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Coffee Cupping 101

Coffee cupping is one of the coffee tasting techniques used by cuppers to evaluate coffee aroma and the flavor profile of a coffee.  You can use the same technique to "explore" your coffee at home.  

Flavor Wheel - Use the flavor wheel as a guide.  It will give you a good start to identifying some of the great flavors in coffee. 

Tasting vs Aroma - You can taste (your tongue detects) sweet, salt, bitter and sour.  The rest is the aroma - most of what we experience as taste, a major part of the coffee experience.  For the most part, sense of smell and sense of taste are inseparable - without sense of smell, taste sensations are limited.

Two to Compare - Brew up a pair of coffees, or espresso, so that you can compare the two side-by-side.  It's best if the two being compared are similar in temperature.

Smell & Look - Smell the coffee while looking at the aroma side of the coffee tasting wheel. Start in the middle and move out as you uncover new details of your coffee.

Taste - Notice where you taste the acidity.  There is a lot of acid in coffee and it really plays a huge role in how coffee tastes. For coffee, acidity doesn't refer to pH levels, it is the taste sensation that produces some of the pleasurable and distinctive sensations enjoyed when tasting coffee. Look at the Taste side of the wheel, see what you taste, but then flip back to the Aroma side and see what you "Taste" when you drink it.  Some use a spoon to slurp the coffee, aerating the coffee aromas as you bring it into your mouth.  Most coffee tasting experts concentrate on three coffee elements:

  • Body - the lipid, or "oily", quality that creates the tacticle sensation of Body (the way it feels in your mouth).
  • Acidity - the naturally occurring acids in the beans combine with the natural sugars to produce a sweeetness that gives certain coffees a sharp, pleasing "tang".
  • Balance - the harmony of the many sensations.  A "balanced" coffee" has flavor characteristics that are all at the proper level for that variety.

Decide - Decide if you like the coffee.  Cupping new coffees will help you discover what you like, and don't like.

Coffee Taste Wheel

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