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Cupping: The art of sampling coffee

Coffee tasting, called “cupping,” is the art and skill of exploring the aroma, flavor, mouth feel and overall quality of a coffee. Cupping coffee is a daily ritual at The Roasterie. It helps us maintain consistency among our award-winning lineup of coffees, gives us an opportunity to sample potential new blends, and keeps us energized, excited and totally engaged with our product. It’s also a great excuse to have a cup of coffee.

Cupping is a fairly regimented and structured process, practiced identically by professional cuppers across the entire coffee industry. It's akin to a sommelier discerning the components of a fine wine; however, cupping depends upon many controlled variables built into the process.

Each sample is cupped exactly the same way:

  1. Fragrance analysis of the dry, freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee.
  2. Five ounces of hot water, between 195°F and 205°F, is added to 8.25 grams of coarsely ground coffee. Coarse is a standard of coffee grind, a uniform 1000- micron particle size.
  3. Aroma analysis for one to two minutes.
  4. Breaking of the "crust" of floating coffee grounds with a preheated spoon and additional aroma analysis as the spoon is pushed to the bottom of the cup.
  5. After the coffee has cooled slightly, the spoon is used to scoop out enough coffee for sampling. The coffee is quickly and quite literally slurped off the spoon and aspirated over the entire tongue.
  6. After the coffee has cooled more thoroughly, the slurp and aspiration are repeated.
  7. The coffee is critiqued for a dozen characteristics including its aroma, flavor, acidity, aftertaste and body.

Cupping isn’t easy. Just ask The Roasterie’s president and owner Danny O'Neill, he has been invited to serve as a coffee judge throughout the country and the world. Cupping requires a fair amount of training and experience for the brain to discern and categorize the signals from the eyes, nose and tongue.

Next time you pour a cup of The Roasterie coffee, skip the cream and sugar and try your tongue at cupping a bit of your brew. Just remember: trust yourself by practicing regularly, and be open to learning from cupping veterans. And if you take a tour of The Roasterie, you might even get to try cupping with a master like Danny.