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December 1999 Issue
A Guatemalan Cupping and Review
by Chris Schaefer
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And speaking of Acidity, just what is it? For that matter, what are the cupping characteristics?

There are a few characteristics that are examined when a coffee is cupped. To begin with, smell. Since smell accounts for about 90% of an item's taste, the smell of a coffee is very important.

Fragrance and Aroma are the characteristics of ground and brewed coffee, respectively. They are measured from a negative (-) to a positive (+) three. Things to look for in smell is its power, any noticeable flaws, and any particular "flavours" that are well-pronounced.

Defects are used by the professionals for measuring and noting flaws from processing, milling, and cultivation. From the Fragrance and Aroma, one can put a tag on a coffee's defects. If the Defects rank high with intensity, measured from 1 to 3, then it is multiplied and recorded. It brings a cup's overall quality down as it is calculated in the final score.

Acidity is not a pH measurement, but a sensation felt in the mouth and on the tongue. It's been noted as a "snappy" bite or sparkling on the palate, and can be coupled with a particular group of flavours; flavours include tannic, spicy, and peppery to name a few.

Body, or Mouthfeel, is a tactile sensation of a coffee's "weight" in the mouth. The four of us cupper had a challenging time quantifying this characteristic as we were tasting coffees from the same region and should, therefore, have similar bodies. The Body is cause by undissolved or insoluble solids from the coffee. It can be detected by rubbing the upper-side of the tongue along the roof of the mouth and the inside of the cheek. The best way to detect it is to taste a lighter-bodied coffee or tea, to become acquainted with the feel. To note, roast-degree has an impact on perceived and measurable body. Lighter roasts tend to have less pronounced body but, again, for note's sake, a greater degree of Acidity.

Flavour and Aftertaste are characteristics that take in the results of what you smell, feel, and taste. They're dependant upon the strength and lasting power a coffee has. If it is pleasurable both at and after first sip, then you might say it has a good Flavour and a pleasing, high-scoring Aftertaste.

Form and Function
The SCAA Cupper's form has six rows containing the columns for recording each characteristic. It has space for comments, a bar for noting degree of roast, and a tallying column for recording final score. The scores for each characteristic is depicted with a line-scale, from 0 to 10; the cupper merely marks on the line where the characteristic falls. The form's function is easily understood when first used. It is also flexible in that, as mentioned above, it has a space for writing down the limitations a cupper might put on Acidity and Body, to keep the scoring fair.

Bean Data
For the purposes of this experiment, all coffee were roasted to the same degree with the use of a sample, convection (hot-air) roaster. (Note: the roaster was the aforementioned 'wb' available at The roast was a middle-of-the-road, House or City Roast; about a 60 on the Agtron Scale. Following are the cupper's numbers and final scores for each coffee. Below it, an explanation of each coffee.

Source Fragrance Aroma Flavour Aftertaste Acidity Body Overall Score
Coffee Bean Corral 2 2 7 5 6 3 21 52.5%
Coffee Project Tres Marias 2 3 8 6 5 6 25 62.5%
Mountanous 2 2 6 6 5 5 22 55.0%
Coffee Project Ex. Corp. 2 2 7 7 7 6 27 67.5%
Sweet Maria's Secret 2 2 8 7 5 5 25 62.5%
Cedarburg's 2 2 5 5 7 7 24 60.0%

Source Fragrance Aroma Flavour Aftertaste Acidity Body Overall Score
Coffee Bean Corral 2 2 8 9 1 9 27 67.5%
Coffee Project Tres Marias 3 3 5 3 4 9 21 52.5%
Mountanous 3 1 9 5 3 8 25 62.5%
Coffee Project Ex. Corp. 2 3 5 9 4 5 23 57.5%
Sweet Maria's Secret 1 3 10 7 4 8 29 72.5%
Cedarburg's . 1 9 6 6 5 26 65.0%

Source Fragrance Aroma Flavour Aftertaste Acidity Body Overall Score
Coffee Bean Corral 2 2 9 9 8 4 30 75.0%
Coffee Project Tres Marias 2 2 6 1 8 8 23 57.5%
Mountanous . 2 3 6 4 8 21 52.5%
Coffee Project Ex. Corp. 3 1 9 6 4 9 28 70.0%
Sweet Maria's Secret 2 2 8 9 8 6 31 77.5%
Cedarburg's . 2 5 3 7 8 23 57.5%

Source Fragrance Aroma Flavour Aftertaste Acidity Body Overall Score
Coffee Bean Corral 3 2 6 7 4 7 24 60.0%
Coffee Project Tres Marias 3 1 2 2 6 8 18 45.0%
Mountanous 1 1 0 2 4 9 15 37.5%
Coffee Project Ex. Corp. 2 1 6 9 0 7 22 55.0%
Sweet Maria's Secret 2 2 8 8 5 6 27 67.5%
Cedarburg's . . 8 5 3 6 22 55.0%

As you can see, not only is it a myriad of cuppers but a myriad of what the cuppers cupped! As noted in the far right column are the final scores. Almost consistently did Sweet Maria's "Secret Source" come in with the highest ranking. Second and Third places being fought after by The Coffee Project and the Coffee Bean Corral. However, the proof is in how the final scores were obtained.

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