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The Barista team in Vietcetera Cafe had a cupping session today with their in-house newly roasted Peru’s coffee and I was asked to provide their newbies with basic introduction about cupping. This event motivated me to write a note about this fundamental knowledge that every barista should be well-prepared. Vietnamese translation of this article can be found here.
To make a brief and the easiest to understand article about this technical term, I will describe “cupping” by answering 3W1H:
WHAT IS CUPPING?
Cupping is the action of tasting and evaluating flavors and aroma of coffee based on a uniformly standardized routines and techniques. It includes smelling, slurping, thinking (what does it taste like? is it good or bad? do I like it? etc.), writing down and scoring. Usually, professional cuppers (who do the cupping professionally or obtained certificates relating to it) will know how to score properly. At the end of cupping session is a discussion (aka “calibration”) between cuppers towards the coffee samples.
There is also a tool kit (including spoons, bowls and glasses) designed for cupping purpose.
WHEN SHOULD WE DO IT?
According to SCA’s cupping protocols (Specialty Coffee Association), the coffee samples should be cupped within 24 hours after roasting and after at least 8 hours resting. However, if you don’t have any information about the roast for any reason, just cup it once you buy it and before putting it on sales. I
WHY DO WE NEED TO DO IT?
From my experiences:
- For barista: Cupping is to acknowledge the coffee’s aroma and flavors so that they can form an optimal brewing recipe and describe the coffee for customers. With details gained from cupping sessions, barista have more chances to deliver an excellent customer service by meeting their needs.
- For roaster: Cupping is to evaluating both roasting and green beans quality. If roasters are well-trained, they will easily recognize which flavors are from defective beans and detect whether it’s roasting or green defects. Cupping session will also help them to find out an optimal profile for each kind of beans.
- For cafe owners/ head barista: if you have in-house roaster, the cupping result will help you decide whether to serve single origin or blend different kinds of coffee together. If you’re testing coffee from a green beans supplier, the cupping result will help you decide whether to buy it or change to another vendor.
- For consumers: Public cupping is a good way to broaden your experience with coffee and networking with other coffee lovers.
HOW TO CUP?
We’re following the SCA’s cupping protocols, which you can find in the link below. Before clicking in, I’ll make a summary for your better catch-up:
- There is no requirement for minimum number of samples in the cupping session, however there must be at least 5 cups for each samples for uniformity evaluation.
- Coffee must be ground a bit coarser than the usual grind size for hand-drip
- Hot water must be at 93 degrees Celsius and has TDS between 125-175 ppm.
- We evaluate factor to the following order:
- Fragrance: smell the dry ground coffee
- Aroma: smell the groundcoffee infused with water
- Flavor, Aftertaste: after the sample has cooled to 71 degrees Celsius
- Acidity, Body & Balance: after the sample has cooled to 60 degrees Celsius
- Sweetness, Uniformity & Cleanliness: after the sample has cooled to 37 degrees Celsius
- Overall: when the sample reaches 21 degrees Celsius
- No talking or discussing and loud noise should be allowed until the end of cupping session since cuppers will be influenced by other people’s opinions. Cupping must be objective.
That’s all for part 1 of our Cupping Kit. The most important thing in cupping is your sensory (ability to identify flavors and describe it), which will be presented in the upcoming writings. I love cupping, and I encourage cafes to do more public cupping for customers to join. It’s always a golden opportunity to spread our coffee culture and create more demands for good coffee.
For more technical information, please visit SCA’s website at this link.