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Coffee Cupping: What Does It Entail?

If you’ve ever read about specialty coffee, you’ve probably come across the term “cupper”. Generally, a cupper refers to an individual whose role is to taste and test different coffee brews. Cupping is an art you can easily practice at home.

coffee cupping

What Does Cupping Refer To?

Similar to wine tasting, coffee cupping involves tasting coffee with the aim of discerning its flavors. However, it’s not a simple task. Coffee, like wine, features flavors and notes that you may not always recognize immediately when tasting.

Simply put, cupping refers to the technique of assessing different qualities of a certain coffee bean. Cupping assists in gathering data that aids in labeling coffee as specialty coffee or otherwise. Sometimes, several cuppers test the same coffee brew. That way, there’s better and new understanding of the qualities of every coffee variety.

What’s The Importance of Cupping?

Cupping is important in that it assists in identifying coffee flavors, from basic to hidden flavors. Most importantly, cupping assists in distinguishing whether the specific coffee should be categorized under specialty coffee or should be used in coffee blends.

Cupping is very versatile. There’s no wrong or right way of doing it. Cupping can be used to identify coffees depending on the farms, countries, regions, and farms they were grown. It also assists in identifying individual coffee crops. For instance, the coffee produced in Kenya or Ethiopia tastes different from that produced in Brazil or Costa Rica.

How Is Cupping Done?

Since there’s no wrong or right way to taste coffee, you can personalize the cupping process. However, use one cupping method every time to get it right.

Here’s the general process of cupping coffee made with the infusion brewing method.

Items needed:

  • Water
  • Saucepan or kettle
  • Small bowl
  • Ladle
  • Spoon
  • Coarse ground coffee


Step 1– Put ground coffee in a small bowl.

Step 2– Heat water until it’s about to boil. Pour it over the ground coffee.

Step 3– Allow the water to soak the grounds for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 4– Break any crust formed in the bowl.

Step 5– Stir the mixture gently. Allow the grounds to sink and settle at the bottom. Discard any floating grinds. You can scrape them away with a spoon. Ensure there’re no grinds on the surface before sipping.

Step 6– Fill a ladle with the brew and bring it toward your lips. Try to inhale the hot coffee from the ladle. To do this, suck it very quickly as if you’re taking a breath such that the brew goes to your palate. Roll the coffee over the tongue. While doing that, try to assess the flavors you’re tasting. Once done, allow the coffee to fall to the back area of the mouth. Taking coffee this way allows vapor to be created. It also stimulates your smell.

Step 7– Repeat the aforementioned step until you discern all the noticeable flavors.

Extra Cupping Tips

  • Novice cuppers should start with tasting light roasts as it’s easier to notice subtleness in the coffee flavor. Darker roasts have more intricate flavors.
  • It’s advisable to grind coffee beans and allow them to rest for about two days rather than buying pre-ground coffee. Hand grinding is more recommended for cupping purposes.
  • Smelling the brew at Step 4 can assist you to define different flavors once you start tasting.