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Coffee Cupping for Beginners

A quality roast makes all the difference between a good and bad cup of joe. The coffee roasting industry may seem complicated, but it is essential to learn more about a beverage you may regularly have. Such knowledge will allow you to make informed decisions when purchasing or brewing coffee. There are a variety of techniques and processes used to roast coffee. Cupping is a tasting technique developed in the nineteenth century that industry professionals have since used to ensure quality coffee is served to their customers. A series of evaluations are performed on different aspects of the beverage, such as taste and aroma.

Cupping classes, both virtual and in-person, can be slightly expensive and intimidating to the average coffee consumer. Luckily, the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has developed a valuable and essential form to simplify this process. The form incorporates a 16-point scale used to evaluate and score different aspects of a roast. This form is excellent for baristas and roasters looking to improve their skills.

Preparation is key for succeeding with the cupping technique. Some tools needed for this process include cupping spoons, lidded coffee glasses, grinder, scale, and hot water. Your roast should be prepared and settled in an air-tight container for at least 8 hours. It is also important to weigh the whole coffee beans to display the appropriate balance for each sample cup. Once weighed, the beans should be ground and infused with hot water. The beverage should steep for approximately 3-5 minutes.

Evaluations are held with each sample cup to determine the quality, sensory differences, and personal preference of a roast. The aroma, acidity, balance, consistency, flavor, and uniformity are tested and scored through this method. Each element has its own set of quality standards that determine its final score. The fragrance is evaluated when the roast is first ground, infused, and steeped. Flavor and sweetness are often up to personal preference but scored based on the acidity, aftertaste, and balance of the sample. If there are any sour or burnt notes in the initial sip or aftertaste, each will receive a lower score. A balanced cup will receive a positive score if all of these factors compliment one another well when sipped. Uniformity within the roast is also crucial, especially if you are a roaster or barista looking to serve customers. The SCA recommends preparing at least 5 cups for this evaluation for a fair sample.

Scores vary based on the element tested since each has a set of standards. For example, sweetness and uniformity award 2 points per cup with a maximum of 10 points total. Aroma, on the other hand, awards a total of around 5 points for each evaluation. These elements are scored between 6 and 10 points each according to the SCA scale. A higher score ensures that the roast is higher in quality and health benefits. A total score of above 80 points will guarantee that your roast is a specialty grade.

Knowledge of coffee cupping is terrific whether you are an industry professional or want to understand your favorite brew better. With the help of the SCA scale, you are sure to whip up a delicious, high-quality cup of coffee. This technique also requires a lot of taste testing, making it a fun and unique experience for those looking to learn more about the art of coffee roasting.

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