet below!
Have a question or a topic you’d like to see covered? Shoot us an email at [email protected], or tune in to the livestream Wednesdays at 10:30am, Brian will be taking questions in the chat!