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The Craft of Cupping Coffee

Cupping coffee is neither an art or a science…we like to say it is a craft. A blending of art and science. You taste Wine, nose Scotch and cup Coffee.

It is a fascinating process and is how roasters go about the process of selecting bean varieties for the blends. We work closely with our roasters to be sure we are getting the quality and profile we are looking for in our blends.

Here is a snapshot from the Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA) of how the process works.

click here for full version of the PDF file.

Evaluation Procedure | Samples should first be visually inspected for roast color. This is marked on the sheet and may be used as a reference during the rating of specific flavor attributes. The sequence of rating each attribute is based on the flavor perception changes caused by decreasing temperature of the coffee as it cools:

Step #1 – Fragrance/Aroma
Within 15 minutes after samples have been ground, the dry fragrance of the samples should be evaluated by lifting the lid and sniffing the dry grounds.
After infusing with water, the crust is left unbroken for at least 3 minutes but not more than 5 minutes. Breaking of the crust is done by stirring 3 times, then allowing the foam to run down the back of the spoon while gently sniffing. The Fragrance/Aroma score is then marked on the basis of dry and wet evaluation.

Step #2 – Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, and Balance
When the sample has cooled to 160º F (71º C), in about 8-10 minutes from infusion, evaluation of the liquor should begin. The liquor is aspirated into the mouth in such a way as to cover as much area as possible, especially the tongue and upper palate.Because the retro nasal vapors are at their maximum intensity at these elevated temperatures, Flavor and Aftertaste are rated at this point.

As the coffee continues to cool (160º F – 140º F), the Acidity, Body and Balance are rated next. Balance is the cupper’s assessment of how well the Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, and Body fit together in a synergistic combination.

As the coffee continues to cool (160º F – 140º F), the Acidity, Body and Balance are rated next. Balance is the cupper’s assessment of how well the Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, and Body fit together in a synergistic combination.

Step #3 – Sweetness, Uniformity, and Cleanliness
As the brew approaches room temperature (below 100º F) Sweetness, Uniformity, and Clean Cup are evaluated. For these attributes, the cupper makes a judgment on each individual cup, awarding 2 points per cup per attribute (10 points maximum score).

Evaluation of the liquor should cease when the sample reaches 70º F (21º C) and the Overall score is determined by the cupper and given to the sample as “Cupper’s Points” based on ALL of the combined attributes.

Step #4 – Scoring
After evaluating the samples, all the scores are added as describe in the “Scoring” section below and the Final Score is written in the upper right hand box.