Cupping Coffee Like an Amateur

Once upon a time I thought it would be a good idea to make an educational video about what specialty coffee businesses do to check a coffee's quality and what this means at Merci Coffee + Connections in Chilliwack. Well, I made the video and it came out as more of a joke so I will link that just below...

I also went ahead and looked up what the specialty coffee industry says about cupping coffee and I will paste that below...

"The technique and Specialty Coffee Association of America protocol for cupping is widely accepted throughout the industry. This makes it easy and transparent to communicate with people anywhere in the world about samples you’ve both cupped. Included in these protocols are standards for roast colour, dose, water, temperature, particle size and steep time and, when followed correctly, the result are easily repeatable. This means we’re comparing apples with apples (so to speak) and the lines of communication are much straighter and to the point.

To select a great coffee, we not only assess its profile, but also its ability to consistently deliver that same profile. This means that when we cup, we’re often sampling five to 10 coffees from each region, and we cup each sample coffee five times so that we can assess its consistency. Can you imagine trying to evaluate 50 espresso samples in one sitting? Not only would be impossible to have them all the same temperature at the same time, but your palate would quickly become tired, and it would be difficult to distinguish the subtle variations that we are looking for. Over the years, we’ve learned what to expect as espresso from different cupping profiles. This is something that only comes with practise — the more you cup, the better you become at identifying good and bad qualities, as well as how that coffee will translate to espresso.

The next step in cupping is scoring. The CQI (Coffee Quality Institute) has been actively training and calibrating cuppers from both producing and buying countries to score coffees on a standard 100 point scale. The idea behind this is to enable cuppers around the world to speak a common, reliable language. All of a sudden, trained and practised cuppers understand the value and meaning of, for example, an 85 point coffee from Guatemala versus a 92 point coffee from the same region. The former would translate to having distinct origin character as well as a clean and balanced cup, while the 92 point coffee would have all of that plus some added intricacies, complexity and nuance. Learning the scoring sheet and calibrating with certified Q graders is a good way to start speaking this growing international language."

I will let you be the judge as to what was more informative and what added more to your life; the video or this essay. Either way, it's plain to see that specialty coffee connoisseurs across the globe care about how their coffee tastes and how it tastes compared to the other options :)

Love, Matt @mercicoffeetruck

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