The Cuppers Tools
You can only make a discovery about a coffee by tasting it, and so first you have to roast it.
The coffee beans should be ground fresh just before the cupping session. Each sample of beans must be weighed out into the cup or bowl and then ground back into the cup (never grind the beans and then weigh out the coffee).
Water boiler with filter
Freshly drawn, untainted water at the right temperature (around 92°C) is a must.
Cupping glasses or bowls
Glasses are good for visual analysis, but wide cupping bowls are better for smelling and “breaking” the coffee.
Cupping table or decent work surface
The finest cupping tables allow you to sit down at them and revolve the different samples towards you.
No cupper is complete without their favourite cupping spoon, which has a deep bowl ideal for executing slurps.
All true professionals need a good uniform and no cupper looks complete without their cupping apron.
Spitting out the sampled coffee does make a great deal of sense, as your tasting ability becomes clouded with industrial intakes of caffeine.
The very best spittoons are like upturned, metal funnels and placed on the floor next to, or between the legs of, the cupper if sat down. Practice, confidence and a bulls-eye aim is required.
A fine selection of coffee
A given under the circumstances, but the most important factor is to keep the coffee’s identity secret until analysis is complete. It’s very difficult to avoid getting drawn into preconceptions if you know where the coffee is from before you taste it.
A long morning
Mainly because your taste buds become a little jaded in the afternoon, and particularly if you had mustard in your sandwich at lunchtime.
The best score sheets score out of 100, with points scored in a range of categories (sweetness, acidity) and potentially lost for coffee defects. Using a score sheet can focus the mind better on analysing the coffee.
Analysing coffee can have such an impact on people’s lives and income when decisions are made between one coffee and another. This is true in both day to day coffee cupping and in the competitions where farmers are putting their reputations on the line.