Coffee; we drink it in the morning to start our day and guzzle it down in the evening to stay awake. For many, the beverage that keeps most people in motion is taken for granted. But to others coffee brewing takes an almost artistic craftsmanship. Since the 19th century, the coffee cupping process has grown and taken brewing to another level entirely. So much has the practice grown a special organization, the Specialty Coffee Association, formed to set quality standards for coffee cupping.

Coffee Cupping Process

In basic terms, coffee cupping is the practice of studying the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. The coffee taster begins the process by inhaling the coffees scent. With the aroma filling the taster’s nose the smell is analyzed and labeled with one of several choices such as: nuttiness, rancidness, or spiciness just to list a few.

Once the coffee’s aroma has been analyzed the taster takes a large sip of the coffee to determine the taste. When the taster sips he or she spreads the coffee along their tongue to first judge the body texture. Thickness or lack thereof is measured then taster begins to work on the coffee’s taste. Ashy, caramel, earthy, and floral, are just some of the descriptions given to the coffee’s flavor. Once body and taste are completed the taster determines the after taste and acidity level, concluding the cupping process.

Anyone can begin coffee cupping. To be a master taster on the other hand, requires a more skilled pallet and ability to detail the coffee’s taste and smell to a higher degree. Such is the skill of these masters that many coffee shops and makers hold master tasters in high regard. This can be taken to greater length as the Specialty Coffee Association harnesses a numbered rating system for coffee cupping along with other protocols.

The black beverage many begin their day with may seem simplistic and forgettable. But coffee cupping takes coffee past mere guzzling to a rank of culinary art. Not bad for a drink nicknamed simply as “Joe”.