The basics of coffee cupping

by Jack Foster October 11, 2016

The basics of coffee cupping

Coffee cupping is a term used to describe a bunch of mates, colleagues or coffee fanatics tasting different coffees and evaluating them based on their aroma and taste. It is the easiest way of comparing origins of coffee against one another.

There is no exact science to coffee cupping and certainly no wrong way of cupping! Most people we have spoken to have often told us they have been scared of attending a local cupping as they weren't sure what to do or what it was? If you are using cupping as an evaluation tool then it is key to keep your methods consistent as that can affect the brew and alter your findings.

Coffee can vary from farm to farm and crop to crop. We use cupping to evaluate the body, aroma and taste of each coffee - we use this for our own tasting notes and to see if each coffee would work well in a blend.

coffee tasting in liverpool

When we cup, we tend to roast our coffees to a light roast, this allows any faults to stand out and not get lost in the roast type. We also tend to have a small sample of the green beans available to look at and check for any flaws. As well as some of the coffee we are about to cup pre ground so we are able to smell the dry aroma of the coffee.

To start your cupping you will need to grind up your rested coffee (we like to leave our coffee to de-gas for at least 2 days) to a coarse grind. Place the grounds in a small bowl. Pour over nearly boiling water (195-205 °F, 95 °C). Allow the coffee to infuse for around 3-4 minutes.

Once brewed, take time to smell the coffee before tasting, breaking the crust at the top of the bowl will allow the full wet aroma to escape and give you a better insight as to what you are about to taste.

When you have broken  the crust and given the coffee a quick swirl, majority of the grounds will sink to the bottom - any that remain floating at the top can now be removed with your spoons.

To start tasting the coffee, that silly slurping noise has to be made. Essentially you are sucking the coffee off of your spoon which draws the coffee to the roof of your mouth to tickle the tongue and then fall into the back of your mouth. This action stimulates the part of your sense of taste which is actually your sense of smell. You can then roll the coffee around the mouth and begin to look for tasting notes you can compare it to.

AGAIN, there is no right or wrong, everyone's palate is completely different and what you can taste may not be the same as what your friends think. This is okay!

 It is also good practice to make notes throughout your cupping experience so you can relate back to each one and note any differences etc. We also tend to spit out the coffee once we have cupped each one. This is a personal preference as we tend to cup a lot of coffee at once. However if you are only doing a certain few or would rather just swallow the coffee there is nothing wrong here! We do recommend washing your mouth out with fresh water between each slurp regardless of method used - you know, for clarity!

As we go along we try to score and compare each stopping point along our cupping journey;

  • Fragrance of dry coffee grounds (roasty, nutty, fresh etc)
  • Aroma of wet coffee grounds (lively, sharp, creamy etc)
  • Aroma of coffee after breaking the crust (earthy, fruity, smooth etc)
  • Acidity or liveliness on the tongue (tangy, winey, soft etc)
  • Body of the coffee in the mouth (full, rich, thin etc)
  • Flavour or depth of taste in the coffee (spicy, buttery, woody etc)
  • Finish or after taste of each coffee (sour, sharp, bitter etc)
Further comments or a conclusion on each coffee, how would you summarise the coffee and of course would you recommend it?


I hope this guide is helpful but by no means are these strict rules to cupping - tasting coffees should be a useful tool and informative but most importantly; good fun that is enjoyed by a group of coffee lovers who can compare their tastes and coffees to one another.

Happy brewing!

coffee tasting in liverpool

Jack Foster
Jack Foster


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