While it’s a big thing in the States, coffee cupping is a pursuit that’s yet to really take off over here in Britain. Ozone, one of the UK’s leading authorities on all things coffee cupping, are open for putting your palate to the test, but for the meantime here are some basic tips on how to go coffee cupping.
First thing is to establish your environment. The Specialty Coffee Association recommends a quiet, comfortable, well lit room with no interfering aromas.
Of course, if you’re conducting your coffee cupping session from home, the very least you’ll need is a relatively decent roaster and a selection of beans. The glasses from which you’ll be sipping should be fairly small in size, especially if you aim to taste several different varieties of bean. SCAA suggests somewhere between 207-266ml as sufficient.
The roasting process is no short task, and usually takes 24 hours before the cupping can commence. The best roasting period however is entirely up to you – some people like their beans lightly roasted, whereas other prefer a more heady roast applied. Once roasts have been completed, samples should be stored not in the fridge or freezer but in a cool dark place instead, where they should rest for eight hours.
To avoid flavours and aromas being lost too quickly, the cupping takes place almost directly after you’ve grounded the roasted beans. Allow a maximum time of 15 minutes between grinding and infusion with clean, but not distilled, water. The water to coffee ratio can be according to what you prefer, though a general guideline is to aim for 8.25 grams of coffee for every 150ml of water.
After the pouring, it’s advised you wait 3 minutes before any tasting happens, in order for the coffee particles to sufficiently infuse with the water. Only then is it best to proceed to the next step – breaking the crust. To break the crust, put your nose close to the coffee’s surface and puncture the crust of the ground coffee with a spoon, wafting in the aromas that follow. Then scoop of the remaining grounds and leave a minute or so for your head to clear form the glorious but pungent aromas.
Now’s the time to take your first sip or, should I say, slurp. To do this, take a spoonful of coffee into your mouth, letting the liquid cover the surface of the toungue, before inhaling through your nose and opening the mouth slightly. This does well to vent the flavours around the mouth for btter tasting, while the slurping is a good way to spray the palate and let as much of your mouth as possible get a good feel for the tastes. In the interest of comparison, have a look at what those tastes might comprise of here.
During this process, it may be important to note that professionals will avoid any chatter. If one says ‘mmmm, a hint of rasberry,’ it’s quite likely your mind will start thinking about raspberry, and your palate will come of worse because of it. Leave discussion ’til after the cupping. Likewise, experts will spit out their coffee between tastings. After all, if you’re sampling fifteen-plus different coffees, you’re going to be spinning on the effects, to say the least.