Coffee Cupping

This week I had a wonderful experience taking a cupping class. I learned all things involved with coffee tasting from origins to roasting processes and ending with curated advice on the best coffee grinder the marketplace has to offer. I’ve captured notes and included the recommended coffee grinding machines to brew a perfect coffee.

Give up bad coffee for good!

Key roasting processes that greatly affect coffee flavor:

The Dry Method is the age-old method of processing coffee, and still used in many countries where water resources are limited. The freshly picked cherries are simply spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. Depending on the weather, this process might continue for several weeks for each batch of coffee until the moisture content of the cherries drops to 11%.

The Honey Method where the skin and pulp are removed, but some or all of the mucilage (Honey) remains. Because there is a little bit of fermentation happening in the short amount of time it takes for the mucilage to dry, coffees processed in this way feature a little more acidity than Pulped Naturals (Pressure-Washed) coffees, but significantly less acidity than Washed or Natural/Dried-in-the-Fruit coffees.

The Wet Method removes the pulp from the coffee cherry after harvesting so the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on. The beans are transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Depending on a combination of factors — such as the condition of the beans, the climate and the altitude — they will remain in these tanks for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to remove the slick layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma) that is still attached to the parchment. While resting in the tanks, naturally occurring enzymes will cause this layer to dissolve. When fermentation is complete, the beans feel rough to the touch.  The beans are rinsed by going through additional water channels, and are ready for drying.

Tasting the Coffee:

Coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste.  This process is referred to as cupping and usually takes place in a room specifically designed to facilitate the process.

  • First, the taster — usually called the cupper — evaluates the beans for their overall visual quality. The beans are then roasted in a small laboratory roaster, immediately ground and infused in boiling water with carefully-controlled temperature. The cupper noses the brew to experience its aroma, an essential step in judging the coffee’s quality.
  • After letting the coffee rest for several minutes, the cupper breaks the crust by pushing aside the grounds at the top of the cup. Again, the coffee is nosed before the tasting begins.
  • To taste the coffee, the cupper slurps a spoonful with a quick inhalation. The objective is to spray the coffee evenly over the cupper’s taste buds, and then weigh it on the tongue before spitting it out.

Samples from a variety of batches and different beans are tasted daily. Coffees are not only analyzed to determine their characteristics and flaws, but also for the purpose of blending different beans or creating the proper roast. An expert cupper can taste hundreds of samples of coffee a day and still taste the subtle differences between them. 


Getting the right tools:

Looking for a great burr grinder? check out these options for your home coffee station, ranging from low to high, if you’re really in to coffee that is. Baratza coffee grinders:

                      

Interested in taking the class? Check out the Cupping Class at the Texas Coffee School.