A step-by-step guide to coffee cupping
From green coffee buyers, roasters, quality control specialists, baristas, and so many more along the supply chain, coffee is assessed and scored by a universal standardized method known as cupping.
For green coffee buyers, cupping is essential in deciding what coffees will be purchased to be featured to customers. For roasters, cupping means dialing in a roast profile to ensure the development of the coffee is just right and adding these tasting notes to the finished product. For quality control specialists, this means making sure every coffee that makes it out of the roastery and into coffee shops and online for purchasing is tasting excellent without any potential defects or funky flavors. For baristas, this could mean expanding one’s palate, getting familiarized with various origins, or even competing at a national level to garner the title of Cup Tasters Champion.
Luckily, this method of scoring or tasting coffee doesn’t have to be limited to just coffee professionals. You too can host a coffee cupping with friends with our guide which includes everything you’ll need for a proper cupping session, as well as the instructions on how to control the process.
Before you start
After each use of your cupping spoon to taste coffee, be sure to rinse the spoon in the designated rinse cups.
This prevents cross-contamination of coffee flavors, plus no one likes a double dipper!
Coffee: 20g of each profile
Water: 150g for each coffee
Water Temp: 200°F / 93°C
Brewing time: 13-15mins
Digital kitchen scale
Cupping bowls (160ml-200ml measuring capacity)
Cups filled with hot water
A mug/glass to hold your spoons
Grind out 2g of the first coffee to prime the grinder, then follow with grinding the remaining 18 grams of coffee.
Follow with this step for each coffee, starting out with 2g to ensure no other coffees inside the grinder will impede any flavors.
Grind each coffee to a coarse consistency, similar to sea salt.
Put 9g of each coffee sample into designated cupping bowls, using two cupping bowls per sample.
Be sure to use two for each sample because you never know if a defect might sneak into a bowl. Assess the dry aroma of each coffee.
Heat your water up to 200°F / 93°C. Start your timer, and pour 150g of water into each bowl.
Smell and assess the wet aroma of the coffee.
At 4 mins, begin breaking the surface crust. To do this, use the spoon to push the coffee grounds to the back of the bowl. Be sure to rinse the spoon after breaking the crust in each bowl.
Using two spoons, remove the remaining coffee grounds and foam and discard into the spent coffee grounds bowl.
Allow the coffee to cool. At 13-15 mins, begin tasting your coffees.
Slurp and allow the coffee to coat your tongue. This way you’ll be able to taste the full range of flavors. As the coffee cools, you’ll be able to taste different and a larger range in flavor.
Tips & Tricks
Taking notes of the aromas, flavors, and other components of the coffee is a great way to expand your palate, understand the different senses you experience in each coffee, and immerse yourself at the cupping table.
Try documenting your observations and experiences of the dry aromatics, wet aromatics, breaking of the crust, and tasting throughout the process.
Because we each have a unique sensory palate, you may pick up different flavor characteristics of a coffee than the person next to you. But don’t worry, use the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Flavor Wheel to compare and contrast these different components within the spectrum of the flavor wheel.
And above all, have fun and enjoy the coffee experience.
*Enjoyed our guide and want to learn more? Checkout the cupping protocols recommended by the SCA here.