Do you see flavour notes like ‘toffee’ and ‘tropical fruits’ on a bag of coffee and just fail to taste it when you brew it? That is because your palate hasn’t explored these flavours in a complex drink like coffee. Coffee cupping helps you get better at identifying the nuanced flavours of your brew.
To explain it simply, coffee cupping is a method to evaluate the aroma and taste characteristics of coffee beans. Within the coffee industry, it is a formal system to judge and quantify the quality of coffee beans–beans that score over 80 out of 100 are considered to be Speciality coffee. Undoubtedly, coffee cupping is an important aspect of the industry. But it can be a fun and enlightening experience for coffee drinkers at home as well. Being able to identify your coffee’s flavour profile is not just impressive but makes drinking it even more enjoyable.
When you first start out to distinguish between flavour profiles, it might seem a little impossible. But like for most skills, practice is the trick here, too. The more types of coffee you try, the easier it gets to identify them. Moreover, it is also one of the best ways to learn about the regions your favourite coffee beans have come from. Beans have a distinct structure, taste, and aroma depending on where they’ve been cultivated. Cupping a variety of regional coffees can help you explore the world of coffee better and the effect climate, terrain, soil, and altitude have on the beans.
Araku’s 100% organically grown coffee beans express the unique taste profile of our terroir-based farms located on the highlands of the Araku Valley, in the Eastern Ghats of India. Each bean’s natural oils, flavours, and freshness are preserved throughout its journey from the coffee plant to your cup–so that you can brew and enjoy the highest quality of coffee right at your home.
EXPLORE CUPPING. EXPLORE FLAVOURS.
To hone your skills, you can start by looking out for cupping events in order to learn from experts. Cupping events will help you explore lots of different coffees under the guidance of a Coffeeologist. They can explain several elements and characteristics of coffee you should be looking for, like acidity, bitterness, sweetness, aroma, and finish (or aftertaste).
Our exclusive Coffeeologist, Sherri Johns, is always in direct contact with our farmers. As an expert cupper, she introduces and trains in the art of tasting and appreciating great coffee to everyone who is interested. You are welcome to come at any of our cupping sessions. Follow us on social media to remain updated on when our next cupping sessions are held!
If there isn’t a cupping event happening in your area, you can always create your own cupping session with fellow coffee-lovers! But before you start or attend one, take a look at the SCAA flavour wheel (Trust us, it will make understanding flavours extremely easy!).
The SCA flavour wheel can help you immediately focus on general flavours–the wheel’s first-tier–of your brew. These include popular flavours like spices, nutty/cocoa, floral, and fruity. Once you’ve got a hang of identifying these, you can go further outside the wheel into the second (umbrella terms) and third-tier (specific descriptions). Remember: Start from the middle, then go outward.
It usually takes at least a few cupping sessions to be able to identify the complex flavours (hold on tight, bud). Despite this sounding extensive, it is worth the effort–cupping alongside the flavour wheel helps you train your palate and build your vocabulary at the same time. While cupping, do make sure to take as many notes throughout the process as possible–everyone experiences taste and smell differently. You never know what you might discover; there are no wrong or right answers. Just make sure to compare notes with others during the session and have fun!
DIY CUPPING SESSION
Setting up a cupping session is easy and quick. It involves brewing small amounts of medium ground coffee with hot water–no filter or brewing equipment is needed. We hope that reduced your jitters quite a bit...now, let’s get started!
First, you will need to measure your beans- two tablespoons, 12 grams per 7 oz cup. Then grind the bean sample finely–either by a burr or blade grinder–and place it in a cup. Repeat this process for as many samples as you want. Make sure to clean the grinder in between. Sniff each coffee sample to evaluate and take notes of its dry fragrance.
Now, pour hot water (heated to 93C) onto the ground coffee; as you pour, a crust will form at the top. Ensure each cup has the same amount of water. Then let the samples brew for 4 minutes as you sniff deeply to evaluate and note the wet aroma. Break the crust with a spoon as you sniff the grounds. Then scoop out the residual grounds on the surface from each sample and discard.
Wait until the coffee is cool enough to taste. Take a spoonful of the brew and slurp it. The slurp aerates and sprays coffee over the entire palate so that it can come in contact with all your taste buds. Assess, evaluate, and note everything that you can identify–flavour, acidity, body, balance, uniformity, finish and sweetness.
After 4-5 minutes, slurp and note your answers again. Then do it again one last time for final impressions. As the coffee cools, your palate will notice additional attributes.
Pro tip: Coffee cuppers, like wine tasters, first slurp and spray the coffee around their mouths and then spit it into a discard cup (even if it tastes great). If you were to drink coffee, while cupping several cups, you could get the jitters.