Coffee Cupping at Home: How to Identify Tasting Notes

Coffee Cupping (or tasting) at home is easy to do and a lot of fun.   When on the lookout for specialty coffee, it’s common to see tasting notes like “floral” or “citrus” written on the bag. But when you go to try the coffee yourself, and all you taste is coffee, it can be discouraging. It can make you feel like you’re just not naturally inclined to picking up flavour notes.   What we want to show you, is how you can identify tasting notes in your favorite coffee. 

Coffee cupping

The truth is, tasting coffee is a skill that you acquire over time, and it requires you to develop a flavour palette. As a beginner, the best way to do this is a coffee cupping session at home.

But don’t worry–this isn’t a test. You don’t need to pull out an official coffee cupping score sheet and mathematically evaluate each coffee. Coffee cupping at home is meant to be fun, and it’s a great place to start when it comes to identifying tasting notes. 

Before we show you how to do a cupping session, we’ll answer some common questions. We’ll go over the flavour categories that you’re assessing, the list of tools you’ll need, and the type of coffee to use. 

Coffee cupping

What is coffee cupping?

Coffee cupping is when you brew several different coffees at once and taste them all separately, recording your findings. The brewing is done quite simply by pouring hot water directly over the grounds in a cup. The coffee is sipped with a cupping spoon to assess flavour. 

Coffee cupping is an industry practise normally conducted by coffee importers to gauge coffee quality. Each coffee receives a score out of 100. By definition, specialty coffee is coffee that receives at least 80 points out of 100. 

Cupping is also done by roasters as a form of quality control, or by coffee shops when they’re choosing coffees to put on their menu.

Our previous blog about coffee cupping is based around the SCAA cupping form, but this guide will teach you how to do it at home. While you’ll be focusing on identifying flavours, you won’t need the SCAA sheet (phew!). 

Coffee cupping table

What’s the point of coffee cupping at home?

Cupping at home lets you try a whole variety of coffees at once. Trying them out side-by-side gives you a reference point, helping you spot the differences between them. This will help you develop your flavour palette.

Though there are many other factors determining flavour, every coffee origin has its own characteristic flavour notes. Trying out single origin coffees from different regions is a great place to start when identifying flavour notes. 

Coffee cupping is also fun for budding coffee enthusiasts. It’s especially fun to do with a small group of friends. Because you need a few different varieties of coffee to do a home cupping session, you can send your friends home with the leftover coffee that didn’t get brewed. 

Coffee aroma

What am I looking for when cupping coffee?

When doing your coffee cupping session, you’ll want to record your findings on a sheet of paper. Let’s say you want to try 4 coffees. Make 4 columns on your sheet of paper. Write the name or origin of the coffee, and a line for the following categories. 

Coffee aroma

What if I don’t have words to describe the coffee?

When you’re stumped for words, you can always consult this interactive flavour wheel. It’s not cheating to read up on all the ways a coffee can taste. Rather, it gives you a vocabulary to describe what a coffee reminds you of. It’ll help you in the future when you encounter challenging coffees. 

Coffee cupping tools

What do I need for coffee cupping at home?

Here’s the list of supplies and ingredients you’ll need for a successful home coffee cupping session.

Coffee cupping

What coffee should I use?

For coffee cupping at home, we recommend trying at least 4 types of coffee with different flavour notes. Great options include Ethiopia Guji Uraga, Bolivia Buena Vista, Kenya Kiambu AA, and Costa Rica El Poeta.

What ratio is best for coffee cupping?

For coffee cupping, you’ll want a weaker ratio than a pour over. The pour over ratio is 1:16, but you’ll want a 1:17 ratio (1 part coffee, 17 parts water). So, if you’re using 12 grams of coffee, you’ll need 200 mL of water. Weaker ratios help you identify tasting notes better. 

Coffee tasting

Ready to start cupping coffee? Let’s go!

How to cup coffee at home

  1. Measure out 12 grams each of the different types of coffee. Be careful to purge the grinder between varieties to avoid mixing coffees. Place the grounds into 4 separate bowls. 
  2. Smell the dry grounds, and record your findings.
  3. Pour hot water (30-60 seconds off the boil) directly up to the top of the bowls, making sure to saturate all the grounds. Set a timer for 4 minutes, and let the bowls sit.
  4. After 4 minutes, the grounds will have floated to the top. Smell the wet aroma, and record your findings. 
  5. Break the crust by using a spoon to stir the grounds and let them sink to the bottom. This stops the brewing process. Use two spoons to catch the remaining grounds floating on top, and rinse your spoons. After you’ve broken the crust, the coffee will still be very hot. Wait an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Once it’s cooled to the point of being drinkable, grab your sheet of paper and pencil, and it’s time to start evaluating the coffee. Take a spoonful of the coffee, and audibly slurp it to spray it across your mouth. This helps you assess all aspects of the flavour. 
  7. Write your findings under each heading: flavour, cleanliness, aftertaste, acidity, body, and sweetness. Do this for each type of coffee until you’re done. Coffee tasting

    Not your average cup of joe

    Congratulations on your first coffee cupping! We hope you found the experience fun. You may have liked some of the coffees more than others, and you may have even disliked some of them. This is all normal–everyone has their own personal taste. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what flavours you like best.

    Cupping coffee at home is simply an exercise of curiosity. Developing your flavour palette takes time, and you have to drink many coffees before you start to notice patterns. Once you’re familiar with tasting notes, you’ll enjoy coffee so much more going forward. Rather than treating coffee like a caffeine fix, you’ll start to treat it with a sense of wonder. 

    We hope your coffee cupping journey brings you joy and intellectual stimulation. May your cup runneth over!

    Want to learn more about the ins and outs of specialty coffee? Check out our article on how to read a coffee label like a pro!



 



How to Make AeroPress Coffee

When you’re craving a short, strong and delicious pick-me-up, look no further than the AeroPress. The AeroPress method is a favourite for coffee lovers because it does justice to specialty coffee with perfect, even extraction. If you’re finding your morning coffee routine is taking too long or isn’t tasting to your liking, consider adding this to your arsenal.  Read the rest of this article to find out how you can make AeroPress coffee yourself. 

AeroPress Coffee Maker

AeroPress style coffee is so established and beloved that there are even barista world championships for the best AeroPress. But don’t let that make you think it’s too complicated for you to master. On the contrary, making a delicious AeroPress is easy! Follow our complete guide to making a perfect AeroPress for a delicious single cup.

What does an AeroPress coffee taste like?

The AeroPress makes a small, bold cup of coffee with lots of clarity (ie. no sludge or coffee grind particles). While it does have the element of immersion just like a French press, it doesn’t have the same grittiness. In a way, it combines the best of a French press (immersion) and a pour over (clarity). The fine filter stops a lot of particles from passing through.

The brew ratio for an AeroPress is different from a standard pour over or drip coffee. While the ratio of a standard pour over is 1:16, the aeropress ratio is 1:13 (1 part coffee, 13 parts water). This makes for a strong tasting coffee. 

AeroPress Coffee process

What are the benefits of an AeroPress?

The AeroPress is a favourite for many reasons. It’s a great travel accessory for the stubborn coffee connoisseur. It works well if you’re staying in a hotel in another city where good coffee is scarce. It’s also perfect as a low-tech method of making coffee while camping or day-hiking.

The AeroPress is known for being easy to transport. Because it’s made of plastic, it’s shatterproof, virtually indestructible, and lightweight. And because it’s relatively small, it doesn’t take up too much room in your bag. 

It’s made of BPA-free plastic, so you don’t have to worry about plastic leaching from pouring hot water into the chamber. Generally, pouring hot (or even warm) water into plastic is not recommended as it can release harmful toxins.

After brewing, the AeroPress is easy to clean. Just hover over the organics bin and push the plunger until the spent coffee puck pops out. Then, rinse the outer part of the plunger to remove leftover grinds. 

The biggest benefit of the AeropPress is that it makes a truly delicious cup of coffee, and fast. It’s perfect if you’re craving a small, strong, delicious cup.

Is the AeroPress for me?

If you were hoping to make a large amount of coffee for a group, the AeroPress might not be for you. While you can make multiple cups, it’ll take some time, and everyone will have to wait their turn. For multi-serve options, check out the Chemex Classic 6 cup or the Hario Craft Coffee Maker.

If strong coffee isn’t your jam, you might not enjoy the AeroPress method. The 1:13 brew ratio makes for a strong cup. You might want to choose a brew method with a weaker ratio, like the pour over method, which has a ratio of 1:16.

Hario Kettle

How to make the perfect AeroPress:

Brew ratio: 

1:13 (1 part coffee, 13 parts water)

What you’ll need:

Pour over Kettle

  1. Begin by boiling your water. By the time you’re ready to brew, it should be about 60 seconds off the boil. For best results, use a gooseneck kettle, or pour your hot water into a heat-proof pitcher with a spout.
  2. Grab a paper AeroPress filter, and place it in the screw-on filter. Place the filter over the sink, and gently pour a bit of boiling water over the filter. This rinses the paper filter, preventing a papery taste. Once the filter is rinsed, screw the filter cap onto the chamber, and place on top of your favourite mug.
  3. Next, measure 17 grams of Fratello coffee. Grind your beans on the burr grinder on a medium-fine setting. The grind should be slightly finer than pour over. Place the grinds into the chamber, and give the chamber a firm tap to level out the coffee bed. Place the chamber on top of a mug, and place the mug on a weight scale. Set it to zero.

Coffee on scale

  1. Pour 220 mL of hot water very quickly over the grinds. Using the stir stick provided, gently stir the slurry to make sure all the grinds are submerged. Place the plunger on top of the slurry, but don’t plunge just yet. Placing the plunger just on top creates a vacuum so the water doesn’t draw down all at once. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
  2. After 2 minutes, begin your plunge. Slowly and gently plunge until you hear a hissing sound. Your AeroPress is ready. Enjoy.

AeroPress troubleshooting

If your AeroPress is tasting less than fantastic, here are some basic troubleshooting tips. You can’t fix a cup that’s already been brewed; just grind some new coffee, and start over. You only need 17 grams of coffee, after all!

Problems and solutions:

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for more tips for brewing that perfect cup of coffee? Check out our article on why you really need a burr grinder!



Does Caffeine Make Office Workers More Efficient?

What’s the thing that can make people wake up at 6 a.m. and waste an hour commuting to work everyday? Well, admittedly, not a lot of things have this effect, but great coffee for offices is potentially just the thing. In a post-lockdown world where employees are dreading returning to their cubicles, great coffee for offices could make the difference.

Computer desk with coffee

It’s harder than ever for employers to convince their workers to come back to the office. Most employers have only succeeded in bringing back their staff a few days a week at most. After two years of lockdown, office employees have enjoyed better sleep, no commuting, unsupervised breaks, and the list goes on. And, they’ve proved that they can be just as productive (if not more productive) working remotely.

However, for those employers who truly do need their employees to return, you’re going to need a bold tactic to bring them back. Read on to find out how great coffee for offices can be a juicy offer. 

Why should I provide good coffee for offices?

Providing great coffee for your office can communicate a lot of things to your employees.

Do you ever shake your head at that employee who shows up late every morning with a take-out coffee in their hand? Try to understand it from their perspective. Getting to work everyday is a grind, not just on account of the long, unpleasant commute, but the work environment. It can be even more difficult for employees who have bosses supervising them all day. Combine a lack of sleep, an early morning, a rough commute, and a job where you can’t relax, and you’d need a coffee, too!

In general, office workers reported feeling drained, anxious and taken-advantage-of pre-pandemic. Introducing a great office coffee program can be one step to making your employees feel valued. It can also make the workspace feel less intimidating, somewhere they can feel comfortable.

Coffee is inherently social, and it can be a way to get your employees to get to know each other. Encouraging socializing can improve staff morale, especially if morale is low. 

Coffee break

Frequent breaks improve productivity

Among employers, there seems to be an importance placed on productivity in the workplace. Many employers don’t seem to understand why surveilling their employees while at work doesn’t make them work harder or better. 

While it may sound counterintuitive, frequent breaks actually make people more productive. People get more work done throughout the day when they take several mini-breaks. Coffee is synonymous with a mid-day break.

In Sweden, there’s a ritual called fika which entails coffee and sweets. In many Scandinavian countries, work culture revolves around a shorter work day, more breaks, and sometimes, a 4-day work week. Studies show Scandinavian workers are just as productive as non-Scandinavian workers. 

Taking breaks during a long day can help workers with their mindset. It’s easier to tackle large projects by breaking them into bite-sized pieces, punctuated by breaks. When work is presented this way, the worker views the project as achievable.

Additionally, offering great coffee in the office can make your employees less likely to wander out for coffee, which can be a time drain.

Open office space

Does caffeine make office workers more efficient?

The main productivity benefits of coffee are down to the breaks that come with it. However, your brain on caffeine is more alert than without caffeine. Office workers generally show up to work tired from lack of sleep due to stress and commute. Caffeine helps to keep workers from nodding off, which is more likely to happen when sitting at a desk. 

Too much caffeine, however, can cause that signature crash. To truly reap the benefits of caffeine, limit your intake to 2 cups a day.

Health benefits of coffee

High quality coffee also comes with some health benefits. Freshly roasted coffee (ie. roasted within the last 2 weeks) contain antioxidants. Antioxidants have powerful anti-aging and disease prevention properties. They reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body. Upping your intake of antioxidant-rich foods is recommended if you live in a big city with air pollution.

In general, great coffee is delicious without the need for excess sugar and milk, making it a healthy, if not harmless, drink. 

Which coffee should I choose?

When choosing coffee, look for crowd-pleasing tasting notes. The majority of coffee drinkers prefer chocolatey, smooth, nutty flavours over bright, fruity flavours. We recommend the Godfather Espresso Blend ™, with milk chocolate and caramel notes. It works well as an espresso and as a drip coffee. 

What’s the best way to offer office coffee?

Depending on your budget, there are a lot of ways to offer up great coffee for offices. If you have a moderate budget, you can invest in a high-quality drip coffee maker. Cheaper drip coffee machines don’t make great coffee, so definitely invest in something good. Drip machines like the Technivorm Moccamaster make delicious coffee. You’ll also want to invest in a proper burr grinder. We recommend the Baratza Encore Grinder.Working with coffee

If you have the budget and have a huge team, you can actually hire an in-house barista for your office. You’ll have to invest in a high-quality espresso machine and grinder, too. 

Setting up great office coffee programs is old hat to us. We work in collaboration with many office coffee service supply companies for offices of all sizes. These companies provide everything from kitchen installation to brewing and cleaning equipment. For help setting up an in-office cafe, get in touch with our consultation team.

Stop and smell the coffee

If you want to improve morale and productivity, offering great coffee for offices is a great move. It shows that you value your workers’ sanity and wellbeing. By offering good coffee, you are being realistic and encouraging your workers to take breaks throughout the day. Sometimes, it just takes a little empathy to understand your employees’ behaviour.

Looking to improve your office coffee program to entice workers to return to the office? Get in touch with our wholesale team, and drop us a line at .



Back-to-school: Tips for Coping with Parental Burnout

The back-to-school season stirs up a lot of emotions depending on who you are. For many, it's the season of excitement, nerves, nostalgia, new beginnings, and the madness of activity. This time of year can bring joy, in the form of hunkering down on studies or reuniting with classmates. But, if you’re a busy working parent, it can mean something entirely different: parental burnout.

Mother and daughter

Sure, the smell of fresh notebooks and the first signs of autumn bring a pleasantness to the air. But it can also be a return to that familiar hamster wheel of eat-work-sleep. Between making lunches, a full-time job, preparing dinner, and taking your kids to and from soccer practise, there’s exactly zero downtime. 

Working a full-time job is stressful enough on its own, but when you add raising kids to the mix, it can be crazy-making. Not only is this compounded stress a crappy feeling, but studies show that chronic stress literally makes us sick. Constant stress leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. High amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone, has been linked to cancer. The mind and the body are more interconnected than previously thought. 

As a parent, it can feel impossible to find some calm. If you continually let your own needs fall to the bottom of the priority list, that’s where they’ll stay. Don’t wait for downtime to occur–be proactive and make your own downtime. 

Here are our 5 tips for beating parental burnout so you can get the school year off to a great start.

5 tips for combatting parental burnout

Meditating woman

Carve out time for meditation 

Meditation, or mindfulness, is the practise of focusing on physical sensations and senses instead of on our thoughts. If you’ve never tried meditation before, you’ll be amazed at the effects on your mind after just 2-4 weeks of doing it regularly. 

Meditation exercises create new pathways in the brain, ie. new habits, new thought patterns, etc. If you tend to catastrophize, regular meditation creates a new, more level-headed way of thinking. 

Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, meditating 5-6 days a week can greatly ease parental burnout. Common meditations you can do anywhere and anytime include deep breathing and body scans. There are several free online guided meditation courses, such as the Palouse Mindfulness course. 

Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. To do something mindlessly would be to do something physical, like walking, without noticing your surroundings or sensations. Instead of focusing on the walk itself, you’d be caught up in thoughts about insecurities, bills, health, etc. A mindful walk, however, would involve focusing on the motion of your hips or the sounds of the birds in the trees. In essence, mindfulness is the practise of living life in the present and not missing what’s around us, however ordinary. 

Fratello coffee

Develop a new relationship with coffee

Sure, coffee contains caffeine, that thing that keeps our eyes open so we can deal with the demands of parenting. But rather than be used as a drug, coffee should be enjoyed. If you’re hitting up the drive-thru multiple times a day for a large triple-triple, you might be leaning on coffee. Parental burnout and too much caffeine tend to go hand-in-hand.

Change your relationship with coffee from one of caffeine addiction to one of mindful enjoyment. Start by drinking better coffee. Use the moment of drinking coffee to fully enjoy it. If you can, take a moment to sit down and enjoy it, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Even the act of making a pour over can be meditative. To fully enjoy the alertness benefits of coffee, try not to drink more than two cups a day.

If coffee isn't your thing, try making a matcha latte at home, and read about the health benefits of matcha.

Soak up parenting wisdom

Regardless of what age your kids are, it never hurts to take parenting classes or read parenting books. Not only will it help you beat parental burnout, but it will strengthen your relationship with your kids. Parenting wisdom can teach you how to deal with tough moments. Sometimes, kids will throw food at the walls or engage in naughty or rebellious behaviour. How you respond to these incidents is what makes the difference.

Parenting wisdom can also open your eyes to some of your own bad habits that you’re not even aware of. It can also demystify how to get kids to chores and homework without antagonizing them. 

A lot of unchecked life trauma can find its way into your family dynamic, damaging relationships. In general, parents can always benefit from seeing a therapist.  Studies show that kids with frazzled parents were much more likely to be stressed themselves

Mother and child

Do fun things with your kids regularly 

A lot of times, a major factor of parental burnout is too much work and not enough play. Regularly engaging in fun activities increases serotonin levels in the brain, the chemical associated with happiness. 

Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as making cookies together on the weekend or going to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Even though it may be tempting to do nothing on the weekends after a draining week, fun is essential to well-being. It’s also a form of bonding with our family. Many parents with grown children report having regrets about not spending enough time with their kids when they’re growing up. 

Have some alone time

While it’s important to bond as a family, it’s equally important to find solitude. Solitude is important to our mental health. Being alone helps us to work through personal struggles, improve our concentration, relax, think deeply, and more. 

When you have kids, you practically never have alone time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have it–it simply means you have to make the time. Protect this time with your life. Book off a day in the calendar to get out of the house and call a babysitter or a relative to watch your kids.

It can be as simple as going to a coffee shop to get a few chapters in or going to the art gallery by yourself. If you let quality alone time fall to the bottom of your to-do list, you’ll become irritable, depressed and anxious. 

child doing homework

Turning parenting into child’s play

Parenting is indeed hard. It requires good time management skills and being “on” more than we’d like. But the mental strain that comes with parental burnout can add an extra layer of “hard” on top of a jam-packed schedule. The key is to set boundaries around your self-care routine and to inject more joy into your life. This school year, get off to a good start, and don’t wait to start implementing self care!






Chemex Coffee : Step by Step Brewing Guide

Brewing coffee with a Chemex is an easy and delicious way to make great pour-over coffee at home. The sleek, hourglass shape of the Chemex is designed to hold coffee grounds in the center and provide a more even extraction.

The Chemex uses a paper filter, which allows for the oils in the coffee beans to remain in the cup while removing sediment that can cause bitterness. The result is a full-bodied, flavourful brew with less acidity and without bitterness or sourness.

As you will see, a Chemex is easy to use.  Enjoy this step by step video.