Coffee Cupping Basics

I have always loved coffee. Now I want to know why I like some better than others. I’ve done some research and have learned that tasting coffees is very similar to tasting wines.

The correct term for coffee tasting is "coffee cupping." The recommended method for "cupping" requires coffee to be ground into an 8-oz. porcelain or glass cup. Water is then poured in the cup and the coffee steeps for a few minutes. The grinds rise to the top, forming a crust which is broken with a silver spoon. The coffee's aromas are evaluated first; then, after the coffee has cooled a bit, the taster (cupper) slurps the liquid, evaluates the flavors, and spits the coffee out to avoid caffeine intake.

I don’t drink coffee that way. I make it by the pot and drink it by the gallon. Nevertheless, if I’m going to try to determine why I like a particular coffee, it would be helpful to define the four terms used to evaluate coffee: acidity, aroma, body, and flavor.

ACIDITY: sensation of dryness that the coffee produces under the edges of your tongue and on the back of your palate

Acidity refers to the sharp and pleasing aftertaste, often referred to as the liveliness of the coffee. It is a desirable quality that describes the brightness of flavor. Acidity ranges from low (smooth) to high (lively). A coffee without any acidity is referred to as flat.

AROMA: the feeling that the steam produces; referred to as the "bouquet" as in wine

Aroma is the smell of the coffee. Without our sense of smell, we would only have our taste buds, which are only capable of detecting the four basic taste sensations of "sweet", "sour", "salty" and "bitter". The more subtle nuances of coffee flavor such as "floral" or "winy " come more from the aroma or smell of the coffee.

BODY: feeling that the coffee has in your mouth

Body is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness, or richness that is perceived on the tongue.

FLAVOR: the perceived taste of the coffee

Flavor is the overall perception of the coffee and is also a balance of the acidity, body and aroma of the coffee.

Now that I know what I’m looking for, I can start my own coffee cupping research.

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About The Author, Dmskye
Diena Zavetsky has been a coffee gourmet for over 15 years. She is the owner of Hot Gourmet Coffee, a subsidiary of dmskye. She believes that whole bean coffee should be ground just before brewing to get a fresh coffee flavor.