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What The … Cup—A Beginners Guide to Coffee Cupping!
The idea of a wine tasting is as common to us as “blackberry notes” and “hints of vanilla,” but the coffee world has its own longstanding equivalent, and this communal gathering of roasty appreciation has gained significant popularity over the last several years. In preparation for One World Roasters’ summer coffee crawl, we have created a basic breakdown of how coffee cuppings work!
Cupping: the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. While a professional practice, it can be done informally by anyone or by professionals known as "Master Tasters.”
So where do you begin in assessing a coffee—doesn’t coffee just taste like … uhh … coffee? Glad you asked! There’s a lot more to it! A standard coffee cupping procedure involves deeply sniffing the coffee to pick out the many nuances of its aroma and then loudly slurping it so it spreads to the back of the tongue allowing all of the tastes to be processed.
Next time someone complains about you slurping—tell them you’re cupping!
The Taste Map
According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America coffee tastes can be scored on eleven criteria:
Aroma – Flavor and Aroma are very tightly connected in coffee often intertwining into one taste experience. Aroma generally refers to what many might call flavors in other contexts (e.g. caramel, chocolate, berry, citrus, etc.)
Flavor – The main tastes the coffee triggers on the palate (sweet, salty, sour, bitter) together with the highlights of the aroma (a bitter chocolate).
Aftertaste – The length and pleasantness of flavor on the tongue after swallowing the coffee.
Acidity – “Brightness” or “sourness” to respectively describe positive or negative acidity in a coffee. Not all coffees are inherently acidic. African coffees tend to have high acidity.
Body – The kind of light or heavy mouth-feel a coffee creates. Island coffees tend to be rather light, while South American varieties are notably heavier.
Balance – How the previous elements interact with each other—is the overall effect pleasing?
Sweetness – The degree of caramelization of the sugars in the bean and how this impacts the roast.
Clean Cup – The appropriate lack of interfering non-coffee flavors that disrupt the experience (e.g. the straw-like taste of sitting in a bag too long).
Uniformity – The consistency of flavors and attributes from cup to cup.
Overall – The overall impression of the coffee as a whole.
Defects – Negative elements (acridness, “baked” sitting flavor, blandness) that detract from the experience and the intensity of these qualities.
While coffee masters use these criteria to rate a given coffee on a 100 point scale, these items can help casual coffee tasters to appreciate roasts on a greater level of depth. Next time you sip a new brew think: what do I smell, what do I feel … does the flavor combination work? Unleash your inner coffee connoisseur!
For more information on coffee cupping terminology, check out this awesome illustrated guide here!
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One World Roasters
967 North High St,
East Haven CT 06512