Have you ever stopped to truly taste your coffee? I don’t just mean taking a sip and commenting on whether you like it or not. I mean taking a sip and being able to identify whether it tastes citrusy, chocolatey, floral or earthy. Pondering how the coffee feels in your mouth and how the aftertaste differs from the first note of flavor.
Welcome to the art of coffee cupping. Coffee cupping involves observing the taste and aromas of a cup of coffee. This practice is what the pros use for quality control as well as determining how to roast specific types of beans and creating blends. Even if you’re not a coffee expert, learning the basics of cupping will take your morning beverage routine to a whole new level.
So how do we “cup” coffee? Well, it’s quite a process for the professionals, so if you want super intense cupping instructions, check out cupping standards on the Specialty Coffee Association of America website.
For those of us who just want to expand our knowledge and enjoyment of this wonderful beverage, here’s how to cup coffee in your own home using your own kitchen supplies.
What you’ll need:
- At least two varieties (for comparison) of freshly roasted coffee (ideally roasted in the last couple days)
- Filtered water
- Timer or clock
- 5 oz.-7 oz. glasses. You’ll need at least 1 glass for each kind of coffee. If you have a lot of people cupping with you, have 2-3 glasses for each type of coffee you’re cupping.
- Extra cups or mugs for rinsing
- Gram scale
- Spoons (at least 1 per person)
- Water heating device
- Pencil and paper to take notes on your observations of the coffee
What to do:
1. Start heating up your water. You’ll need enough water to fill all of your 5 oz.-7 oz. glasses.
2. Measure 12 grams of whole bean coffee in each of your 5 oz.-7 oz. glasses. Make sure to mark which variety of coffee is in which glass. You can also cup “blind” meaning that you don’t know which coffee is which. To do this, just turn your labels over so you can’t see them during the cupping but you’ll be able to identify the coffees at the end.
3. Grind each coffee very coarsely and put the 12 ounces of grounds back into the correct glasses.
4. Smell each of the cups of ground coffee. Really sniff and inhale that scent. If you want, you can take notes on what you notice about the fragrance. Gently tap the sides of the glass to move the grounds around and release more of the fragrance.
5. Take your water, heated to just below a boil, and add just enough to each of the glasses to get the grounds wet. Let it sit for 30 seconds. This is called letting the grounds “bloom”.
6. After 30 seconds fill the glasses to the top, being sure that all of the grounds are wet. Start a timer and let the coffee steep for 4 minutes. Do not touch the coffee at this point. Leave it alone for those 4 minutes!
7. While your coffee is steeping, make sure your extra mugs or cups are filled with water for rinsing.
8. After your coffee has steeped, observe the aroma of the coffee. Take the outside of your spoon and push the coffee grounds sitting on top of the water towards the back of the cup. As you push the coffee grounds away, the aroma of the coffee will be released. This is called “breaking the crust”. After you break the crust, put your nose as close to the coffee as possible (getting grounds on your nose is perfectly acceptable) and sniff. This practice is not recommended for those with runny noses.
9. Make sure to rinse your spoon before placing it in a new variety of coffee so that the flavors don’t get muddled.
10. After breaking the crust and observing the aroma of all of your coffees, scoop out the grounds sitting on top of the water. Discard the grounds.
11. Now we’ll get to tasting. Here’s where it gets really fun. Take a spoonful of coffee and slurp that good stuff up. Yup, really slurp it. You want to try to get the coffee to hit all parts of your mouth, because it’ll taste different in the back of your mouth than on the tip of your tongue. Taste each variety of coffee, rinsing your spoon in between varieties. If you don’t want all the caffeine, grab an empty glass to spit the coffee into. You gotta love instructions that tell you to slurp and spit.
12. Record your observations. If you’re cupping with friends, compare results. You may find similarities, but you may also have tasted things a little differently than someone else. Everyone’s taste buds are different. Just have fun with it and enjoy trying all the different kinds of coffee!
OK, so FINALLY on to the free stuff! To encourage everyone to practice the art of cupping, we’re excited to announce our first ever giveaway! Woohoo! Courtesy of FreshGround Roasting, we are giving away a coffee sampler pack that includes six different 4 oz. bags of freshly roasted specialty coffee as well as an official cupping spoon. You’ll be able to practice tasting your coffee and learn to really appreciate the depth and variety of flavors.
You can enter up to two times by doing the following now through Wednesday, October 3rd at midnight:
1. Follow our blog via WordPress, Bloglovin or with your e-mail address (on the right sidebar), and comment on this post telling us which variety of coffee from FreshGround Roasting you’re most excited to try if you win the sample pack.
2. Tweet the following: “I just entered the coffee giveaway from @offbeatinspired courtesy of @fgroast http://wp.me/p2IrVD-fa.”
We’ll announce the winner on Thursday, October 4. Winners are picked at random using random.org and prizes can only be shipped within the United States.
The giveaway contest has ended. Thanks so much to everyone who followed us, commented and tweeted! Congratulations to Vicky D for winning a sampler pack of coffee from FreshGround Roasting!