A coffee tasting is very different from the typical coffee drinking experience. You taste to learn about the coffee, to describe the entire sensory experience that you have when you sip and smell it. We think it’s nice to taste with other people to share your experience and learn from each other.
So, how do you get the most out of a coffee tasting? We’ve got five tips for you (including cupping instructions):
1. Visit open cuppings
A cupping is a very specific type of coffee tasting, and usually they’re held by roasteries and coffee bars. By going to open cuppings, you can learn about coffee from the people who know most about it. Follow your favorite roasteries and bars on social media to learn about events near you, or visit Mindful Coffee Tasting Experience at the Amsterdam Coffee Festival!
2. Compare different coffees.
It’s hard to assess a coffee on its own. Comparing multiple coffees to each other is much easier, and more fun! Try them all, then list the differences you notice. Is one more acidic? Is another more floral? Maybe two of them are chocolatey, but one slightly more chocolatey than the other! Comparison is the fastest way to learn how to describe different coffees.
3. Beware of outside influence!
Your environment has a huge influence on your taste experience: smells, colours, sounds, and the opinions of the people around you will affect your perception of the coffees you’re trying. If your neighbor is raving enthusiastically about the banana flavour notes in her coffee, chances are her words will influence your taste buds! So, if you’re tasting with others, try to do it quietly. Write down your thoughts, then share your experiences after you’re all done tasting.
4. The Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel
The flavour wheel is a collaboration between the SCA and World Coffee Research. They designed it as a tool to help people analyze and describe coffees. To see the wheel and learn how to use it, check out this article about the Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel on SCA news.
5. Do a Cupping at home
What you need:
Filtered Water – Kettle – Selection of Fresh Keen Coffees – Scale (0.01 gram increments) – Grinder – Timer – Cupping bowls or cups of the same size (2 per coffee) – Cupping spoons – Glasses filled with water (1 per taster) – Spitting cups – Cupping forms – Pens – Napkins – Coffee lovers
- Measure the whole beans into cups. Keep track of which is which by assigning a number to each coffee and tagging each cup with the corresponding number (use a sticky note, or a bit of tape).
- Use two cups per coffee being evaluated, and use the ratio of 55 grams of coffee per 1 litre of water.
- Start your water kettle and bring it to a boil (95 degrees celsius).
- Grind each cup individually by emptying the beans from your tasting cup into the grinder, grind all of the coffee at a coarse setting, and then put the grinds back into the tasting cup.
- Always cleanse the grinder before each new batch by grinding a small amount of the next batch of beans and then discarding those grinds.
- Use the time before the kettle has boiled and after the coffee is ground, to smell and evaluate the coffee from each sample.
- When the water is boiled, remove it from the heat. You want it to be 95 degrees celsius when you pour.
- Pour the water into your cups in the order that you ground the coffees (the oldest grind gets water first.)
- Pour slowly, making sure all the coffee grounds are saturated – try to avoid any dry clumps on the top of the coffee.
- Start your 4 minute timer.
- Smell the coffee and note the aromas.
- After the 4 minutes is up, get your face close to the cup, take your cupping spoon and puncture the ground crust while breathing in the aromatics that waft up. This is called ‘breaking the crust, and it’s awesome!
- Gently scoop the crust out of the cups with 2 cupping spoons.
- Rinse off your spoons and repeat the process with each coffee.
- Begin tasting the coffees (about 10 minutes after you started the timer), by taking a spoonful at a time and “slurping” it into your mouth.
- Rinse your spoons (in the water-filled glasses) between each cup. The goal is to avoid cross-contamination of the samples.
- Move around the table, sampling every cup. Evaluate each coffee, noting the flavour, aroma, acidity, body, balance, and after taste on your cupping form.
- It is totally ok to spit out your slurps of coffee as you go so as not to get over caffeinated, that’s what the spitting cups are for!
- Once you’ve tasted each coffee, and finished taking notes, reveal the names of the coffees that you’ve tried.
- Does your evaluation match the description of the coffee on the bag? Did any of the coffees surprise you? How did your experience match up with the other tasters?
- Share your experience with #keenoncoffee
selected with care