Coffee Cupping

Coffee Cupping

By Mark Chislett

Coffee Cupping

What is Coffee Cupping!?

big part of running a coffee roasting business involves regularly tasting coffees. We compare characteristics of different coffees side by side and analyse quality, making assessments about price and flavour characteristics - this tasting is known as cupping.

'Cupping' is a standardised process used for tasting and testing coffee. Whether you're tasting sample in a producer country or attending a cupping event in a cafe, the same procedure will be followed: on farms, wet mills, processing and grading centres; by importers, roasters and sometimes even cafes.

The coffee will be brewed using a very simple method, there's no place for the coffee to hide - every aspect of its flavour profile can be identified. 

The word “cupping” refers to the entire process, from how much coffee and water are used in the brew, to the steps followed during the evaluation, right the way down to the way the liquid is tasted in the mouth and how we describe the different flavour notes.

Here at Method Coffee Roasters we use cupping in a number of different ways. Coffee-buying contracts are written based on our approval of a cupped sample, allowing us to accept or reject a coffee based on quality. Cupping is also a good way for us to compare the taste profiles of different coffees from around the world, or to evaluate our roast quality.

It's all about taste and smell - most of all cupping is a simple and effective way to explore the wonderful flavours you can get in specialty coffee.

Check out our quick guide to cupping below.

Introductory guide to coffee cupping:

What you need:

  • Cupping bowl
  • Cupping spoon
  • Cupping table
  • Cupping form
  • Digital scales
  • Grinder
  • Hot water (90-95°C)
  • Coffee :)  

Coffee cupping is a ritual of its own and as such has its own set of rules (!) and terminology ...

We're members of the SCAE (Speciality Coffee Association of Europe), the steps below follow a variation on their cupping Protocol, the most commonly used within the specialty coffee industry in the UK.

Next Steps ...

Coffee that is being cupped should be light-to-medium roasted.

Grind up your rested coffee, a coarse cafetiere type grind.

Place the grounds in the cupping bowl

Pour over nearly boiling water (90-95°C).

There should be approx. 8.5g of coffee to 150g of water (use good quality water).

Allow the grinds to infuse for around 3-4 minutes.

After infusion break the crust of the bowl - this can give a good insight into what is about to come. Take time to smell the coffee for clues of the kind of things to be looking out for, come the tasting.

Once the crust has been broken start to stir the bowl gently allowing some of the grinds to sink to the bottom. Any left on top of the bowl should be scooped away with spoons.

Once the surface of the coffee infusion is clear of grinds ... let the slurping commence!

Fill the cupping spoon with your infusion. Bring the spoon up to your mouth suck powerfully, draw the coffee to the roof of the mouth and then let it fall into the back of the mouth. This creates a coffee “vapour” to stimulate that part of your sense of taste which is actually your sense of smell (the olfactory receptors).

Next, roll the coffee around the mouth and begin to look for tastes that you can compare it to.