Coffee Tasting - An Interesting Career Path

By Timothy S. Collins

What would you say if your child or young teen wanted to become an official taster of coffee?

Would it be any different from becoming a wine or orange juice taster? What does it take to become an official coffee taster or "cupper"?

Cupping can be a fun occupation and a hobby. Cuppers run in families and it is not unusual for the job to pass from father to son and so on. There are female cuppers but the majority are males.

If your child or teen wants to become a cupper, they can practice at home and look for cupping events through coffee clubs or other groups. Who knows? You could have a cupper in the making right at home!

Cupping is a technique used to evaluate coffee aroma and the flavor profile of a coffee. Cupping is used to taste defective coffee or to evaluate coffee blends.

Learning how to distinguish coffees through cupping takes much practice and a love for coffee. It also requires following certain standards and habits to ensure objectivity and the ability to cup many times throughout the day as a professional cupper

Cupping takes place after the green (un-roasted) beans go through inspection before being graded for sale, especially for export. The professional cupper inspects the beans for color, shape, size, appearance, density and fragility. Next the samples are roasted. The beans are examined again for discoloration, appearance and smell.

What is a coffee cupping session like?

  • Coffee cupping sessions usually start with the coffee table preparation set up with a cup for each of the 6 to 10 coffees to be sampled.
  • The cupping session includes several coffees to evaluate.
  • Throughout the various steps of the session, the coffees are evaluated in a consistent order.
  • The setting includes a sample of the roasted coffee and a sample of the green coffee.
  • These samples are covered until the coffee cupping session is completed and the aroma, fragrance and flavor profile of the coffee are documented.
  • In addition, on the table, there is a cup of water at room temperature and an empty cup with the cupping spoons.
  • The coffee sample preparation requires placing 2 tablespoons of freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee in an empty cup.
  • The coffee is ground to a standard fineness and a weight of about 10 grams or equivalent to the weight of a nickel.
  • Visual verification of roast similarity among the coffees included in each session is common practice.
  • This requires placing ground samples next to each other on a black sheet of paper.

How does the cupper prepare to taste the fragrance and the aroma of the coffee?

  • The cupper smells the ground coffee before water is added to evaluate the coffee fragrance.
  • Next, the cupper adds hot water to each of the cups and to the cup with the cupping spoons so everything is at the same temperature.
  • The cupper smells each of the cups without disturbing them and writes down observations about the coffee aroma.
  • After 1 to 2 minutes, the cupper breaks the crust of the coffee using one of the preheated cupping spoons.
  • The cupper puts his nose directly over the cup and pushes the coffee down.
  • This is the time to get the best burst of aroma of the coffee during cupping and to write down observations.
  • Next, the cupper stirs the coffee to make sure it is covered by water and to help the coffee sink to the bottom of the cup.
  • Again, the cupper writes down additional observations.
  • The cupper then rinses the spoon with hot water and moves on to the next sample cup until sampling all of them.

When does the cupper slurp coffee?

  • When the coffee is sufficiently cool, the cupper takes sufficient coffee from a cup into the spoon and slurps the coffee to cover the entire tongue.
  • Correct aspiration is important because the objective is to cover all the tongue evenly and to allow some drops to go into the throat and the nasal passages. Why? The aromatic compounds in the flavor of coffee are evident when your nose and tongue smell and taste coffee.
  • The cupper writes down observations about the coffee flavor.
  • Cuppers testing more than a couple of cups of coffee spit out the coffee to prevent too much caffeine which can impact the cupping ability of the professional doing this job.

Cupping is a very important step in the coffee evaluation process because it helps grade the coffee in terms of fragrance, aroma and flavor. Positive cupping marks mean higher prices for specific beans and branding opportunities for limited editions, selected varietals and other marketing qualifications.

So, ready to enjoy your next cup of coffee?



Timothy S. Collins
Article by Timothy S. Collins
Timothy ("Tim") S. Collins, the author, is called by those who know him "The Gourmet Coffee Guy." He is an expert in article writing who has done extensive research online and offline in his area of expertise, coffee marketing, as well as in other areas of personal and professional interest. Come visit the author's website: www.ourgourmetcoffee.com.

© Copyright - Timothy S. Collins. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Consider a Donation

Donation Amount
$10.00
$25.00
$50.00
$100.00
$250.00
$500.00
$750.00
$1,000.00
Payment Method

Social Media

  • Fair Trade Community on Facebook
  • Fair Trade Community on Flickr
  • Fair Trade Community on Twitter
  • Fair Trade Community on YouTube