Cupping is the formal way coffee professionals evaluate and explore the flavours of coffee. The process involves visual inspection of the coffee beginning with looking at the green beans for defects then examining the same beans once they have been roasted. The roasted beans are then ground and the aroma is carefully described. Usually a very light roast is used for cupping since this best reveals all the potential locked in the bean.
A coffee cupping analysis involves examining four key sensory components:
Our sense of flavour is mostly driven by aromatic factors. There are hundreds of aromas that can be teased out of a sniff of coffee. From floral to nutty and smokey to earthy.
This is the level at which a coffee dances on your tongue. Generally you want a coffee with happy acidity. The dancing or tingling can be sensed along the sides of the tongue. Sometimes it is described as brightness and can be high or mellow. Acidity is not to be confused with bitterness. We like acidity, not bitterness.
This is the feel of the coffee in your mouth. Is it like butter, thick and velvety, or is it thin like water?
This describes the dominant and subtle tastes in the coffee. Does it remind you of chocolate or blueberry? Does it have a higher citrus flavour? Does it have a hickory smokey finish?
After the sniff test water is added directly to the grinds and left to steep. The grinds form a crust at the top of the cup which, when broken, releases a unique aroma. Finally, once any floating grinds have been removed from the cup, the coffee is slurped. Slurping is essential so that the coffee is vaporized in the mouth and coats every nook and cranny. Notes are taken at every step. The cupping team will compare notes afterwards and come to a conclusion about the characteristics of the subject coffee.
At Planet Bean we cup sample coffees before we decide to contact with a co-op for a large purchase. We cup a variety of sample roasts to determine the best roast profile for a particular bean. We cup to monitor and maintain quality.
Occasionally, Planet Bean has coffee cupping and tasting seminars/tours at the roastery for our coffee connoisseur customers. If you are interested please contact us.