Coffee cupping, or coffee tasting is the process of evaluating coffee’s flavor and aroma. A formal coffee cupping follows specific guidelines and involves scoring coffee through a standardized grading system. Once coffee is given a score it can then be priced. Often at auctions high scoring coffee can sell for hundreds of dollars per pound. Certified professionals called “Q Graders” (the Sommeliers of the coffee world) will use an objective scoring method to rate a coffee’s quality while also tasting for imperfections and defects.
All of this commonly happens before coffee samples make their way to your favorite roasters. Once these samples are cupped by roasters, the sellers scores are confirmed and tasting notes are verified, often by using scoring sheets. In some instances, coffee is not cupped until it makes its way to the roaster. The roasters will then decide if they would like to purchase the coffee from the seller, given the perceived quality and price. Once the coffee is purchased and received it is then roasted and cupped again in order to ensure that maximum quality is being highlighted through the roasting process.
At Yellow Brick Coffee, once coffee is received, it is roasted several ways and blind tasted in order to find the “roast profile” (roasting recipe) which showcases that coffee's flavor the best. Once this roast is dialed in, the coffee is cupped one last time before being released to the public and then cupped throughout its lifetime in order to maintain quality control.
These days, coffee cuppings are not only for coffee professionals. As people continue to ask questions about where their food comes from and work to improve their palate, coffee cuppings are becoming increasingly popular. Improving one’s sensory perception can be a fun personal challenge. The only way to obtain a more refined palate is to constantly smell and taste. And the best way to improve your palate for coffee is to constantly be cupping.
Our cuppings are public, so if you are in the shop and have participated in cuppings, you are welcome to grab a cupping spoon and join. If you’re a novice and would like to learn more, join us for our monthly classes. We would be happy to teach you!