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Learn the art of cupping & tasting coffee with Coava

Cupping & Tasting Coffee with Coava Coffee Roasters

Coava's Public Coffee Cuppings

We hold free public coffee cuppings in Portland & San Diego.

Portland: Monday - Saturday @1pm at the Public Brew Bar & Roastery.

San Diego: Wednesday's @11am at our downtown San Diego cafe.

Coava's complimentary coffee cuppings last approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on number of attendees. You'll taste 4-6 different single origin specialty coffees and our experts will teach you how to truly cup and taste each one. This is an exciting way for you learn about coffee, meet fellow coffee lovers, and sample our rotating seasonal menu of coffees.

Our coffee cupping and tasting events are free of charge and attendees will receive a 10% discount on bagged coffee, merchandise, & brew gear on the day of the cupping. People of all skill levels are welcome to join. Come have fun and learn something new!

If you are interested in a private cupping event, please contact us to learn more about pricing and availability.

What is Cupping Coffee?

Cupping coffee is a process for tasting and evaluating coffees with set guidelines and steps. Each time a coffee cupping is done, variables such as the amount of coffee, grind size, water temperature, etc. are unchanged. We even use the same cups for each coffee which helps to ensure that the same amount of water is being added and the cup itself has the same level of heat retention. The only variable we are changing is the coffee itself. 

The Purpose of Cupping Coffee

Coffee cuppings allow us to consistently and objectively taste and conduct quality control for all of our coffees on a regular basis. Please note that this is not a method for brewing a cup of coffee to drink and enjoy. Coffee cupping is more extensive than simply drinking a brewed cup of coffee as cupping focuses not only on the taste of the coffee, but also the aroma, mouthfeel, and aftertaste.  Cupping coffee allows you to engage both sensory systems of taste and smell.

Cupping coffee is a great start to learning how to more intentionally taste coffee and develop your palate for tasting and identifying flavors.  Coffee cupping, truly tasting coffee, is something that must be learned and developed with time and practice. Coava's complimentary daily coffee cuppings will teach you the exact methodology we use to ensure the highest level of quality control in our own coffee roasting program.

Coffee Cupping: Aroma

The first three passes focus on the aroma of the coffee at different stages. Each pass will have different stage aromas and volatiles present.

The very first pass is smelling the freshly ground coffee before the water is added.  

For the second pass, the grounds are smelled again, but hot water (~205 ℉) is added so the extraction process begins.

The final pass that focuses on aroma occurs at the 4 minute mark. It is called “breaking”. Once the hot water is added, there is a layer on the surface that forms. A cupping spoon is used to “break” that layer and a burst of aroma is released. You should be very close to the surface of the coffee before you start to “break” so as soon as that burst of aroma released, you can smell all of it. On the back of the spoon, there are oils that can also be smelled. Once a coffee has been “broken” it cannot be broken again. 

Coffee Cupping: Tasting

Once the coffee slightly cools, we will do a few taste passes of the coffees. We will talk about each coffee after we have tasted it multiple times. This allows each person to taste and process through each coffee without another person’s thoughts and influence. It is very easy to start tasting something after you hear someone else say they do. We are trying to eliminate the power of suggestion during the first few passes.

Temperature has a large effect on flavor perception. If something is too hot or too cold, flavors are more muted and more difficult to identify. We will taste each coffee a few times to taste and experience the effect that temperature has on coffee. As it cools, flavors should become more pronounced.

There is a slurping technique that is often used when cupping the coffees. Think of slurping soup as a child and how you were likely told to not slurp like that-- now you've got the idea of 'slurping'. Slurping is done to make sure the whole palate is being coated and not just the top of the tongue. It is also fine to not slurp.  

Coffee Cupping: Identifying Flavors

As you smell and taste each coffee, here are four main categories that break down the different aspects of coffee:

Acidity: All coffee has some level and type of acidity

  • Citric Acidity: lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, cherry tomato
  • Malic Acidity: stone fruits (peach, apricot, cherry, etc.), berries
  • Lactic Acidity: plain yogurt, creme fraiche, fresh cheeses

Sweetness: Describe the sweetness

  • Sugars: granulated sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, caramel, etc
  • Chocolate: milk, dark, bittersweet, cocoa nib
  • Fruit: Is there a specific type of fruit? Berries, stone fruit (peach, apricot, cherry, etc.), apples, tropical, citrus, etc.

Body/Mouthfeel

  • Delicate, tea-like, thin
  • Creamy, syrup-like, thick
  • Juicy or drying effect

Aftertaste

After swallowing the coffee, what are the flavors, mouthfeel, etc present?

As you cup the coffees and follow the process outlined above, try to be as specific as you can as you assess the coffees. You can break down that thought process as you are tasting it.

If something is sweet and fruity, what kind of fruit are you tasting? Berries or citrus or tropical fruits? Then, if it tastes like berries to you, is there a particular type of berry? Strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, etc.?

The Benefits of Blind Tasting

Blind tasting is not knowing anything about the coffees being tasted. Blind tasting allows you to approach the coffees more objectively. Sometimes, we can be subjective with ideas or preferences about a particular coffee because of a previous experience based on the coffee country of origin, the roast profile, or how it has been processed. Not knowing which coffees are being cupped allows you to have a blank slate when tasting each of them.

Coffee Cupping Best Practices

All of the cups and coffees are shared between everyone in the cupping. Each person has their own spoon that is used to take a sample from each cup throughout the cupping. There is a hot water rinse cup that is used between tasting each individual cup.

It is recommended to not wear any strong scents (perfume/cologne, lotions, etc.) if possible. Those scents can be overpowering and make it more difficult when smelling and tasting each coffee.

Pro Tip: Retronasal Olfaction is connecting the smell and aroma with the perception and identification of flavor. Exhaling through the nose immediately after swallowing will bring some of the aroma and volatiles back up. This practice can bring clarity in identifying flavors.

Want to learn more about coffee?

Read our Brew Guides to learn how to make the perfect cup.

Learn more about Coava Coffee Roasters; our origins, the hardworking farmers we partner with, our approach to coffee roasting, all about specialty coffee and more, here.