Our environments are chaotic. The many variables that you see changing from day to day make it seem impossible to cup consistently. Temperatures drop or rise, you’re having an off day, or the coffee you’re tasting is a bit over-roasted.
Seemingly innocent variables, but they can tamper with your cup results.
If you don’t have a structured way of cupping, chances are you’re not tasting the true potential of a coffee. That’s where a solid cupping protocol can offer solace. A cupping protocol enables you to get a firm grip on consistency, like the protocol of the SCA.
Our Q Graders use the SCA protocol on a day to day basis because they assess more than 3.000 coffees each year. This visual guide walks you through every step of the process. Please take a look at the SCA protocol and learn how we cup your coffee.
We cup every sample blind. But to know which coffee we cupped and assessed, we code every inner lid of the sample boxes.
Once roasted and boxed, we place the samples in random order to ensure blind cupping. Sample codes remain hidden for us until the scoring is complete. We do this to avoid any unconscious bias.
Before we cup, we measure moisture levels, density, and water activity for every incoming sample.
We roast samples one day before we cup, giving the beans 8 to 24 hours to rest and degas. And because the coffee rests, we avoid oxidation of the beans.
Cuppings always happen in the mornings, starting at 10 a.m. latest. This is because our taste pallets are at their best in the early hours of the day.
Although we cup the coffees blind, we do have a specific order. We put the washed coffees at the beginning of the table, and the naturals at the end. As a result, we avoid tasting the intense flavors of naturals before sipping the more delicate washed coffees.
But when we cup Brazils, we place them at the beginning of the table, to make up for profile differences and too high complexity contrasts.
We always cup five cups per sample to:
We use 12 grams of coffee beans per 200 ml. This is because we found that 12 grams, with the right grind size and TDS, gives the best and most round result for each coffee.
The grind size is pivotal. That is why we have specific specs: 70 to 75% need to fall within 900 micron, 20 mesh sieve size.
Before we continue, we want to underline the importance of maintenance. Maintenance enables consistency. We calibrate and check the grind and the TDS regularly and adjust where needed.
We ground coffees right before cupping, never having more than 15 minutes between grinding and pouring water.
Just after grounding the coffee, we use 93 degrees Celsius water and pour it in until the brew reaches the edges of the bowl.
A reverse osmosis system filters the water, with the ppm being above 100 and below 250. We found that a ppm of 150 gives the best cup results in our Amsterdam-based cupping lab.
We use the SCA cupping form, and we taste each coffee two to three times during cupping.
First, we cup while the coffee is hot. Then we evaluate all attributes on warm. And when cold, we go back to the cups that were not uniform or that have possible defects. But we never return to our notes once we identify the coffees by their code.
Now back to you. How do you make sure you cup consistently? Please let us know by reaching out. Also, feel free to ask us any questions about the protocol and how we cup.