Coffee buyers perform ‘cuppings’ to evaluate coffees objectively, which is very in-depth and sometimes long process – but the fruits of these labours are definitely in the tasting when the beans finally reach your cup at home or in your local coffee bar The SCAA’s (Specialty Coffee Association of America) scoring system is most commonly used for this evaluation. Coffees are given a maximum overall score out of 100 for things like; aroma, flavour and mouthfeel (texture). A coffee that achieves a score of 85 or higher is regarded as ‘specialty’ grade. These coffees have no defects and have a very distinctly pleasant flavour profile – at Modern Standard we pride ourselves on roasting speciality beans.
By scoring coffees on; aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, sweetness, cleanliness, uniformity and balance, the cupping process helps industry professionals select which coffees to buy, and identify different attributes which can be useful for roasters when formulating blends (blends are made up of a combination of roasted beans that compliment each other).
A cupping sample, once the hot water is added to coarsely ground coffee a layer of crust will form on the top.
The cupping process follows quite a strict set procedure: 8.25g of coarsely ground coffee is measured into a shallow cup, specifically designed for cupping (I know right!). 150ml of water heated to 92˚C is added, and left for 4 minutes. Next, a spoon is used to break and remove the ‘crust’, which provides the first opportunity to sample the coffee’s aroma (get your nose right in there and give it three sharp sniffs… just don’t burn yourself!). After a further 6 minutes, the cupper begins to taste the coffee. Different attributes are evaluated at intervals as the coffee cools.
Fragrance and Aroma
70˚C – 60˚C: Acidity and Body:
Coffees expected to be high in acidity, such as a Kenya coffee, or coffees expected to be low in acidity, such as a Sumatra coffee, can receive equally high preference scores although their intensity rankings will be quite different.
Coffees expected to be high in body, such as a Sumatra coffee, or coffees expected to be low in body, such as a Mexican coffee, can receive equally high preference scores although, like acidity, their intensity rankings will be quite a lot different.
Taints and faults
One coffee can taste dramatically different depending on the processing method (washed, semi-washed or natural).
Washing coffees increases the acidity, whilst semi-washed gives a honeyed sweetness to the coffee. The natural processing method can increase the sweetness, and can also encourage development of more obscure flavour notes including strawberry, blueberry and creamy notes – it sounds a bit mad at first but with the help of the flavour wheel (above) and a lot of tasting these notes really do shine through!
Tasting coffee at home can be really fun; exploring what a coffee can offer in terms of flavour, sweetness and any other attribute is exciting and really opens the doors to the myriad of speciality coffees that are out there. Try coffees processed using different methods, it’s fascinating to see how this can change the taste of the coffee. We like to offer as much information about our coffee as possible and your local speciality coffee shop can offer advice on which coffees are in season. Many will even offer beans for you to experiment with at home.
If you want to learn more about our wide range of speciality coffees, or to share your tasting experience with us you can. Simply leave a comment or get in touch with us directly.
There’s a coffee out there for everyone, enjoy tasting it!