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The Beginner’s Guide to Cupping Coffee

Posted by Bean & Bean on
The Beginner’s Guide to Cupping Coffee

In the coffee world, cupping is the industry standard for coffee quality evaluations. It’s a great way to learn more about coffee whether you’re a coffee lover, barista, roaster, trader, or coffee farmer. Our very own Co-Founder, Jiyoon Han, is a Q Grader (the coffee equivalent of a wine sommelier) and cups coffee frequently to test out new beans for our online shop.

Learning how to cup coffee is the perfect way to get into coffee and the coffee industry. Read on to find out what cupping is and how to do it.

What is Cupping?

how to cup coffee

As mentioned, cupping is a standardized way to taste coffees. By analyzing a coffee’s taste, including its sweetness, acidity, aftertaste, you can get a better perspective and understanding of how to bring out its best flavors.

For example, if the coffee tastes brighter and cleaner, a pour-over method may suit it best because it preserves the original flavors of the coffee.

Cupping is also a way for people to develop their palate. By tasting a variety of different coffees, people can start to taste and detect the nuances between them.

Here’s a video tutorial of how to cup coffee at home: 

Equipment You’ll Need

  • A scale
  • Coffee grinder (or pre ground beans)
  • Coffee beans (18 grams of each coffee)
  • Water
  • A kettle
  • Cups or bowls made of tempered glass or ceramic (one per coffee bean), they should have identical dimensions
  • A timer
  • A cup of water (for cleaning your spoon)
  • An empty cup (for coffee grounds)
  • Paper and pencil (or a way to take notes)
  • Cupping spoons (or regular spoon)

How to Cup Coffee:

  1. Grind your beans. Grind each of your beans on a coarse setting, similar to the size of sea salt. You can use a hand grinder or a burr grinder to do this. 
  2. Add grounds to cupping bowls. Add 9 grams of each coffee into designated bowls, 2 cupping bowls per sample. You want multiple samples for the same coffee so that if there are any inconsistencies in one sample, you have another to compare it to. At this point, waft or smell the dry coffee as it is and make any notes about the smell to refer to later. 
  3. Boil your water. Heat up your water to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit ± 2 degrees. It’s important to use the same temperature for each sample so that you control the variables of each sample for maximum accuracy and consistency. 
  4. Start timer and pour water. Start your timer and pour 150 grams of water into the bowl. 
  5. Smell. Smell the wet aroma of the coffee. Make notes if necessary.
  6. Break the crust. Once 4 minutes have passed, break the crust. The crust is the top layer of coffee grounds that have floated to the top and formed a seal. Break the crust by pushing the crust to the back of the bowl (smell the coffee as you do this). Rinse your spoon with clean water between each bowl to avoid cross-contamination.
  7. Remove the coffee grounds. Remove the remaining coffee grounds from each bowl and put them in the designated coffee ground waste bowl.
  8. Cool and taste. Let the coffee cool for 13-15 minutes, then taste it. You should slurp the coffee and allow the coffee to spread across the surface of your tongue to taste the range in flavor. Make notes about taste if necessary and remember to rinse your spoon between each bowl.

Debriefing Your Cupping

Debriefing coffee cupping

Cupping is a great way to develop your palate. When cupping, make sure to take notes on aromatics, flavor, and appearance. It’s especially important to take these notes during the dry and wet aromatics as well as during the tasting. Coffees range from chocolate and nutty to bright and fruity in flavor, so there are a variety of flavors and coffees to try.

Final Thoughts

The goal of cupping is to introduce, learn about, and analyze the aroma and tastes of different coffees. Everyone picks up on different notes of coffee and it’s fun to compare the flavors you detect with someone else. 

To practice cupping coffee, we recommend stocking up on coffees that have very different flavor profiles. Our Downtown Blend, Santa Felisa Natural Gesha Heap, and Peru Las Damas coffees, for example, all have very distinct flavors that would be perfect for cupping. 

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