The Science of Coffee Cupping

By Mark Ramos

If you want to know what makes your coffee truly special, you can start with the science of cupping to analyze and test all of the flavor and aroma components of a coffee roast. This is interesting to try for a novice or experienced coffee drinker, and it uses techniques to further discover what makes your coffee unique.

Coffee cupping is often done by professionals and amateurs to further understand the quality of the coffee roast and make comparisons to other roast types. When done correctly, it can be exciting, fun, and fairly easy to do! Coffee cupping involves visually inspecting the brew, smelling, sipping, savoring, and spitting, which is a process that is quite similar to taste testing wine or other beverages. This involves studying the sensory science and learning how to better describe the aroma and flavors of each cup in the process.

Cupping is truly the most authentic way to evaluate the attributes of a coffee roast, which include fragrance, aroma, acidity, sweetness, body, aftertaste, cleanliness, and uniformity. This gives you the chance as a coffee drinker to further appreciate and understand each individual coffee roast. Within this technique, the coffee is unadulterated and unfiltered so that there are no defects in the flavor. Before you decide to purchase any coffee for drinking at home, cupping is the best way to assess the flavor profile and quality of each distinct roast. This can be used to begin quality control and product research and development when a new coffee brand is being formulated for sale.

Over the past several years, the coffee industry has significantly grown to give way to more roasters, retailers, and new coffee shops. This is an interesting time to work in the coffee industry, yet many new coffee business owners do not always take the time to analyze and test their coffee products. Much of the emphasis when operating a coffee business is put on profitability and efficiency, when quality should be a huge defining factor. This is why the technique of cupping helps to cultivate sensory science and testing, although it is often an afterthought when it should be much more important for all coffee consumers and retailers.

Within a formal training for cupping, the students will practice understanding flavor and aroma while comparing different types of coffee each day. Cupper trainings focus more so on identifying different aromas and flavors than studying the specific scientific components of sensory testing. Nonetheless, a coffee cupper must also have an understanding of the right way to reach their rating or conclusion of each roast. This involves determining which coffee should be tested, and all tested coffees are kept in a controlled environment so that the data collected and testing process will be as accurate as possible. Coffee cuppers will then learn different types of sensory testing to make the process faster, more accurate, and more efficient.

Mark Ramos
Article by Mark Ramos
Mark Ramos is a coffee fanatic and owns The Coffee Bump. For a great selection in all things coffee and espresso machines, check out

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