Coffee Cupping for Beginners (Tasting Guide)


Coffee Cupping refers to the famous coffee-tasting events that are held in the same manner no matter where in the world you are. Cupping requires so little besides just the coffee you’re going to test, that it’s incredibly easy to replicate. That’s why these cupping events are the international way of tasting coffee.

In case you were planning to attend any of these cupping events –and every enthusiast should try to attend one at least once! We’ve prepared a short but handy beginner’s guide of what each phase of coffee cupping entails.

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The Aroma 

The first part of a cupping event is smelling the dry, freshly grounded coffee. You’ll have several samples that you have to get close to and sniff. What you can attempt to do in this first part is trying to identify whether this coffee is a light roast of a dark roast. Search for any smell that might give away whether the coffee beans were well cooked or, instead, were in the roaster for a short period. Need some tips to know how to differentiate from light and dark roasts? Check out “Light vs Dark Roast Coffee” for more.

The second part of cupping comes once water has been poured onto the coffee grounds. Heat is crucial for the release of smell, so it’s not a surprise that now is when coffee is going to give you its peak aromatic qualities. As soon as you can, get your nose close (careful, it’s hot!) and let yourself enjoy the sweet smell of coffee. Look here for further proof of the kind of roast you’re tasting. Any scent that has hints of citrus, maybe flowery qualities indicates lighter, and maybe underdeveloped coffee. In contrast, smoky and pungent smells are indicators that you’re smelling a well-developed, darker roast.

Take a look at our piece “Coffee Insight: Colombian VS French Roast” and see different types of roasts and what makes them different from one another.

The Taste and the Flavor 

It is said that taste only concerns the tongue, while the flavor is a complex sensation that involves both the tongue and the nose. The role of the nose in the perception of flavor is significant. Taste can only be composed of the five different types of “taste” that the tongue can perceive: bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and umami.

But our sense of smell is much more complex, and it can identify and recognize thousands of different scents. This is when something called retronasal olfaction comes into play. What this means, is that you’re going to have to slurp coffee loudly. The slurping of coffee allows for the compounds of flavor to reach your nose faster and, more importantly, in greater quantities than if you were just to smell the coffee.

Slurping loudly might prove a little too difficult for you at first because it does not seem like it would be socially acceptable. But in the world of professional cupping, the louder you slurp, the higher you rank like a pro.

Check out “What is the Strongest Coffee in the World?” to see strong coffees that give off that strong aroma.

In this phase of cupping, you’re going to taste the coffee. It’s okay to rely on your tongue a little, but most of the flavor of the coffee has to be picked up by your nose. So, once you’ve tasted the coffee… Get to slurping!

Once the coffee is cold, then comes the second part of tasting: Tasting cold coffee. Some qualities are difficult to appreciate when the coffee’s still hot, hence this second round of tasting. During this part, you’re going to want to focus on the acidity of the coffee, and you’ll be able to appreciate other subtle qualities like at which part of the bittersweet spectrum is located the coffee you’re tasting.

Don’t get confused between cold coffee and an iced one. Take a look at “What’s the Difference Between Cold Brew & Iced Coffee?” for more info.

Enjoy yourself while tasting coffee. Your experience and your ability to evaluate coffee will be significantly eclipsed if you’re worried you’re doing something wrong, or whether you look like a newbie or not. Also, you might be provided with a bowl for you to spit in. Don’t hesitate to use it if you’re going to be tasting a lot of coffee, because otherwise, you might end up way too caffeinated.

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out other helpful content for beginners just as you’re getting used to different coffee tastes like “American Original: Breve for Beginners” or “7 Beginner Mistakes when Brewing Coffee“.

Are you a coffee lover? Of course you are! Become a part of our exclusive Coffee Sesh Facebook Group, Daily Coffee Talk, and join our expanding coffee community. And don’t forget— we’re on Pinterest and Instagram! Check us out for daily coffee content.

We’ll brew ya later! ☕️

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