P Pat Cotter

The Importance of Cupping

Jul 20, 2023 · coffee · culture · educational · roasters
The Importance of Cupping

You might not realize how many steps go into delivering your morning cup of coffee. Even the very best coffee beans in the world start out as a humble plant waiting to be harvested, processed, distributed, selected, and roasted. You might be familiar with some of these processes, but even after roasting there’s an important step that occurs before the beans are packaged and sent off to stores and customers: Cupping.

What is Cupping?

Coffee cupping is a brewing and tasting process that roasters use to help dial in roasts and get just the right profile for their coffees. Every coffee tastes differently depending on how it’s roasted and brewed, so testing a batch of a new bean is key to ensure that the roaster has selected good temperatures and times for their coffees. So what separates cupping from making a regular pour over? In order to hold a proper cupping, coffee grounds are added to the bottom of a bowl-like cup called a cupping vessel. These grounds should be about the consistency of sea salt, and typically you’ll want to grind a couple of grams first in order to clear out any grounds stuck in the grind path. Once you’ve got your grounds in your cupping vessel, you can add hot water. Your ratios of coffee to water should be 8.25 grams of whole bean coffee to about 150 ml of water. Using a kettle, you’ll heat water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once heated, you’ll pour the water directly into the cupping vessels over the grounds. You’ll then leave the coffee to steep, during which time you’ll see some grounds float to the top.

Appreciate the Aromas and Break the Crust

During the steeping process, you’ll want to breathe in the aromas of your brewing coffee. This is because aroma is a key part of assessing a roast, as you want the pleasant, slightly smoky, slightly sweet smell of coffee rather than a stale or burnt smell. These smell clues can help a roaster make determinations about how they should tweak their roasts before they even taste them. At around 4 minutes of brew time you’ll want to use a spoon to break the crust that the grounds form on top of the coffee. You can then scoop the grounds and any foam off of the coffee.

The Tasting

After breaking the crust, you should give the coffee 10-15 minutes to cool, as the cooler temps will help you to focus on the flavors at play. Once the coffee has cooled, you’ll use a spoon to drink from, slurping the coffee from the spoon in order to carry it across your entire palate. Roasters will, at this point, have a number of notes about the coffee being cupped to share. They’ll typically have time built-in to the session to compare notes and share opinions about the cupping.

Why Does it Matter?

Whether you’re a world class roaster or you are just getting into it as a hobby at home, cupping is very important. By brewing coffee with the method outlined above you’ll get a full understanding of its aromas and flavors. Using this information, roasters adjust their roasts, and then ultimately work out tasting notes for their beans! While it may be something most common for those roasting coffee, cupping is a fun way to bring yourself closer to our favorite beverage even if you don’t roast your own. Gathering a few friends and a few roasts to try it out can be a great way to share your love of coffee and get closer to the roasts you love. If you’re interested in trying it, check out these cupping vessels from Acme!

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