Learn to appreciate the subtler flavors of your coffee by cupping like a pro—you can do it at home.

What Is Coffee Cupping, and Why Should You Do It?
Photo by Alex Farnum
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At our Beverly Hills café, Aharon Vaknin encourages all of his customers who purchase coffee beans to “cup” their coffee at home using the pour-over method or French press method.

Even though professional coffee cupping is more rigorous, detailed, and time-consuming than wine tasting, coffee can and should also be evaluated, or “cupped” at home by you and me and everyone who buys good quality coffee beans and would like to appreciate them beyond the “aaahhhh” moment of waking up with that first heavenly sip.

Before you cup your coffee, do not wear any lotions, colognes, or perfumes that might distract your senses. Have a notepad handy and take notes on aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. Use the SCA Coffee Cupping Flavor Wheel for reference. 

Use good water at the right temperature (SCA standard is 200°), make sure the beans are ground properly, and brew your cup. We love our OXO Gooseneck kettle to keep the pour even and the water at the right temperature.

Start by sniffing and smelling the coffee aroma. Aroma correlates to the taste and flavor profile. Do you smell toasted almonds? An herbal earthiness? If you have brewed our Ethiopia Dry Natural beans, I can guarantee you will smell strawberries or papaya!

Next, slurp. You don’t want to burn your tongue with your first slurp, so be sure the coffee has cooled a bit!

The idea behind the slurp is to taste the coffee across the whole mouth, and also to continue to evaluate the aroma. A proper tasting technique will ensure aromatic runoff, or something Willem Boot, founder of Boot Coffee Campus describes as a “retro-nasal tasting technique.”

What do you taste, smell, and detect? A hint of baker’s chocolate or milk chocolate? An aftertaste of lemon rind? (Good coffee can often have a lemony hint. This is considered “bright” but should not taste sour.) Or does your coffee have a clean aftertaste?

Cup Like a Pro

  1. Plan to cup your coffee in three to five 5-oz cups for each coffee you cup, to ensure uniformity.
  2. Weigh coffee beans. The SCA cupping ratio is 8.25g of coffee to 150 ml of water.
  3. Purge your burr grinder with a small amount of coffee, then grind beans with a texture slightly coarser than for drip.
  4. Pour grinds into and evaluate aroma of (dry) ground coffee in cups.
  5. Pour water (heated to SCA standard 200°) in each of the cups as you start a timer. Make sure each cup has the same amount of water.
  6. After 4 minutes, break the crust with a spoon, push crust aside, and evaluate aroma. Repeat for a total of three times for each coffee.
  7. You may use two spoons to skim off the grounds, foam, and oils.
  8. After another 4 minutes, fill your spoon with the liquid, slurp the coffee, and aspirate over your tongue to taste. Spit into cup, dip spoon into clean drinking water. Repeat this step 2 more times, with a 4- 5-minute interval between each time.

Because of the way we roast our coffee, there is one flavor note Aharon Coffee will never have: the taste of charcoal. Charcoal flavor almost always can be detected in dark-roasted coffee, and it is one of the reasons Aharon advises coffee drinkers to steer clear of it. 

The slurp will also inform you as to the coffee’s mouthfeel, or texture. Is the coffee bold and rich? Smooth, with a medium mouthfeel? Or is it light-bodied? Does the coffee have a balanced, harmonious play of flavors?

The wonderful thing about cupping at home is that it can give you a great appreciation for the coffee you have invested in. We believe coffee should do more than just make you feel great—it should also bring you great joy and fun.

Happy cupping!

Essential Coffee Gear

The Gooseneck KettleThe Cold-Brew System
The Digital ScaleThe High-End Espresso Maker
The Burr GrinderThe Pour-Over Stand
AeroPressThe French Press
ChemexThe Smart Mug
The All-in-One Espresso Maker

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