All too often, coffee gets gulped down in the wee morning hours without a second thought. While coffee drinkers may instinctively know the difference between awful and great coffee, not many have the wherewithal to be able to articulate the reasoning behind their preferences. Enter the Master Tasters. Elevating the art of coffee to a full-fledged profession, these connoisseurs have become fixtures on the espresso scene. So prized is the ability to pick up on obscure and subtle notes that one taster, Gennaro Pelliccia of Costa Coffee, has even had his taste buds insured for a whopping £10 million. But, the art of cupping isn't just for the pros. We're going give you a play-by-play of how it's done, so you can try it at home! Cleanse those palates and let the cupping begin.
Setting the Scene
True cupping events are performed in very controlled environments, with a preference for natural light. Acceptable temperatures fall between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and the venue should have 50% to 70% humidity, since dry air could interfere with the cupper's sense of smell. While you don't need to follow these strict guidelines to a T, you should keep in mind the time of day when cupping at home. Late mornings and afternoons are best; allow plenty of time in between meals to perform a proper tasting.
Each coffee cupping session usually involves between six and 10 cups per coffee, but feel free to deviate and choose a quantity you're comfortable with. If possible, place a covered sample of the green (un-roasted) coffee at the table as well as a helping of the roasted beans (leave uncovered). Most experts advise that you use a light roast for cupping, since flavor characteristics are more likely to remain intact. But whatever roast you choose, be sure to keep it consistent—every coffee being tasted should have the same or similar roasts.
Savor the Cup
Once the cupping session gets under way, each taster should be presented with a small sample (about two tablespoons) of freshly roasted and newly ground coffee. The sample should have a grind fineness that falls somewhere between drip and French press coffee. Invite guests to find the fragrance by smelling the coffee grounds and jotting down their observations. Then, add boiling water to each cup and smell the coffee without stirring it; this will help you uncover the aroma.
After a few minutes, stir, taste and write down your impressions. The best cuppers are not only able to distinguish different taste, aftertaste, acidity, and body they can also sometimes guess the coffee's origins based on the aforementioned.
Keep in mind that while cupping is a serious art form, it should also be fun! Gather your fellow java lovers and take turns hosting coffee cupping parties you may be surprised at how good you'll get, with practice and a little help from your friends. If you're looking for a unique treat for that next cupping session, check out our wide assortment of world famous coffee.
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