Coffee drinkers learned the fine art of “coffee cupping” this week at Joe Sipper’s Cafe in downtown Effingham.
Coffee cupping is a technique used to uncover the “flavor notes” in coffee.
“Coffee cupping is a tool for evaluation,” said local coffee connoisseur Kevin Hiatt. “It’s an opportunity to comprehensively evaluate the coffee.”
The method is used by producers and buyers to check the quality of a batch of coffee. The coffee is scored on several aspects, including cleanness, sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.
Participants evaluated four coffees using the Specialty Coffee Association of America Coffee Cupping Form. Hiatt told the group that their evaluation would help him determine whether he wants to bring these coffee varieties into the store.
The first part of the process involved evaluating the coffee dry. The group evaluated the fragrance of the grounds. Then water was added to the coffee and they evaluated the aroma.
After the coffee sat for a few minutes, they broke the crust. In the time that the water and the coffee have interacted, a thick crust of grounds has settled on the surface. The samplers then put their noses close to the cup and punctured the ground crust while inhaling the aroma and dragging the spoon over the to the edge of the cup.
Once that was complete, the group skimmed off the top grounds from each cup. According to Hiatt, the optimal temperature for tasting coffee for evaluation purposes is when it is 98.6 degrees – human body temperature. When it’s the same temperature as the drinker, there’s no hot or cold distraction.
When it was time to actually taste the coffee, participants took a spoonful and slurped it to evaluate flavor and aftertaste, acidity and body and well as sweetness and clean cup.
Acidity in coffee is a reflection of the tartness of the coffee – or, as Hiatt said, a “citrus note.”
The “body” of the coffee is the thickness or viscosity of the drink.
According to Hiatt, “clean cup” is a determination of whether you can pick out flavors in the coffee sample. Participants were encouraged to cleanse their palate by drinking water in between samples.
At the end of the evaluation the participants had to give the coffee sample an overall score from 6, which is good, to 10, which is perfect. The total score with all the ratings of categories combined for specialty coffee is any total that is 80 or above.
Hiatt said that historically coffee was roasted dark to mask the flavor because it didn’t taste that good. He noted that historically most coffee didn’t taste good and there was nothing in existence to ensure that it would taste good. But now there are safeguards in place to ensure a better product.
Marlene Pickett attended the program with her husband. She said they visit Joe Sipper’s Cafe at least once a week for the ambiance and the coffee. She likes her coffee hot.
“I appreciated hearing how involved coffee is,” she said. “It’s a lot more than the pour.”
Dan Hille also attended the event. He enjoys different types of coffee.
“It seems like a relatively healthy drink,” he said.
Hiatt also told the group that after coffee is roasted it must rest before it is optimal for drinking.
“When you roast coffee it smells like a bakery,” he said. “However it has to rest for 24 hours before it is optimal for drinking.”
The four coffees that the group tested that night were from Ethiopia, the Congo, Honduras and Costa Rica.
Crystal Reed can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 131.