Coffee Quality Control

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How to Cup

CQC 3.03 When to Begin Cupping


Time and Temperature

Brown and Diller, (2016) from the university of Texas report that beverages must be cooled below 71° C to avoid scalding. Similarly, the SCA cupping protocols stipulate that beverages should be cooled below 71° C before cuppers commence their sensory assessment. In the  BH Cupping Protocols, we advise cuppers to commence their aroma assessment after coffee drops into the safe zone <71° C but we advise cuppers to commence drinking from each bowl after the temperature reaches 65° C.

If you recall from the cooling experiment we described in Chapter 2, for a ceramic cupping bowl weighing ~300g, the cooling rate is quicker than it is for bowls made of other materials. In this experiment, the slurry temperature we recorded (using 10g of coffee and 180g of hot water) dropped below 70° C after only 4:30 minutes. For our 43-g plastic cupping bowls, on the other hand, it took 9 minutes for the slurry temperature to drop below 70° C. We strongly recommend you take a temperature reading before you commence cupping to ensure you will not scald your tongue as you begin to sample the cups for the first time.

To get a complete picture of how a coffee tastes, it is essential that you try coffees across a large temperature range and observe changes in the flavour as the coffee cools. It is impractical and very time consuming to wait until coffee has dropped to as low as 40° C,  so we recommend you aim to record your sensory impressions at the following three temperatures:

First pass, hot — 65° C: when the samples are hot but palatable 

Second pass, comfortable — 55° C: a very comfortable range 

Third pass, warm — 45° C : a temperature for brewed coffee, and then at 45°, where the beverages have cooled to a point that they are still aromatic but are at the lowest temperature level before they might be considered to be too cool to be served

The three-pass system will give you around 5 minutes between each pass to complete your assessment for every cup you are assessing.