Coffee cupping has been around for a while, even though some people believe it’s a relatively new trend. What’s changed recently is that more people have started to express interest in learning how cupping works, and the activity has seen a huge rise in attention on social media. It’s not hard to see the appeal – it’s fun, it’s not hard to pick up, and it allows you to experience your favorite hobby in a completely new manner, exploring lots of different profile tastes, and perhaps even finding your favorite new option.
As with many similar hobbies, the best way to get started with coffee cupping is slowly. It can take a while to get up to speed with that hobby. What does cupping mean though? And how does one get started at all? Let’s take a look at some of the basics.
What’s Coffee Cupping?
So, what’s cupping in the first place? Cupping coffee simply refers to tasting it more attentively and trying to explore the many different subtle flavors and combinations that you can identify. This is a delicate process that involves preparing the coffee in a certain way and then experiencing it from as many different perspectives as possible. A good cupper must learn to identify many different flavor profiles and know what combinations they can expect to encounter them in. They must also learn to use all their senses – not just tasting, but also smelling the coffee and fully taking in its profile.
Even your eyes can play a role here. The way your coffee looks can impact your perception of its taste, although some people would readily tell you that they are not “fooled” by that. It’s important to understand the different aspects that come in play when tasting a good cup of coffee and take some time to familiarize yourself with what you can expect.
Start with the Most Popular Basics
If you’re still new to cupping, you should take things slowly at first. There is a lot to learn about this hobby, and it can be pretty overwhelming in the beginning. You should start with some very basic beans – don’t get anything too fancy. In fact, if you have a favorite blend, it’s probably best to start with that one. Cupping can provide you with a whole new perspective on your coffee, and you will quickly discover new things about brands that you’ve known for a while.
Try out a few different brands and see how they measure up. You can do a few blind tests as well if you want to get things started on a more interesting note. Just keep in mind that this may lead to some uncomfortable realizations about blends that you’ve enjoyed until now. Is it really worth spending twice as much on a specific blend when you can’t tell the difference in taste in the end?
Basic Cupping Tips
The most important thing is to ensure that there’s nothing to distract you from what you’re doing. Your environment should be as “sterile” as possible, especially in regard to smells. Noise can also make it difficult to concentrate, and even though you’re obviously not using your ears during cupping, doing this in a quiet environment can have a surprisingly noticeable effect on your results.
Prepare several cups of your coffee of choice, then get your best coffee cupping spoon ready. Don’t just immediately start sipping on the coffee! The first step is to check the surface aroma. Take it in as much as you can, experience all the different flavors you can identify. Then, gently break the crust with your cupping spoon. Smell the result – you should notice a distinctly different aroma, much richer in notes. Repeat this for all cups you’re tasting.
At this point, some people like to use a separate spoon to remove some substances from the coffee, particularly excess oils, and grounds. This is a bit of a controversial topic, as some believe that the only way to get the “proper” taste of a certain blend is to experience it with everything intact. Whether you agree or not is up to you – nobody is going to judge you. The important thing is that you remain consistent in your choice. It makes no sense to compare two blends where one has been skimmed and the other hasn’t.
Try Different Preparation Methods
Cupping is also about experimenting with different preparation methods and observing how they affect the flavor. If you’ve only been using one specific method to brew your coffee until now, this can open your eyes to a whole world of different possibilities. You can even arrange a session involving several cups of the exact same coffee, just prepared in different ways. Try a French press, espresso machine, and various other approaches.
This is another point that might get some cupping enthusiasts arguing. Some claim that coffee should always be prepared in a specific way for cupping purposes, and that different preparation methods have no place in traditional cupping. The scene has been changing rapidly over the last few years though, and many people enjoy the idea of using cupping to compare different preparation methods. If you enjoy that, there’s nothing wrong with it. True, it’s not what “official” cupping is about. But unless you want to become an actual professional in the field, why should you care? The main point in the end is to have fun and use this to explore new ways to enjoy your coffee.
How to Keep Your Results Consistent
As we mentioned above, the most important thing in a good cupping session is consistency. You have to do your best to ensure that your coffee is prepared in the exact same way every time, otherwise, you can’t be sure where any flavor differences are actually coming from. Take some time to work on your own recipe – figure out how much water you like to use, your ideal brewing temperature, grind size, and everything else that might impact the flavor. Then, write those details down and make sure to follow this recipe as closely as possible for each brew you go through.
It can take some time and effort to figure out the perfect setup for your cupping sessions, but it will be well worth it. If you care about actually figuring out which coffee you like best, this is one of the most important preparation steps.
Tracking Your Progress
It can be difficult to keep track of what you enjoy and what you don’t, especially if you’re trying to do it the right way and learn about all the different flavor profiles and notes. It’s important to track your progress in some way so that you can have a solid foundation for comparing your future results. Writing things down in a notebook is the simplest way to go about that – just make sure you have a consistent format and stick to it. Tables can be a good way to organize all your data and identify some interesting patterns. If you want to take things one step further, you can transfer your findings to a digital format and use tools like Excel to filter and sort through your results.
Start Learning About Flavors in Detail
The next step, if you find that you enjoy cupping, is to start learning about all the different flavors in as much detail as you can. There’s a huge chart of those, and there are dozens of terms that are standard in the field and have to be memorized. You must also go through enough cupping sessions to be able to identify those flavors too. This can all take quite a while, but that’s part of what makes cupping so attractive as a hobby for some people. It’s a huge world to explore, and you will never feel bored.
Join the Community
On the topic of this being a huge world, keep in mind that there are lots of active coffee cupping communities as well – both online and offline. Join a group if you want to share the joy of your experience, talk to others and see what they enjoy about cupping in general. This is a great way to find new friends in your local area too, especially if you regularly feel bored sipping on your tasty cups of coffee and want to share them with someone else. Just remember what we said above – coffee cuppers can be quite the picky bunch, so don’t be surprised if people have a strange attitude about some of your choices regarding the hobby.
Ready to get started? Just get a bunch of your favorite beans, some hot water, and a good cupping spoon – and you’re ready to go! There’s so much to explore in that corner of the coffee hobby that you might find yourself completely lost in it for the first few weeks. And after that, you’ll realize you’re just getting started.