Cupping was developed as a standardized method for detecting defects in coffees. Before its introduction in 1905, buyers and sellers evaluated unroasted coffees primarily by visual appearance. Although experienced coffee buyers can tell a great deal from a green coffee's appearance, cupping offers far more information.
Cupping is coffee brewing at its simplest. A weighed amount of beans (usually seven and one half grams) are ground for each cup to be prepared. Usually three to five cups of each sample are set up. Portioning out the specific beans that are to be ground into each cup allows the impact of those beans to be more clearly demarcated. Separate weighing and grinding allows the variability of a coffee to stand out. Once the grounds are in the cup (typically a five and one half ounce shot glass), freshly boiled water is poured over them.
After the water is poured into each cup a crust forms on top This floating mass of grounds prevents each cup from steaming. Using a spoon, the taster dips the spoon in the cup, "breaking the crust," with their nose over the cup to identify as many aromatic characteristics as possible. The coffee's aromatics are their most intense. Significant defects which might throw a coffee off, or ruin a week's production, can be spotted at this step, but perhaps missed everywhere else.
Next, the coffee is allowed to cool while the grounds absorb water and sink to the bottom of the glass. Any remaining foam is gently skimmed off the surface and the coffee is then ready to taste. Tablespoons, soupspoons, or specially designed cupping spoons are used for tasting the coffee.
The cooling liquid is slurped into the taster's mouth so that the liquid is atomized and sprayed evenly over the palate as the aromatics are released. The difference between this slurping method and gentle sipping the same coffee is easily experienced, yet many aspiring cuppers resist this noisy but necessary method. After slurping, the coffee is moved around in the mouth for a few seconds. If there are many coffees on the table, the professional will more often immediately spit the coffee out and move on to the next cup.
As the cupper is going through the cupping, he or she will carefully note-- the appearance of the green beans, the development of the roast, the aroma of the grounds and crust, the first impressions in the taste (the chemical components of the coffee experienced as sweet, sour, bitter and even saltiness), the lingering impressions of flavor (the aromatic components experienced after the coffee is slurped), the physical feel of the coffee, its thickness or thinness in the mouth (body) and its astringency or acidity. Email for further questions.
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