Ten Tips On How To Judge A Cup of Gourmet Coffee

Professional Coffee Judging

Cuppers are professional coffee tasters with an expertise that is highly valued for detecting defective coffees and creating desirable blends.  There are some general rules Cuppers adhere to when performing a gourmet coffee tasting.  Their goal is to evaluate the flavor profile of the coffee, including the body, aroma, acidity, and aftertaste.

Tip 1: Grind The Coffee

Grind 2 Tablespoons of Premium Gourmet Coffee Into A Small Glass or Porcelain Cup. Use a Burr Grinder.

The grind should be the size of raw sugar, or medium-coarse sand.

The grind should not be too fine or the coffee will over-extract.  At this stage evaluate the fragrance of the beans after grinding.

Tip 2: Pour Near-Boiling Water Onto The Coffee

Use about 6 ounces of water at about 202 degrees Fahrenheit.

CoffeeMan Dan says, “If you don’t have a thermometer, then as soon as the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and let it sit for 25 seconds before pouring.”

Tip 3: Allow the Gourmet Coffee To Steep For 4 Minutes

The coffee grinds should rise to the top and form a thick crust.

Check for any sour or rancid smells.

Tip 4: Break the Crust

Gently break the crust with a spoon.  Silver-plated spoons are preferred because steel and other materials may impart unwanted tastes.  Specially shaped spoons for this purpose facilitate quick slurping and flavor dispersal.  A tablespoon style measuring spoon will suffice, or a European-style “deep bow” tablespoon. The more concave the bowl of the spoon the better.

Place the spoon horizontally to your face near the front lip of the cup and then push the crust toward the back of the cup. As you push the grinds back, inhale and evaluate the gourmet coffee’s aromatic bouquet.

Look for a layer of fine-celled foam.  If it isn’t there that could be an indication that the coffee is not fresh.

Tip 5: Remove the Grinds or Allow the Grinds to Sink to the Bottom

Let the coffee cool down briefly as the grinds sink.

Alternatively, place two cupping spoons near the back of the cup and then pull them forward to meet at the front of the cup and remove the grinds.

Fill your spoon with coffee, trying to avoid any grounds.

Tip 6: Slurp the Gourmet Coffee and Evaluate The Flavors

Clear your head of the aromas and prepare to evaluate taste.

Slurp the coffee one spoonful at a time with some force so it mixes with air and disperses throughout your mouth.

Swirl the coffee around in your mouth as you discern the flavors.  The goal is to coat your entire tongue, “spraying” the coffee across your palate while also inhaling the aromatic elements for full appreciation of the taste.

Evaluate the body—the feel of the coffee in the mouth—and also the acidity.

Evaluate the “nose” of the coffee—the vapors released in the mouth by the coffee—you will experience some of the aroma retro-nasally.

Tip 7: Evaluate the Finish

You may spit out most of the coffee you taste, but also swallow some so you can evaluate the finish and aftertaste—the vapors remaining in the mouth after swallowing.  These aftertaste flavors may be quite different from the initial flavors of the gourmet coffee in your mouth.

Tip 8: Describe the Many Taste Sensations

A Cupper’s goal is to evaluate the flavors—the body, acidity, aftertaste, and aroma. If you are cupping with other, this is a good time to debate the merits of the coffee and compare your evaluations of the qualities and characteristics of the coffee.

Tip 9: Rinse Out Your Mouth

Rinse with water so you have a fresh palette for the next tasting. Also rinse off the spoons.

Try sampling a variety of premium gourmet coffees from different geographical regions to compare and contrast the many qualities of the coffees.

CoffeeMan Dan says, “If you liked this section on Professional Coffee Judging you will love our Gourmet Coffee Tasting Tips and other features of our Barista Training Guide.”


Tip 10: The Cupping Environment

Since you will be the judging the aroma of the premium gourmet coffee, you should perform the cupping in an area free of any strong perfume-like smells.

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Barista Resume
March 25, 2011 at 2:48 am

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