What is cupping?
Coffee cupping – “the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee”.
Basically, you have really small cups lined up, add roughly 6 grams of coffee (per 100ml of water) in each one, smell it, add 205°F water to each one, smell it, after the coffee settles at the top you break what is considered the “crust” with a spoon. As you break it you lean down to smell the aroma. You then remove that crust with two spoons (looks really cool when a professional does it). After that you taste it as it cools and observe the tasting notes as they change.
Every coffee shop and roaster cups coffee when deciding what to purchase. It’s generally done on really large scales where 50-100s of cups are being compared. In a recent podcast I listened to they mentioned doing a competition at origin (in one of the major coffee producing countries, can’t remember where in this case), but they were cupping around a 100 coffees. They’d narrow it down to 50, re-cup, narrow it down, re-cup, narrow it down, re-cup, repeat until a winner. That’s a ton of coffee.
For this competition it was crucial because it went alongside an auction of the coffees being cupped. The winner (even top 10) would see a huge increase in their price per pound. Way more so than they would if trying to sell it themselves. So this competition could mean the difference in a decent season and little profit, or a huge profit and being able to operate the farm for another X number of years and/or upgrading equipment, planting more plants, etc.
Cupping is a HUGE deal.
But why at home?
So why cup coffee at home when it’s probably been cupped a ton already? It’s already good right? Well yeah. It’s not really a must at home, just something fun to play around with and practice your tasting.
I’ve found it a lot easier to cup 2-3 new coffees than brew up 2-3 V60s. You get to taste each one while it’s still hot and as they progressively cool down. Plus it’s a lot of fun.
Should you cup at home?
If you’re crazy obsessed with coffee, go for it! Even if you’re new though, I’d still totally recommend it. It always seemed a bit daunting to me at first which is partly why it’s taken me so long to get around to doing it. But with a few cheap cups from Target, coffee, a grinder, and some spoons…you’re set.
There’s so much information out there on the web and cupping is actually a pretty detailed activity, but at home it’s really chill. I’m going to doing a couple more posts discussing cupping in the near-ish future. I have a few little ongoing tests happening and once I get enough data (that sounds more fancy than it actually is), I’m going to be sharing that. Stay tuned!
ALSO, if you have any local specialty coffee shops in your area be sure to check them out and see if they offer public cuppings.
MORE INFO ON CUPPING