5 tips for cupping your coffee efficiently

Roasting, cupping, and more cupping,…  Working in the specialty coffee sector involves a great deal of quality control. Speaking from our own experience, roasting and cupping take a lot of time, but are essential to the business.

Why should you take our 5 small cupping tips into account? 

Simply put, time constraints can influence how you develop your cupping protocols. Having experienced trial & error first-hand, we put together this small list. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Tip #1: Check your roast to identify any roasting defects

In theory, we can trust our own process of sample roasting. However, what are the odds of messing up? Anything from high sample humidity to human error after a long day, can prevent you from staying on point. It would be a waste to have a roasting defect end up on your cupping table, don’t you agree?

Remember that during sample roasting, we are not looking for the perfect roast, but a good standard for evaluation.

To stay on the safe side, you should always double-check the final sample roast. Try to eat a bean or perform a quick smell and visual check by grinding a few beans directly after roasting. 

Bonus Tip

Having a well-aligned and cleaned grinder will help to decrease the fine particles within your cup. Less “fines” will allow you to lower your grind size for cupping.

The Coffee Quest Team cupping in the lab

Tip #2: Plan the cupping, don’t be afraid to find a cupping buddy

As you might know, the coffee requires some time to degas after roasting, Lack of coffee degassing means you might have some air pockets intervening with flavor and aroma extraction. Hence, it would result in muted flavor that you are tasting. 

You can find a detailed explanation about coffee degassing from this article by Perfect Daily Grind. (Read it here)

Why ask for help? As a coffee insider, you can be (unconsciously) affectionate towards a specific region, country, or producer, making it almost impossible to stay impartial. Therefore, delegate the preparation of a fully blind cupping to someone else, to truly start the cupping with a blank canvas! And yes, why not cup together as well?

Tip #3: Take the time to smell the coffee

The time to check aroma starts right after grinding. Delicate flavours such as floral and fruity notes are better perceived in dry aroma, however, it might be easier to compare the coffee after pouring and cleaning the cups. Try to avoid feeling pressured by other participants and take your time to smell.

Thus, make sure you find your own moment to develop a first insight into the profile, defects and intensity of characteristics. Don’t forget to open your mouth: It will give more room for oxygen and aroma to travel through

Bonus Tip

Pay close attention to your water composition. Not all water can deliver the same cupping result. This article from Coffee and Adstra provides an interesting explanation of how water chemicals can influence it. Click the lightbulb to read the article.

Tip #4: Understand the changing temperature

Now that you are ready to cup, the essential aspect of cupping temperature comes into play. The cooling of the temperature influences flavor perceptionAre you filling in a cupping sheet? Try to determine the flavor and afterflavour attributes first when the coffee is hot. 

Once the coffee starts to cool down, other attributes become easier to perceive: the body, the acidity and balance. Passing by the coffee a second time is requiered to confirm your initial notes. Don’t fall in love with the first coffee you cup! Make sure you evaluate the first two coffees on the table at different moments.

Why are we passing coffees for a third time? In the cooling down, bad flavors or defects are getting more prominent. One prime example to name is bitterness, which comes out more towards the end of the cupping, maybe due to a roasting defect.

Tip #5: Keep your notes closeby

A final tip before we close up, don’t get tempted by the idea of keeping a mental record, start writing down your notes!  Not only is it easy to mix up a coffee, but the need to memorize keeps your mind occupied and unprepared for the next cup. 

Therefore, to keep a clear written notebook (or by using an app like Cropster Cup) is to ensure you don’t miss a point. Also. good administration will come in handy for future reference when you come across the same coffee!

Practice is the key

You might not see yourself as an expert in roasting or cupping. You might find your external cupping space somewhat unorganized. The secret is, it doesn’t matter as much as your own organized mind

The theory behind cupping is as important as your effective planning and discipline. Practice is the key.