Cupping coffees is one of the most unique aspects of our craft. When we “cup” coffees, we formally evaluate their qualities using very precise sensory criteria. But cupping is not just the realm of coffee experts. You can use some of the same techniques when judging your morning brew. Here’s how:
- Breathe deep. If you have a bagged coffee, smell the ground coffee before it’s brewed. The fragrance speaks volumes about the coffee’s origin and the care of its processing.
- Brew. Breathe deep again. The aroma of brewed coffee also varies dramatically from origin to origin. Coffee can be: woodsy, earthy, citrusy, fruity, smoky, or nutty.
- Take a sip. Is it bright? This pleasing tang on the tongue is acidity. (Remember: Acidity does not refer to the PH level of the coffee.)
- Take another sip. Is the coffee earthy, nutty, fruity, toasty? There is huge diversity in the flavor of coffee from region to region, or even within a specific region. Try a few different blends or regions and see for yourself!
- And another sip. How does the coffee feel? What is its weight or texture? Full-bodied coffees may be buttery or even syrupy. Light-bodied coffees are more tea-like.
- Now you’re really starting to enjoy the coffee. How does each sip finish? The sensations that remain in the mouth when the coffee is gone are the finish, or aftertaste. Some coffees impart a sweet, lingering finish; others are more direct, even abrupt.
Before you know it, a full cup has elapsed, and you’ve been immersed in the wonderful wealth of sensoral information held within a single cup. Think about that coffee’s balance, how all of its individual flavors and taste sensations come together. Great coffees are balanced – great coffees have a whole composition that is greater than the sum of its parts.
So go ahead – savor your cup of coffee. We’ll be right there with you.