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What is coffee cupping?

Within specialty coffee, one has a particular approach to coffee tasting called coffee cupping.

Coffee cupping is used in several different contexts. Typically, it is in connection with the quality determination of the coffee, but cupping is also used to find a roasting profile that suits and matches the selected coffee beans. Not all coffees are cupped, as it is a big job, but in the world of specialty coffee, cupping is an indispensable tool.

It works in such a way that you brew a number of different coffees in exactly the same way to taste them against each other. It does not matter that the coffees differ too much from each other. For example, tasting dark-roasted espresso beans and light-roasted coffee beans in the same cupping does not make much sense, as they will by definition have very different taste profiles.

Here at ØNSK we cup several times a month, and if we are in Nicaragua, to buy green coffee beans, it can be several times a day. We also hold coffee tastings as an event – also online.

Cupping here with us takes place, for example, in connection with a new Coffee of the Month, which is a regular part of our coffee bean subscription. Typically, we will experiment with different roasting profiles to determine how the green coffee beans should be roasted so they taste best. At the same time, we taste the potential Coffee of the Month against our other coffees in the range to taste where it is in relation to our already existing varieties.

We use the result to evaluate the coffee and determine its taste profile.

If you want to try your hand at a coffee cupping at home, here is a step-by-step guide. It’s going to be super fun!

kaffecupping

You need it

  • Coffee varieties you want to cup (20 grams of each)
  • Cups (approx. 200 ml in size)
  • Coffee grinder
  • Stopwatch
  • Weight
  • Cleaning glass with warm water
  • Electric kettle
  • Spoons for cupping
  • Possibly. water filter jug

Do you need coffee for cupping? Get 5 x 250 grams of coffee at a reduced price and try the entire WISH coffee range.

The package is perfect for a good round of coffee tasting!

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How to coffee test – Cupping

Step 1 (Measuring coffee beans):

Start by running 2 grams of coffee through the grinder, which you then throw away. Each time you grind a new coffee, the first two grams are used to “clean” the grinder of previous coffee.

Grind the remaining 18 grams of coffee beans, and divide the ground coffee into two cups with 9 grams in each. Aroma and evaluate the dry coffee.

The coffee should be ground to a consistency reminiscent of sea salt.

NOTE: Each coffee should be in two cups, as defects can creep into the cup. Therefore, it is also important during tasting to judge whether there is a difference between the two cups with the same coffee in.

kaffebønner er blevet kværnet og vejes nu af
kaffecupping med to kopper kaffe

Step 2 (Boil the water):

Boil the water. Feel free to use filtered water if you have the opportunity.

If you have an electric kettle where you can set the temperature, it must be set at 90 degrees.

Start your stopwatch and pour 150 grams of hot water into each cup.

Scent to the aromas of the wet coffee. You can possibly take note of what you smell.

If you only have a single kettle available, it can be an advantage to brew 2-4 cups of coffee at a time. It does not matter for the coffee tasting that all the coffees are not finished at the same time.

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Step 3 (Coffee grounds are broken):

After 4 minutes, the coffee grounds have settled like a crust on the surface.

Now the crust must be broken. To do this, push the coffee grounds backwards and down into the coffee with the back of a spoon.

This is where the aromas of the coffee really start to flow, and this is the best time to assess how the coffee smells.

Consider whether the aroma of the coffee is the same as when it was dry, or whether it has changed during brewing.

kopperne gøres klar til kaffesmagning

Step 4 (Remove coffee foam)

With two spoons, remove the foam and the remaining coffee grounds from the surface of the coffee.

kaffeskum fjernes fra overflade

Step 5 (Taste the coffee)

Now the time has come for the coffee to be tasted and judged.

Taste with a spoon, which is rinsed in a cleaning glass every time you taste a coffee (no one likes a double-dipper), and we will not mix the coffees together.

The coffee must be slurped eagerly so that you get plenty of air into your mouth, and the coffee slides out and is distributed all over the tongue.

kaffecupping

Step 6 (Rating)

Believe it or not, but it takes time to learn to “taste” coffee.

Even though we have done it plenty of times, we can still stand in a taste assessment and lack words when describing what we taste.

So it takes practice to judge coffee, and if you use the Specialty Coffee Associations’ (SCA) official guidelines, there are a whole sea of factors to consider in your judgment.

If you are new to coffee tasting, we would recommend simplifying it. Here are some parameters and steps you should go through to judge your coffee:

  • The aroma and aromas of coffee – both in dry and wet condition
  • Fill
  • Sweetness
  • Acid
  • Bitterness
  • Complexity
  • Taste
  • Aftertaste
  • Balance
  • Purity
  • Development over time
SCA smagshjul
kaffecupping smages

Be inspired by SCA’s taste wheel, which is seen in the picture. In terms of aroma and taste, qualities such as fruity and nutty are positive, whereas burnt and chemical tastes are negative.

If you sense sweetness in the taste, you can move from the inside out on the taste wheel and try to define what the coffee tastes like.

If a lot of acid is present, the coffee may taste of citrus fruit or similar.

A complex cup of coffee contains many flavors, whereas a less complex cup may taste very distinct of strawberries.

Assess whether there is balance in the taste, or whether one particular taste drowns out others. At the same time, consider whether there is purity in the cup or unpleasant tastes appear along the way. Finally, whether the aftertaste is pleasant and how the coffee feels in the palate afterwards.

Be sure to taste the coffees many times as they will evolve over time as the temperature drops. The coffee’s sweet and sour notes typically only appear when the coffee has been allowed to cool.

We hope you enjoy the guide and have fun tasting it.

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