A Review of @KumaCoffee & #Coffee Cupping Tips

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Kuma Coffee Review & Coffee Cupping Tips

:: How To Cup Coffee ::

Have a coffee question…ASK COFFEENATE!

“Coffee cupping” it sounds like a weird thing.  It would be much easier to know what the heck it is if they would’ve simply termed it ‘coffee tasting’.  There are many things that impact a coffee’s flavor characteristics, not the least of which is the brewing process itself.  So when ‘cupping’ or tasting coffees, we eliminate all of the things that impact the flavor outside of the bean itself.  When we cup coffee, we simply add hot water to ground beans.  We do this into a glass or a ceramic cup, because these two items will not impart any odor or flavor into the brew.  We use the same amount of coffee in each cup, as well as the identical amount of water.  Now, we can make this as informal or as technically precise as we want.  In this instance, I was really informal.  The point of this cupping was to sample many coffees in a short period of time, while being able to verbalize

what unique characteristics each coffee possesses.  In a formal setting, you would closely follow the protocols set forth by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America).  [DOWNLOAD THE SCAA CUPPING PROTOCOLS]

In this video, I did a cupping of a few of the offerings from Kuma Coffee, a coffee roaster based in Bellvue, Washington.  (You can follow Kuma Coffee on twitter!)  I really like Kuma Coffee because; 1) They have an excellent selection of fine coffees & 2) They have a great Direct Trade model that goes above and beyond what Fair Trade Certified does for the farmer.  Fair Trade is a great program, but it is entry level as far as sustainability goes.  Individual companies can have a greater impact on farming communities, because they are capable of investing more time and energy into those few relationships.  The Fair Trade model is more of a one size fits all solution that can be quite costly for farmers in the initial stages.  Fair trade is great, but ethical Direct Trade models are better.  My favorite coffee from Kuma Coffee was the Ethiopia Mesela…and the Papua New Guinea…and the Panama.  Okay, so I really liked a lot of their coffees!

coffee-cupping-flavor-wheelCoffee Cupping Basics

  • Begin with 8 oz rocks glasses, or ceramic cups that have no apparent scent
  • Use a ratio of 8.25 grams for every 150 ml of water
  • The following characteristics are to be graded in quarter point increments between 6 and 9, Fragrance/Aroma, Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, Balance, Uniformity, Clean Cup,
    Sweetness, Defects, and Overall.  Anything below a 6.0 would not be considered a ‘specialty coffee’ and should be given to Folgers or Maxwell House.
  • After pouring the water, do not stir!  Leave the brew steeping for about 3.5 to 4 minutes before ‘breaking the crust’.
  • After the brew has steeped, break the crust with the back of your spoon, and hold your nose in close proximity.  This will let you catch the aroma of the brew as it escapes. ( I also like to smell the back of the spoon, as it holds some scent)
  • Carefully push the large chunks of grounds away from the edge of the glass and gently ease the edge of the spoon into the liquid, being careful not to allow many grinds onto the spoon.
  • In one quick swoop, slurp the coffee into your mouth.  This allows the brew to spray your entire palate, while also aspirating some of it into your nasal passages.
  • Now you just begin to describe what your mouth is experiencing.  To help you, you may want to check out the flavor wheel [click image on the left for full size].  This is a breakdown of the various aromas and flavors that are common to specialty coffee.  You begin by using the general descriptors in the center of the wheel, then you continue towards the outside of the wheel, all the long you are pinpointing the flavors that you are tasting.

So there you have it.  There are many more technical ways that you can do it, but that is for another day.  I do suggest that you avoid reading any flavor descriptions or cupping notes about the coffee that you are cupping.  If you read them prior to cupping, you will no doubt be influenced by those notes.  Many times you will have a much different description of that coffee than the roaster does.  This can be attributed to your unique palate, the length of time that has passed since roasting, as well as the fact that cupping is largely subjective.  It is fun to have a few coffee geeks together to take notes, and compare them AFTER you have finished.  You will see many similarities, but also differences as well.  We are all unique, and our tastes and palates vary.  That is what makes life interesting!

Questions for YOU!

Have you ever ‘cupped’ coffee?
What was your experience?
Did you receive any formal training?
Why do you cup coffee?


kuma coffee company

For the month of September, you will have a shot at winning one of 10 prize packages consisting of a Toddy Cold Coffee Brewing System and one pound of fresh roasted Kuma Coffee! In case you don’t know what a Toddy brewer is, or how to use it, I made a video about it (How To Make Cold Brew Coffee / Toddy Coffee Brewer Tutorial). This is a great giveaway so don’t miss out on your chance to win 🙂

You can get one entry for each of the following…

° Enter on Facebook (1 entry for filling in the quick form, 1 entry for posting it on your wall, 1 for inviting 5+ peeps)

° FACEBOOK:  “SHARE” any status or other posting from CoffeeNate.com!  Facebook now allows page admins to see who shares each post.  I’ll reward you with a bonus giveaway entry!

° Leave a contributing comment on this or ANY CoffeeNate.com post (Bonus for including an image)

° TWITTER: Click the “RETWEET” button (above)

° TWITTER: Retweet my tweets about the contest and use #CoffeeNateMe in your tweets!

° STUMBLEUPON: Review and recommend this post on SU

° DIGG: Digg it!

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