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Cupping: You Can Do This At Home

Cupping is a very specific method of tasting coffee and a great way to discover the, often times, hidden characters of coffee. In the shop we use this method for sampling new coffees to determine optimum roast degree and technique. Specialty Coffee Association of America Cupping Standards . (follow the link, then click on coffee standards then on cupping standards) These are the guidelines we use in the shop with some modifications to meet my personal roasting style and facility limitations.

We also, monitor the roasting through various means, mostly we taste the coffees brewed in the French Press or Chemex brewer, however, to keep a tight watch on quality and consistency we “cup” the coffees regularly.

To cup at home I recommend the following procedures (because a professional cupping room is generally out of the question.)

Set aside an area where you can heat water and grind coffee with enough room for two to three cups for each coffee you are going to sample. The cups should be 6 to 8 ounce capacity. Have plenty of soup spoons in a hot water bath as well.

Preheat the cups
Put 8.25 grams of medium ground coffee in each cup. (it is best to have two to three cups for each individual coffee)
Add 5 ounces of off boiled water about 202-203 degrees F.
let steep for 2 minutes then break the crust while breathing in the aroma deeply. Break the crust in a circular motion down in the front, up in the back. when the spoon breaks up through the crust on the upward motion gently move it forward towards your nose. This helps to direct the aroma into your olfactory system.
Let the coffee steep for another two minutes for 4 minutes total.
Gently skim any floating grounds off of the top of the cup.
Time to Taste:
Fill your soup spoon about half full then slurp the coffee into your mouth coating the entire inside of your mouth.
Make notes of the feel, flavor, aroma, finish, and body. Every coffee has varying degrees of pluses and minuses.
Taste the coffee regularly as it goes through he cooling process and note the changes as you do this.

The SCAA Cupping Standard (linked to above) is a guideline for noting the positive and negative attributes of any individual coffee. The roasting standards noted are not necessarily the best method or degree of roasting for any single coffee. A coffee may cup well with these roasting standards however each coffee has its own best roast profile.

Cupping can be fun and very informative.