Introduction to Cupping
“Cupping” coffee is a method of evaluation that coffee professionals use to assess aspects of a coffee
How to Cup Coffee
- Coffee! (whole bean is best)
- Cups or bowls that are relatively uniform to hold hot liquids (150-300ml)
- Coffee grinder
- Hot water kettle
- Cupping spoons or large soup spoons/tablespoons
- Weighing Scale - 0.1g precision
- Boil water and set up vessels and rinse cups
- Weigh out coffee required to brew at a 1:16 or 1:17 ratio (~60g/L)
- Grind a few beans of the first sample to clear the grinder.
- Grind your sample(s), purge with a few beans of the sample before grinding each one.
- Smell the dry grounds (fragrance).
- Pour the required amount of hot water to begin brewing and start your timer - 0:00.
- Smell the wet grounds (wet aroma).
- At four minutes on the timer - 4:00, break the crust with the spoon with a gentle forward stirring motion 3 times while smelling the release of aromas.
- Skim away the top layer of foam and debris.
- Begin tasting and assessing the coffee. Make sure it isn’t too hot that it burns your tongue - a simple trick is to use a spoon with some coffee and touch your upper or lower lip (if it’s too hot for your lips, it’s definitely too hot for your tongue).
- Perform a couple of passes of the coffee. We usually assess Flavour and Aftertaste on the first pass, Acidity and Body on the second pass (after the coffee cools a little), and Balance and Overall on the third pass (when the coffee is cooler).
Check out this handy video by James Hoffman↓
What we are assessing
Fragrance / Aroma
We’re looking for those sweet caramel and chocolate notes. We’re looking for fruit notes. We’re looking for florals. We’re also on the lookout for any potential defects.
Our general assessment on the flavours we perceive in the coffee. This is where we can use the flavourwheel to guide our tasting notes, or use your own experience with fruits, foods and items you’ve tried and how the coffee reminds you of them.
Is there a lingering aftertaste that’s smooth, or bitter? Is there a little harshness that we can’t shake? Aftertaste is where we assess the lingering effects of the coffee.
We’re looking for low and high acidity - sometimes low can be good, sometimes high can be good (depends on how it fits with the overall coffee profile).
We are checking for low or high body - from tea-like, to syrupy, to 1%, 2% or full-fat kind of milk consistency. The quality and structure of the body is also important in seeing how that fits within the overall profile of the cup.
This is where we bring everything together and see if the flavour, acidity and body work in harmony.
This is where you as the cupper can make a general assessment of the coffee.
There are a few metrics to help you score the coffee. At Hatch, we tend to use the SCA Cupping Form, as it keeps us aligned with our Q Standards.
If you’re looking for a quick and mobile option, we developed a free iOS cupping app, called Hatch Simple Cup.