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What is the coffe cupping procedure, according to the SCA protocol?

Its method and execution may seem peculiar, involving crusts of coffee and large cups of hot water, yet cupping is a method that’s used worldwide to evaluate the quality, potential defects, and market prices of batches of coffee in both production and consumption countries.

Caffè Lab Editors
Caffè Lab Editors
cupping

Its method and execution may seem peculiar, involving crusts of coffee and large cups of hot water, yet cupping is a method that’s used worldwide to evaluate the quality, potential defects, and market prices of batches of coffee in both production and consumption countries.

The cupping protocol consists of a collection of guidelines, established by the Specialty Coffee Association, which must be followed in order to objectively evaluate a coffee’s quality in as precise, clear, and unambiguous a way as possible. This protocol demands that five cups be tasted for each sample of coffee so that the uniformity of the coffee itself can be most effectively evaluated. 

The recommended cups can hold approximately 200ml, with a coffee to water ratio of 55 grams per liter for each infusion.

cupping

The coffee samples must be tasted within 24 hours of roasting and the beans must be light or medium-light roasted. All of the coffees are ground in the cups no sooner than 15 minutes before their infusion with water and each dose is ground separately, cup by cup, leaving the grounds rather course (around 850 micron).

The first aspect that’s evaluated is the aroma of the grounds and, after having poured 93°C water over the coffee, of the infusion. The aromatic evaluation includes, after 3.5 minutes, breaking the crust of grounds that has formed on the surface of the cup with a spoon and bringing one’s nose to the cup to allow for a more precise evaluation of the aromas.

Once the surface of all of the cups has been cleaned, one must wait for the temperature to cool to 70°C, usually after 8-10 minutes, to begin tasting the liquid, which is done in several steps and at different temperatures.

The first elements that are evaluated in the tasting are flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, and balance between the various tastes present in the cup. As the temperature of the cups gradually decreases, the sweetness, uniformity, and cleanliness of the cup are then evaluated. 

The qualitative and quantitative values are recorded on the cupping score card, as are all of the adjectives that best describe the coffee’s characteristics, both positive and negative. At the end of the evaluation all of the values are added together and a score is obtained which classifies the coffee sample. 

To be classified as a “specialty coffee”, the final score on the card must be at least 80. Between 80 and 85 the sample is considered “very good”, between 85 and 90 “excellent”, and between 90 and 100 “exceptional”.

cupping