THIS SMELLS AWESOME!
What is it that you enjoy the most out of a cup of coffee? Is it the aroma as you grind it, the fragrance of the brewed cup, the deep flavors while you drink it or the pleasant aftertaste? Because all of these aspects of coffee are appreciated and make up the coffee experience as a whole, it is important that beans are roasted in a way that maximizes each of these features.
The SCAA, or Specialty Coffee Association of America, is an organization founded in 1982 that is dedicated to (surprise!) specialty coffee. Its members include roasters, importers, exporters and manufacturers of coffee-related equipment. It strives to standardize aspects of the coffee industry to provide individuals – who naturally have their own preferences and tastes – with a reference to evaluate coffee.
No, it’s NOT what you think. Cupping is ‘coffee talk’ for the process used to evaluate those aspects of coffee that we love: aroma, flavor, body, aftertaste. Because things like water temperature, water quality, ratio of coffee grounds to water and brewing time can all change the flavor of coffee, each of these variables has to be controlled every time for each kind of coffee.
Cupping can be militant or laid back, depending on the individuals. The SCAA definitely lies on the militant side of the spectrum. According to the SCAA Protocols in 2009, the environment for cupping should be “[well lit, clean, with no interfering aromas, quiet, have cupping tables, be at a comfortable temperature, and have limited distractions, such as cell phones].” Comfortable underwear and shoes also a must.
Coffee cupping begins by smelling the dry coffee grounds. A specified amount of coarsely ground coffee is then placed in a cup, and water that is just below the boiling point is poured over it. The coffee is allowed to steep for 3 – 5 minutes, after which time the ‘crust’ that forms at the top is broken with a spoon. Concurrently, the cupper is to inhale deeply to catch that first waft of perfume floating up from the cup. Following this, the grounds are stirred and floating grounds are scooped out. At this point, cuppers finally taste the coffee. A spoonful of coffee is taken and vigorously slurped (inhaled, really) so that it is ‘vaporized’ within the mouth, judged by the cupper, then unceremoniously spat out.
So what‘s looked for in a coffee? Acidity, flavor, aftertaste, body, balance, sweetness and cleanliness. At 23 Degrees Roastery, we cup our coffees regularly to ensure that our roasting and our blends provide the best profile and balance to each of our coffees.