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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Coffee Cupping

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a coffee cupping, including a new coffee bean from Bali that my local coffee shop, Zocalo Coffee House has just brought in. One of the things that coffee roasters face is how to roast a new bean. Every season the harvest brings in new beans, which must have new roast profiles and blends developed. Here is what it is all about, a glass of coffee, ready for tasting.

Cupping is an interesting process with specific timing and processes designed to optimize the tasting of each bean or roast. In the photo above, you can see the variety of colors that form on the crust, these are the oils that carry the aromas of the coffee. This is a key part of the process, with the crust formed and the coffee grounds steeping, you can get a really good sense of the nose of the coffee. This happens to be the El Salvador we cupped today.
Here are the beans, cupping spoons and grinds in the cupping glasses.  Cupping is often performed either in glasses or wide cups, the idea being you can see the depth of color and concentration of the coffee without being thrown off by colors. I prefer glass, as it is easier to me, to see with a little light shining in. Colors can range from a translucent reddish mahogany all the way to the dark brown and opaque color of darker roasts.
This is a shot of the cupping form we used today, there are a variety of elements of taste, texture and finish that can be noted on each sheet. This is a good way to keep reviews organized and in the long run, many people like to keep these for a record to check against. I don't really use them, as I have a mediocre palate for taste, I prefer to use a scale...Gak!, Meh!, Okay, Good, Great, OMFG I need this!.  It works for me.
And when it is all done, nothing but the mess for someone else to deal with.

Linky: Zocalo

For the record:
Bali - Medium roast, Nose is very interesting with chocolate, fruit and meaty notes, no burnt or smoky notes on nose. Flashy and bright, strong flavors of chocolate and red berries with undertones of loam when hot, as it cooled, flavors moved towards blueberry with hints of floral tones. Texture was very nice with a good presence on the tongue. Very abrupt finish, especially notable upon cooling.

El Salvador - Light roast, low extraction, nose in nice/uninteresting.  Initial taste is mild and simple without a lot of complexity. Upon cooling, flavors of loam, dried fruit and spice comes forward, this tastes really good at 60F. Texture was light and thin when hot, improving greatly when cool, showing some grip on the tongue.

Ethiopian - Medium roast, Nose is complex showing earth, spice and light floral tones, light sense of smoke is present. Taste was excellent showing a typical African continent profile of cocoa, fruit and nuts, something I like. Interestingly, this coffee cups better when swallowed, it lacks when spit. Finish was excellent and persisted even as it cooled.

CoBra - Blended Columbian Brazilian. The nose was very strong with a pronounced smoky/charcoal aroma. And this is from someone who smells like BBQ all the time. Flavor is intense and highly extracted with strong tones of caramel and smoke. The finish is strong with a gripping acidity and strong drying feeling.


  1. At the end I made a little blend of 2 parts Ethiopian, 2 parts El Salvadore, and 1 part Bali and it was really nice. It had a great initial zing with the fruity-ness of the Bali and the finish was long and earthy with some nice nutty cocoa tones. Might not work as well when hot, but mixing the cooled coffees was really delicious. I suspect it might make a fantastic espresso.

    (The place of the cupping was Zocalo Coffeehouse, for anyone wondering.)

  2. There is a link, I have no idea what you are talking about Tim. :-)