As Coffee Roasters, there are many reasons why we perform a cupping of roasted coffee. The best way to ensure you are purchasing quality green beans is to complete a sample roast of a small batch (200g or less) and cup the product. This will show you if there are any quality issues with a cup that will affect the final product. Another reason to cup would be to see how the coffee performs at different roast levels or combined in a blend. At Home Coffee Brand we cup to ensure the customer is receiving the best possible product prior to shipping.
In this month's blog we will teach you how to perform your own cupping at home. The tools you will need include a grinder, scale, cupping bowl, soup spoons, hot water (kettle), two clean cups, a few grams of beans to prime the grinder, and a timer. You can purchase a lot of these items at any home goods store, or online at stores such as prima coffee. It helps to have a freshly roasted coffee that has been roasted for at least 24 hours, but no longer than two weeks.
First, grind a few grams of the beans you will cup to prep the grinder for cupping. Place your bowl on the scale and tare the weight. Then place your whole bean coffee into the bowl, weighing in grams. You will want to know the full capacity of the bowl filled with water. For example, the bowls in the picture fill at 160g. Then use a ratio of 1:18 to fill the bowl. For this example, we used 9 grams of coffee to 162 grams of hot water. Grind your whole beans and place back into the bowl to be used. Once you have the grind in your bowl, take a moment to smell up close and document the aromas that you are sensing.
Use a kettle to heat water to around 200-205 F. Prior to your pour, have your timer handy. You will want a partner available to start timer at first pour. Fill your test cup to the top, matching the 1:18 ratio discussed prior. Once filled, smell the top of the cup to note the new aromas you sense. You will notice new smells as the coffee rises temperature. At this point you will want to "break the crust" which will allow the grinds that have risen to the top to move to the side of the cup and fall to the bottom. You will perform this by slowly pushing the grinds with the back of the spoon, in one direction, to the back of the cup. It's important to have your nose close and capture the smell following the spoon.
Once you have finished breaking the crust, you will notice there are a small number of grinds remaining at the top along with white liquid. At this point you will take both spoons and connect them at the back of the bowl, as pictured below. With one sweeping motion you will slide the spoons on the outside of the cup, connecting back to each other on the other side of the cup. At the end of each sweep, you will dump those remains in the clean cup you have by your side.
Once you have scraped the grinds from the top, you will see a few white bubbles or liquid remaining. It is important to clear those out as well and dispose as they are trapped gas from the roast and will affect your taste of the product.
Once completed, you will leave the coffee to rest until 4 minutes have passed on the timer. This is a good time to document the aromas you have experienced. After four minutes you will begin your first tasting. To taste, you will bring the spoon to your mouth and slurp the coffee fast with an inhale. This allows for full sensory to work, with smell as well as taste. Once you have slurped you will dispose of the coffee into one of your clean cups which will act as a spittoon. Consuming each slurp can cause you to be over caffeinated. It's important after each taste to rinse your spoon with clean water to not affect the next taste.
After 11 minutes have passed on the timer, it is time to attempt another slurp. You will continue to do this test as the coffee cools down. One of the amazing things about high quality coffee, especially single origin, is that the taste will change as the coffee cools.
You may experience a warm chocolate, earthy taste in the beginning and then more of a lemony citrus towards the end as the coffee decreases in temperature. Be sure to take notes along the way on each tasting documenting acidity, flavor, sweetness, body and the aftertaste.
Completing a cupping will allow you to identify the origins you enjoy. You may find that you originally favored a dark roasted Mexican blend but as you try different origins, you experience the fruity, citrus flavors of an Ethiopia origin. Coffee is very complex and once you educate yourself on how the origin, process of harvesting and the elevation changes the taste, you may become addicted like us!