The Problem with Cupping
Coffee cupping always sounds like a foreign term to the average coffee drinker.
SO FIRST, LET’S GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT
Coffee cupping is an exercise to evaluate sensory aspects of coffees in a controlled setting. This routine be conducted by anyone for various reasons such as:
• to evaluate a new coffee before purchasing a larger quantity;
• to evaluate a roasting style,
• to evaluate the ideal brewing method for a particular coffee;
• to evaluate roast-to-roast consistency, to evaluate flavour development over time;
• to develop your skills as a coffee taster.
It’s also important to realise that there are vast differences in roast recipes between coffees roasted for cupping purposes and coffees roasted for brewing at an espresso or brew bar.
As a cafe, it’s advisable to select a coffee by brewing it the way you plan on serving it to your customers rather than purely based on a cupping.
When we roast coffee for the purpose of cupping, we essentially aim to bring out the maximum sweetness and acidity of every coffee so that it can be properly analysed in a ‘cupping’ setting. Although the flavours can be thoroughly enjoyed when roasting for a pour-over brew or espresso, we make changes to the roast profile specific to the intended brewing method.
As roasters, Cupping coffees from production roasts is about reconfirming our expectations of the coffees we frequently roast – it sounds tedious, but it MUST be done on a daily basis to properly assess the coffee and the roasters’ consistency.
In the first instance, it‘s done alongside a previous roast of the same coffee; and then, periodically over a 4-6 week timeframe to evaluate the flavour development of that particular roast recipe as the coffee ages.
Blind cupping on the other hand challenges biases and removes ‘expectations’ from the table.
Not only is it a good method of recalibrating your sensory skills, but it is also a good practical assessment for an entire team to regularly evaluate their knowledge and further develop their skills as coffee professionals.
With a blind cupping done right, you don’t know anything about the coffee you’re tasting. This means that, in theory, objectivity can be achieved.