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Brew Diligence Day Four: Cupping at Home

Welcome to Brew Diligence, our at-home coffee education series.

Cupping is a method of tasting coffee used around the world by producers, buyers, roasters, and baristas to evaluate coffees and develop the flavor notes you see on bags of beans. Cupping is also a great activity to try at home when you don’t have quite enough of a bag left to brew a full cup or if you’d like to compare a few different coffees. 

Pair this cupping with other sensory activities to train your palate and stretch your coffee vocabulary.

Supplies:

3-6 squat cups or mugs of similar sizes
We like 8oz glasses – not sure of your glass size? 1 cup = 8oz!

1 spoon for each taster
This is how we’ll be drinking our coffee, so choose ones you’d drink brothy soup with.

Hot water
We’ll need water that is just shy of boiling, a kettle on the stove is ideal for this!

Timer
The timer app on your phone works great.

Ground Coffee
Grind to a medium-fine or “drip” setting and look for a grind close to the texture of sand. Store-bought ground coffee works too. If you have access to multiple coffees, cupping is a great way to compare them. Cupping one coffee is fine too!

Scale or Tablespoon
A scale is ideal but you can eyeball your coffee with a tablespoon. At our roasterie, we use 13.5 grams of coffee (roughly two heaped tablespoons) in about 8 ounces of water.

If you have a scale, it’s easy to weigh out the appropriate amount of coffee for the volume of your cup, but eyeballing is fine too. The important thing is to make sure your cups each have the same amount of coffee and water.

Start Cupping

Add two heaped tablespoons (13.5g) of ground coffee to two cups.

If you have multiple types of coffee available, add two heaped tablespoons of the second type of coffee to two additional cups. Label the two groups and set them next to each other. Set one empty cup behind each set. This will be for rinsing your tasting spoon.

Evaluate the dry fragrance of the coffee and write down your thoughts. Give each cup a gentle shake and stick your nose right in there to deeply smell the sample.

Don’t overthink it! It’s okay if your main note right now is “smells like coffee.”

Brew the coffee. Set a timer for 4 minutes and fill each cup to the top with hot water, just shy of boiling (195-205°F). You will see a crust of coffee grounds rise to the top. Try not to disturb this layer. Fill the rinse cup with hot water as well.

Break the crust. After 4 minutes, rinse one spoon in the rinse glass. With your nose almost touching the surface of the grounds, gently break through the crust and sink all of the grounds by pushing the spoon across the surface. Don’t stir the coffee, or dip your spoon too deep, just break up the top layer and take in the wet aroma that is released. Record your thoughts.

Remove the gaseous layer of grounds left floating on top. We want to remove this layer before we taste the sample, so get your second spoon and gently scoop this layer off and rinse your spoons in the rinse cup. 

Set a timer for 8 minutes to allow the coffee to cool. In the meantime, empty your rinse cup.

Time to taste! Refill your rinse cup with hot water. Rinse your spoon, then scoop up some of the coffee sample (don’t go too deep or you’ll hit the grounds). Taste the sample by slurping it into your mouth. The slurp helps to aspirate the sample across your whole palate and incorporate air to bring out nuanced flavors. 

Sample each cup at least twice, rinsing your spoon between each cup. Write down what you taste. Use the SCA Flavor Wheel to help guide you. There are no wrong answers, so write down the first notes that pop into your mind. This might be an associated memory or specific snack you’ve had. Referencing a flavor wheel is also a great way to guide your tasting and find the right vocabulary to describe your experience.

Now, repeat! Try some new coffees or repeat with your favorites.

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