Well, we have never intended to impose ways of doing things. Just to start. But we have always liked to advice on things we do, which work for us and we think can normally work for roasters as well!
Said this, how to cup?
First thing, you need to have on mind :
- What a Brazilian cupping is and how it can help you.
- What could be its limits depending on your roast (sample roasting or production roasting).
A Brazilian cupping is for coffee, what a wine a barrel can represent for the wine industry, why’s that? Because when you do this cupping, you’re doing something like a Primeur, you are testing the quality of a coffee (its qualities & defects), but at the same time, you’re making your imagination fly, to imagine how this coffee would be in this or that coffee maker (from filter to espresso, so how would you use it) and also, what roasting profile you would use for that mean (so how you’re going to make to get there!).
What the limits can be?
If you roast in a sample roaster, it would be extremely complicated to get a precise idea on how that coffee would be in espresso. You can do it, but you need to have quite a few experiences to be able to imagine it quite right!
So for everything what it is intended for espresso/whole bean-semi automatic machines, we would certainly advise to taste your beans with a production roast.
Espresso –> Production roaster
Filter–> Production roaster but also sample roaster
The choice of the coffees
Do it blind. It’s always better.
Easiest thing is to codify all your coffees. 3 numbers chosen randomly can easily work. Make it completely random, so you’re sure not using somebody’s preference on the choice of numbers!
If you have a not decision taker on the cupping, make this person prepare the table. If you’re all decision makers, including the person, mark the bottom of cups and randomize them so you can all be tricked.
The choice of the order of the coffees in table
Even if you do it on blind, we do always advise to have one little concern on how you put different coffees in a table. Because a neighbor can sometimes help or kill the cup he has next to it. What do I mean by this? Well, imagine you have 5 coffees, 4 washed & 1 natural and you put them on this order:
Washed / Washed / Natural / Washed / Washed
It is very possible that your second and fourth coffee be influenced by the natural in the middle. So the cupper can somehow relate some characteristics compared to this intruder there. If the cupper realizes this, he might order on his mind the way he would cup: I would cup 1, 2, 4 & 5 as a set and then do number 3 or vice versa. This means, that he is already thinking on something else rather than putting all his thoughts on the coffee: not good! Worst case of course, is that he doesn’t realize it, and penalizes either 3, either 2 & 4.
What we do and advice is this order for placing the coffees
1st position, for semi washed (without fermentation) & washed coffees (with dry or wet fermentation).
2nd position for honey coffees (when you leave mucilage).
3rd position, for naturals, so they can be the last in table.
A 4th position is better for coffees such as Wet Hulled (and other special processing) & robustas.
Based in our experience, this could work for a good range of origins, big & usual exception of course, is Brazil. We normally put the Naturals before the Pulped ones, otherwise the acidity of Pulped can trick your palate very easily.
The choice of the parameters (grind, weight, water & timing)
The best choice you can do on parameters, it’s your own choice of parameters. Then, be consistent on that and don’t change them all the time. It is just by respecting a protocol, that you’d be able to be consistent on your cupping results.
Here’s a bit recap of our parameters & how we cup:
For choosing your right parameters, we advise you to make a big cupping using a wide range of changed parameters, with an idea merely as follow:
We are using a Mahlkonig Guatemala lab for the grind, let’s say at level four. So what you can do to choose what suits you best is:
Make different cups with the same coffee, using different grinding and then cup
3 – 3,5 – 4 – 4,5 – 5
And if you’re using 12 g per cup, then also make different weights of cups
10 – 10,5 – 11 – 11,5 – 12 – 12,5 – 13 – 13,5 – 14
Choose the top two on each, correlate them, and then compared to what you were before using and see if your choice is right. You can check TDS, this way you can have accuracy on what you’re looking when a coffee/roast changes to what you normally apply on your lab.
You can do the same for water temperature (respect minimums & maximums), and of course our advice would be to cup at all the stages of brew temperature (from a hot that you can take to a cold cup).
For breaking, we have always done it at 4 minutes; under or over that we haven’t had acceptable results for us… however you’re always free to test different breaking points!
For the number of cups, we are now starting to use a test that we call “variability of the bean” as it shows us a bit how homogeneous a bean is and how it can correlate in cup, we are starting to put it little by little in place so soon you would have it in our technical sheets ! Probably a tip we can give, is to use impair numbers, that way you can always make a decision: 3 beats 2 while 3-3 we call it a draw 😉
That’s all for the moment, now go sip a bit!
Angel, for da Belco team