Taste panels operate in a number of food industries. In the coffee industry, the term used for coffee tasting is “cupping”. At Gaviña we cup our coffee frequently to ensure that only the best quality coffee reaches our customers. There are eight basic steps to a cupping session.
First, roast the green coffee to the desired roast degree. Roasting is a very delicate process that requires the application of perfect temperature and perfect timing. If the temperature is too low the beans will bake, and if it is too high they will burn. Once the beans have reached the desired roast, they are emptied out of the roaster into a receptacle where the beans are quickly cooled.
Once the roasted beans have cooled, they are ground. It is important to clean the grinder between every batch to ensure that the coffee doesn’t take on the flavor of the beans that were ground before. For instance, if you grind a batch of Vanilla Nut and then follow with a batch of 100% Colombia Supremo without cleaning the grinder in between, your Colombia will inadvertently pick up some of the Vanilla flavor. In a cupping session where the coffee is closely evaluated for taste and aroma, any residue from a previous ground is likely to throw off the entire session.
Place approximately 7 grams of freshly ground coffee in each of 2 to 5 ceramic cups and pour fresh water that is just off the boil over it. Never pour boiling water on coffee as it will scald the grounds and give the brew a bitter taste. The perfect temperature for the water to hit the grounds is between 198° F and 205° F.
Breaking the Surface
When the hot water hits the grounds and the cup is filled, a crust forms on top. Put your nose close to the brew and break the crust with a deep spoon while inhaling the aroma. Stir twice while inhaling. Stop stirring the coffee to allow the grounds to settle at the bottom of the cup.
Cleaning the Surface
Next, scoop up and discard the foam that has formed on the surface with a deep spoon. An easy trick for collecting the foam along the side of the cup, making it easier to scoop up, is to gently blow on it.
During a cupping session, it is considered not only good manners but absolutely crucial to slurp loudly. Fill your cupping spoon with coffee and suck it into your mouth with a swift slurp.
Keep the coffee in your mouth, swirling it across your taste buds, and look for different characteristics. No coffee is one-dimensional and you are likely to find a whole spectrum of tastes to evaluate. Gaviña’s seasoned cuppers know what to look for and what tastes should and should not be prevalent in any given coffee.
Once you’ve swirled the coffee in your mouth long enough to evaluate the different flavors, gently spit it out. In order to keep your taste buds fresh for the next coffee, the brew is not swallowed during a cupping session. Cleanse your palate with fresh water or a cracker, if needed.