On a fundamental level, coffee cupping is a way to infuse some objectivity into a subjective process. How does one even begin to quantify something based on taste and smell? You can find rulebooks and even take classes on the nuances of coffee cupping. It takes some practice, a controlled setting, and even a little natural talent to be able to truly judge a cup of coffee in a quantified, objective way.
Coffee cupping events must adhere to strict standards. Taste is a multi-faceted issue, and it can be heavily influenced by things outside the cup. That’s why quality control of the cupping environment is critical. It is so important, in fact, that the Specialty Coffee Association of America devotes 10 pages to their coffee cupping policies and procedures manual just to environmental control.
Some of their policies are listed below:
- Concentration of the coffee is strictly standardized: 8.25 grams in a single 7-9 oz, cup (150 ml water)
- The coffee grind is also strictly standardized. It is slightly coarser than typically used for a cup of coffee at home
- All coffee must be roasted 8-12 minutes – checked on objective scales
- Sips must be about teaspoon-sized
- Coffee must be brewed in water with a temperature of 200 degrees F, and then steeped for 3-5 minutes
- The evaluation begins when the coffee temperature is at 160 F and then repeated as the coffee cools
- The crust which forms on the top of each freshly-brewed cup is left for 3 minutes, then broken with 3 stirs before evaluation takes place
In addition, many precautions are taken at a cupping event so the judges are not prejudiced in any way. In Kona’s local cupping contest, for example, the coffees are given different numbers on different days, so no one can favor one coffee over another.
All coffee is judged by the same standard, but different types of coffees are held to different expectations, and the ones that hold true to their distinct region’s attributes score higher. At a Sumatran coffee cupping, for example, high acidity would be a detriment, but the opposite would be true for Kenyan coffee. It’s just another nuance in the objective nature of coffee cupping.
Kona coffee is expected to have a full-bodied taste. Bright, but not bitter. At Crema de Kona, we grow and select only the finest coffee beans, staying true to the character and quality that makes Kona coffee so famous.