Coffee Quality Control

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How to Set Up a Cupping

CQC 2.05 Interview with Rachel Apple and George Howell

We interviewed Rachel Apple and George Howell from George Howell coffee in Boston. Rachel is the Quality Control manager and is responsible for overseeing all the QC at George Howell Coffee. George Howell is the founder of the company as well as a co-founder of the Cup of Excellence, grower’s competition. These answers give some very interesting insight into how a company can maintain rigorous QC practices whilst being green coffee buyers, roasters, and baristas too.

BH – In your opinion, what is the best temperature to use when preparing a cupping?

RA / GH – We set our Bunn water towers to 212 F – we’re always of the mindset that we want the hottest water possible, since the glasses are not pre-heated. We also preheat the Fetco thermal servers we use to pour from to prevent as much heat loss as we can. 

BH – What’s your approach to breaking the crust — do you advocate stirring to the bottom of the bowls when ‘breaking the crust’? If yes, do you try to count the number of stirs you apply? 

RA / GH – We do 3 big pushes from the front to back of the cup, not getting down in the grounds. We’ve done a few tests that show an increase in TDS by .02-.05 by stirring up the grounds, but to me it’s too hard to get everyone to break AND stir just exactly right to keep it consistent across all cups. For consistency’s sake we just do the 3 big pushes across the top. 

BH – When do you think is the best time to break the crust? 

RA / GH – We break at 4 minutes from when we poured.

BH – Do you preheat your cupping bowls? 

RA / GH – Nope. It is not possible to do this in a consistent and efficient way when cupping the number of samples we often have.

BH –