Similar to wine or whiskey tasting, coffee cupping is the process in which someone carefully and deliberately tastes one or a series of coffees to analyze the various flavor notes, aromas, and level of body that a specific blend or roast has. Coffee cupping is usually done by producers and importers in the coffee industry, but with the right knowledge and the proper coffee cupping supplies, you can learn how to practice coffee cupping at home, like a professional.
At Nguyen Coffee Supply, our founder, Sahra Nguyen, said that for her, coffee cupping occurs at five stages in the coffee production process: cupping freshly imported coffee beans, cupping when using the sample roaster, cupping when using the large machine roaster, quality control cupping, and cupping the same batch of roasted beans to track changes over time — something consumers can do at home to tastes how their coffee takes on new flavors and aroma as it ages. Before we get into how to practice coffee cupping, it’s important to note that in order to get accurate results, making sure to stay consistent in ratio, temperature, and grind size is key.
In terms of coffee cupping supplies and coffee cupping tools, you’ll need an accurate gram scale, a coffee grinder, clean water, kettles (electric is preferred for time-saving purposes), heat-resistant cups or bowls, a number of spoons, a timer or two, clean towels, notebook paper or cupping forms, and an optional spitoon — any bucket or large jar will do. (You’ll also need a few bags of delicious coffee, of course.)
Next, clear a workspace to assemble all of your gear and note taking tools. Then, make sure your grinders, brewing tools, cups, and utensils are all clean. (Leftover coffee in your grinder or brew tools could impact the cupping results.) Then, establish a ratio of ground beans to water that you’re going to stick to. Fill your bowls or cups with the whole, unground coffee beans and evaluate the dry aroma. Next, grind the beans and quickly add water (heated to 200F) to each bowl of ground beans. After a few minutes, a “crust” of grounds will form at the top of the bowls. Use one spoon to pierce and shift the crust, exposing an opening. At the same time, scoop up brewed coffee from underneath the crust, and slurp, allowing the coffee to cool down as it coats your entire palate. Don’t forget to take notes.
And there you have it! Follow these steps and you’ll be coffee cupping like a pro in no time.