Cupping is a term you’ve probably heard used by coffee pros. It’s the industry’s standardised quality control method, with which the cup quality of a coffee is assessed. By standardising the brewing method and simplifying it as much as possible, cupping lets you taste coffees without distorting the flavour profile through the brewing method.
The process is simple. After assessing the aromas of the dry coffee grounds, they are simply steeped in hot water, directly in a cup. As always, it’s important to use water with a constant mineral content (we recommend Volvic – its worth the extra effort!) and a constant temperature. Ideally it should be somewhere between 92.2 and 94.4°C. The aroma of the coffee will change as the water and coffee react, just like magic.
After four minutes, the water will have sucked out all the goodness from the coffee grounds, which will have formed a kind of crust at the surface. Break this crust with three circular stirs of a spoon, sending the grounds to the bottom of the cup and ending the extraction. Use two spoons to skim off any remaining scum. Don’t move or stir the cup any more.
The big slurp has to wait 10-14 minutes while the coffees cool. And it really is a slurp: grab a spoonful of coffee and suck it into your mouth as rudely as possible, spraying the coffee across your entire palate – the louder the better. This turns up the volume of the flavours, giving you the complete experience.
The fun goes on, as its important to take note of how the flavour of the coffee changes as it cools. This is why cuppers will take several rounds or “passes” of every coffee.
The evaluation looks at several components that should be present in the cup: flavour, body, sweetness, acidity, the cleanness of the cup, the aftertaste and the overall impression. Cuppers also value balance, complexity, and uniqueness.
And now it’s your turn! Our head roaster Anthony has put together a list of coffees with which you can try out your own cupping at home.
Cupping spoons (soup spoons work too)
And of course, coffee:
Anthony’s recommendations for filter coffee: (March 2022)
Floral, light acidity and bitterness all at once: Samii Chelbesa #2 Filter from Ethiopia.
Super fruity with sugary sweet notes: Don Martin Filter from Costa Rica.
Anthony’s recommendations for espresso:
Ideal for those who like experimenting with fancy notes: Shantawene Natural from Ethiopia.
One of our all-time favourites with delicate roasty notes: Sonora Villalobos from Costa Rica.
Step by Step:
1. Grind 8g of coffee at a medium setting.
2. Add 135g of water, just off the boil.
3. Let it steep for 4 minutes.
4. Break the crust with 3 stirs to stop the extraction, and scoop off the scum.
5. Wait 10-14 minutes and slurp away!