Coffee Cupping and Grading

 Tasting coffee is an essential part of the business to assure consistent flavor in the beans. How is coffee cupped? When we refer to cupping coffee, we are talking about the process of tasting the coffee after roasting. These taste tests are performed to assure consistency and quality in each cup of coffee.

Roasting Green Coffee For Cupping

The roaster is preheated to (170-175 degrees Celsius) and when the coffee is finished roasting, it is slowly discharged onto the cooling trays. This can take an additional 3 minutes. The faster the coffee cools, the better.

The period the coffee is roasted to when it is cupped should be within a 24-hour window. This time frame is set to ensure the integrity of the coffee’s quality.

Weighing and Grinding the Coffee Beans Before Cupping

The weight is 12.7 grams of roasted coffee per cup (5.5%).  Five cups must be tasted to guarantee the uniformity of the batch and the consistency of the drink.

Once each cup has been weighed with 12.7 grams, the coffee is ground individually for each cup. To grind the beans, the grinder setting is set to medium. 

Tasting Coffee: Fragrance and Aroma of the Coffee

After we grind the coffee, the first part of our sensory coffee tasting evaluation begins. Assess the smells and aromas of each of the 5 sample cups. For this, associate the perceived odors (for your record) with products that are easy to remember, such as the smell of ripe mango, chocolate, orange rind, and describe the power and traits of the fragrance. 

The noted aromas are then entered in an International SCA format. The fragrance is the first attribute to be evaluated. The coffees smell is graded when the coffee is still dry. Coffee is graded on a scale from 6 to 10.

There is a 10-minute time span from when the coffee has been ground to when the water must be poured for the cuppings. It is important to note that the water used must be free from impurities.

The water temperature is set to 92 degrees Celsius. In each cup, the water should be filled to the brim. After this, the coffee is steeped in the water for 4 minutes prior to being tasted.

With spoons, the coffee enters the mouth. We then sip and analyze, cup by cup, and clean the silverware well between each cup to better understand the coffee and its attributes.

The first attribute is the one that has to do with the quality of the cups, with which we can make quality decisions, find bad parts within the batch and in the laboratory, deliver what we must do to recover said batch, if necessary.

Uniformity

Making sure all the cups in the sample taste the same. The maximum score for this attribute is 10. If there are 5 cups, each cup has a top score of 2.

Clean Cup 

Meaning do the flavors of each cup are pleasant and that we are not going to find any ferment, any phenol, any rest, any chemical flavor, or any problem that was generated in the coffee processing and that does not taste good when drinking the cup.

Sweetness

It is important to note that Colombia is famous for producing sweet coffee.. In Colombia, only Arabica coffee is grown. This variety of coffee is sweeter and less bitter than Robusta coffee. The grading format allows us to add 10 points to the score just because it is grown in Colombia. However, there are exceptions to this 10-point rating. An example would be if there was a defect present in the coffee, such as phenol. This would deduct points from both sweetness as well as the scoring for the clean cup. When there is a defect such as phenols, the score for a clean cup and sweetness categories would be punished.

 Flavor

 This is the first impression we feel when we taste coffee. We describe these flavors by relating them to past sensory and olfactory experiences. What does Colombian coffee taste like? We can describe Colombian coffee as having flavor notes of almond, chocolate, orange, caramel, honey, citrus notes, and sugar cane.  

Residual Flavor

Residual flavor is the sensation that remains in the mouth after already taking the drink; a good aftertaste is when after a long time it feels rich in the mouth. The aftertaste comes with the same flavor notes, and it is important that this taste remains in the mouth for a long time.

Acidity

The acidity of coffee can be considered as the backbone of a coffee profile because good acidity allows the coffee to be well expressed, the body to have greater consistency, and the coffee to feel alive in the mouth. Acidity can be strong, medium, or low.

The Body

The body of a coffee is the tactile sensation of the drink in the mouth; To better understand the body of a coffee, we can use the relationship between milk and water as an example. Water is more liquid than milk and feels lighter in the mouth than milk, which has a heavy body.

Balance

The balance measures how well the acidity, flavor, and body of the coffee tastes; If these three attributes are correct, the coffee is balanced. If, on the contrary, one of those three attributes has a defect, then the cup is unbalanced. An unbalanced cup would get points deducted in the final score.

Coffee Taster’s Score

After qualifying the nine previous attributes, our final test is called the taster’s score, where the qualified taster gives their opinion on the coffee. In contrast, the above attributes must be qualified by a certified taster, under the Coffee Quality Institute parameters.

Within the cupping format, you can leave add notes such as if the coffee was well roasted or, on the contrary, if it was raw or burned.

Finally, the numbers gathered from each attribute are added, including the coffee cupping score or SCA score. The results are systematized, and little by little, we are building our coffee profile map.

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