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Cupping Coffee

The Wild Foods Guide to Coffee - Learn how long it takes for a coffee cherry to produce a bean that goes into your cup. You'll be amazed.


Cupping Coffee
(Tasting it)

"What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup." 

~Henry Rollins

Coffee is tasted multiple times throughout the growing and processing stages. This is called “cupping.”

To prepare coffee for cupping it is roasted in small batches, immediately ground and then infused in hot water. During the entire process, the cupper is evaluating the look, smell, texture, and finally, taste of the beans.

Cupping Guidelines: How To Cup Coffee
(as recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of America)

  • Use a tempered glass or ceramic glass between 7 and 9 ounces
  • Use a ratio of 8.25 grams of coffee per 150 ml of water 
  • Grind coffee immediately before cupping
  • Grind size should be slightly coarser than typical paper filter grind size
  • Add exact amount of coffee to each cup and cover
  • Use clean filtered water
  • Use 200° water for pouring over the coffee
  • Pour over grounds to rim of cup, wetting all grounds.
  • Steep for 3-5 minutes without disturbing

Step #1 - Remove lid and sniff grounds. 

Step #2 - After 3-5 minutes, sniff crust before breaking it and stirring 3 times. Lift spoon and sniff dripping grounds.

Step #3 - Skim off grounds, leaving as much liquid in cup as possible.

Step #4 - Hunch close to the cup with a clean spoon. Take a spoonful and “slurp” it into your mouth while inhaling. This slurping helps the aromatics to work while also coating your tongue with as much coffee as possible. 

Step #5 - Rinse your spoon in a glass of clean water between each taste.

Coffee Aromas, Flavor and Taste

The aromas of coffee are distinct from flavors, although sometimes they are found together. Example, say you smell cherry when sniffing your brew but don’t taste it when you drink. This is common. On the other hand, for example, you might smell and taste caramel.

Here are some of the most common aromas you can find in coffee.

  • Animal-like
  • Ashy
  • Burnt
  • Smoky
  • Chemical 
  • Chocolate
  • Caramel
  • Malty
  • Toasty
  • Earthy
  • Floral
  • Fruity
  • Citrus
  • Green/Grassy
  • Herbal
  • Nutty
  • Rancid
  • Rubber
  • Spicy
  • Tobacco
  • Winey
  • Woody

Coffee Tastes

Acidity - In terms of coffee taste, this refers to the brightness of coffee and not the PH level of the coffee. Considered pleasant.

Bitterness - Considered desirable to a certain level.

Body - Also know as the “mouthfeel.” Body is the weight of the coffee on the mouth.

Sweetness - Considered the most important aspect of coffee, which can separate good from great coffee. 

Saltiness - Exactly as it sounds.

Sourness - Too sharp or biting. Considered unpleasant.

Finish - Refers to flavors and sensations felt after tasting coffee.

Now let's look at caffeine...