Before I put any coffee through a brewing method, I always cup it first. A few years back my wife bought Ben and myself some cupping bowls as a birthday present. I remember being so excited as it was a complete surprise, I only remembered maybe mentioning them to her once or twice when I first found out about this method of tasting coffee. So let’s get into it.
Coffee is such a complex drink, many factors determine the final product that ends up in your cup. Where a coffee came from, the type of bean that was used, how that been was processed and then roasted determine so many different aromas and flavours.
To cup coffee you’ll need some essential equipment to make it all work.
- Cupping Bowls/Cups
- Corse ground coffee
- A Timer
- A Kettle
- Cupping spoons (or soup spoons, they’re very similar)
Generally I would aim to use 12g of coffee and then fill the bowl to the top with water at around 97 degrees celsius. Set your timer to 4 minutes and start it.
First off we begin the process of ‘breaking the crust’. Now after you’ve poured water onto the coffee, after a few minutes a crust will form on the top. This is the coffee grounds floating to the top of the bowl. During those four minutes, get down close to that bowl and get a good sniff. Evaluate what you can smell at this stage and take notes as it may change as we progress with the cupping. Once your four minutes is up, use the back of your spoon to break that crust, and give the coffee a good mix with the water.
Now whilst you’re breaking the crust you want to be as close to the cupping bowl as possible as theres going to be a whole lot of aromas coming off the coffee now. Some may be different from when that crust was forming. Jot down the differences so you can compare at a later date. Now after breaking the crust you want to wait another few minutes for the coffee to cool down to a drinkable temperature. Whilst you wait grab a pair of spoons and take off any grounds or creme that has formed around the top of the bowl.
So when the coffee has cooled, grab your spoon and get some of that sweet coffee on it. You’re now going to slurp it, but over exaggerate this slurp as you want to spread this coffee as far across your palette as you possibly can so that you’re hitting every point of those taste buds. Again, take note of the tastes you’re getting from the coffee and compare them with the other stages.
Now typically the pros would use cupping to taste various coffees at the one time. If you find yourself cupping more than one coffee remember to clean your spoon and palette with water between each coffee.
Coffee cupping is all about you, as a coffee lover, getting the best experience you can out of a coffee. When you sip from a cup of coffee you want all those flavour notes to just pop out at you. Coffee cupping is also a great way to help you find what you’re looking for when brewing the coffee through various methods. I use cupping as a starting point so when I take a certain roast of coffee and brew it through my v60, I know what flavours I should be getting and what flavours I shouldn’t be getting. This helps me to then decide how to adjust the grind, what type of brewer is best to use etc.
You can grab a few cupping bowls here.