A Beginner’s Step-By-Step Guide to Successful Coffee Cupping

If you’re a coffee lover, you know that no two cups of coffee taste the same. Different brewing methods, coffee beans, and roast levels all contribute to the flavor of your cup of joe. But how do you assess the quality of your coffee? This is where coffee cupping can be of help.

What Is Coffee Cupping

Coffee cupping is a method of evaluating the taste and quality of coffee beans. It is also known as “coffee tasting” and is a very important part of the coffee industry. Cupping is conducted to determine the flavor, aroma, body, and acidity of the coffee beans. It is a practice that dates back to the 18th century and is still used today by coffee experts and aficionados.

How to Taste Coffee Flavor Notes

The tasting notes written on a bag of coffee don't actually add any flavors to the coffee, they simply describe what the coffee smells and tastes like. As you sample the coffee, you note its various qualities, such as its body, balance, aroma, acidity,  sweetness, and flavor.

  • Body: The body of the coffee is essentially its texture or mouthfeel described as light, medium, or full-bodied. It is determined by the roast level and the type of bean used.
  • Balance: The balance of a coffee is the combination of acidity, sweetness, and flavor.
  • Aroma: The aroma of coffee is the smell that is released when it is brewed. It is determined by the roast level and the type of bean used.
  • Acidity: Acidity is an important element of coffee and is determined by the type of bean used. A high-acid coffee will have a bright, tart flavor, while a low-acid coffee will have a mellow, smooth flavor.
  • Sweetness: The sweetness of a coffee is determined by the type of bean used and the roast level.
  • Flavor: The flavor of a coffee is the combination of all of its elements described as fruity, floral, nutty, chocolatey, or earthy. The type of bean used and the roast level will determine the flavor of the coffee.

What Are the Steps for Coffee Cupping

Cupping is a sensory evaluation process used to measure the quality and characteristics of both green and roasted coffee. Here's a step-by-step guide to successful coffee cupping and achieving the most accurate results.

Step 1: Select and Roast Coffee Beans

First, you’ll need to select your coffee beans. Choose beans that are fresh and of the highest quality available. Roast the beans to a medium-dark level and let them cool for at least two hours before you begin cupping.

Step 2: Grind Roasted Coffee

Once you’ve selected your beans and roasted them, it’s time to grind them. The grind size should be slightly finer than what you would use for a pour-over, but not too fine. This will ensure that the aroma of the coffee comes through during cupping.

Step 3: Prepare Cupping Table

Next, it’s time to prepare your cupping table. Place a cupping bowl on the table, followed by three spoons, a timer, a water pitcher, and paper cups. Place your ground coffee in the bowl and add hot water. Stir the coffee for about 30 seconds and let it sit for four minutes.

Step 4: Break the Crust

After the four minutes have elapsed, it’s time to start tasting. The first step is to break the crust. This is done by pushing down on the surface of the coffee with your spoon. Once you’ve broken the crust, take a deep whiff of the aroma. Note the flavors and smells that come through.

Step 5: Taste Coffee

Next, take a small spoonful of coffee and slurp it into your mouth. This is done to aerate the coffee and release its full flavor. Swirl the coffee around in your mouth and take note of the taste. After you’ve sampled the coffee, spit it out and record your thoughts.

Step 6: Rate Coffee

Finally, it’s time to assess the coffee. Rate the flavor, body, acidity, aftertaste, and overall impression of the coffee. These ratings can be used to determine the quality and characteristics of the coffee.


Coffee cupping is an important practice for professionals and enthusiasts alike. It allows for an accurate assessment of the flavor and quality of coffee beans and can be a great way to explore new coffees. Whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist, it’s worth giving coffee cupping a try!

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