Coffee Cupping: The process that brings the best out of each bean


Most people enter a coffee shop, order there coffee and move on with there day. Yet, behind the scenes there is SO much that goes into preparing that espresso, latte or whatever your drink of choice may be. From where the beans are grown, how they are roasted to the testing of the beans to ensure they taste just right. One of the practices we run often at Fratello is QA (quality assurance). We sat down with head coffee roaster, David Schindel as he walked us through a process known as cupping. This practice is a routine test to evaluate the beans and access any adjustments that need to be made in the roasting process to bring out the best flavours.

What is quality assurance and how often do you do it?

Quality assurance is testing our current offerings through cupping and making sure it meets the same quality standards as it did when it was first profiled, within reason. We constantly are testing our product our goal is to make sure we taste all of our offerings at least once a month, some of the special offerings are done every week.

What exactly is cupping?

Cupping is a sensory exercise, it starts by smelling the grinds of the coffee then pouring water on them and testing the aroma with the water on it. After a steep time of four minutes we do what is called a break, essentially breaking the crust the grounds and oil of the coffee has formed at the top of the cup, this is another aroma test as well. Once it has been broken and the grounds and oils have been cleared off the top we wait until the coffee is at a temperature that we can taste without burning our tongues that usually occurs around the 10 minute mark. We then grade it on 6 characteristics, Flavour/Taste, Acidity, Aftertaste, Balance, Body and Overall impression as per the SCAA standards. This is done from when the coffee was hot to when it reaches almost room temperature to ensure no changes happen well it is cooling.

Explain what you are looking for during this process?

We are looking for any changes in the roast, which will show its self in one of the 6 characteristics.


What changes can you make post this process to ensure higher quality?

We make changes to the profile of the coffee so the next time it is roasted we will correct any changes that have occurred through the coffee aging. Sometimes this involves a simple change to the Final roasting temperature to lighten or darken the coffee and other times we need to rethink the whole profile to account for flavours that we find due to the coffees age.
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