Ever wondered how our coffees get their flavour notes? We’ve touched on tasting coffee before, but we haven’t really gotten into how to taste coffee for yourself. Until now. The process for tasting coffee is called ‘cupping’ and it’s not just for the experts.
Learning how to cup coffee seems daunting; all that sniffing, slurping, swilling and pondering seems worlds away from having a steaming mug of coffee with your friends. It certainly did to me when I joined Pact’s Coffee Team.
I’ve worked with coffee for a while but had no experience cupping – or having a role in Pact’s coffee cosmos – until recently. So, it’s fair to say my first cupping session was scary. But with help from Will (our Head of Coffee) and Aissa (Pact’s Master Roaster), it began to feel like something I could actually do. And then, to top it off, I started to enjoy it.
So we decided that a beginner’s guide to cupping coffee was in order, and who better to write it than the guy who just learnt to cup?
First thing’s first, cupping is a fancy name for tasting coffee. The idea is that the process can be easily replicated across the world if you have a cupping bowl, a cupping spoon (similar to a soup spoon), hot water and coffee.
Here’s how you set up a cupping session:
- You pop 14.5g of coffee in a cupping bowl (about 200ml) and fill it the bowl with 96℃ (or off the boil for 1 minute) water.
- Stir the coffee three times after 4 minutes with your nose really close to the cupping bowl as you can get all those great aromas.
- Scoop the grounds off the top of the cup.
- Wait until 12 minutes has gone – so you don’t burn your tongue – and take some coffee with your cupping spoon.
- Slurp the coffee so it covers all of your tongue – Will says it’s like eating soup really badly (if that helps!).
There is always the temptation to mirror the opinion of a more experienced cupper but there is no right or wrong answer in cupping. Don’t be scared to say what you think.
Start off simple and build up slowly
Will explained that to start with it’s best to just say whether you like or dislike the coffee. This helps you gain a lot of experience tasting coffee, but without the pressure of having to try and detect flavour notes. Like the Karate Kid and Mr Miyagi, you soon realise that keeping it simple at the start helps you develop important skills, without even realising it.
Like any activity, practicing is key. The more you cup, the better you get at understanding the relationship between your tongue and your brain.