Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cupping is Naked

A means of evaluating adjustments to the roasting process of green coffee and their characteristics that are origin and processing specific - is via that thing called cupping.
Why cupping is essential to guide us on the correct flavour trail and how we routinely incorporate the cupping into our daily roaster existence is for you to peruse and ponder. Catch the bug of curiosity of this beautiful tradition of critiquing the lovely bean.
      Room temperature, climate and environmental factors that affect the stability of the Roaster can be unpredictable, sometimes detrimental and a constant influence on the coffee bean as it roasts a detailed cooking path. As we do our best to control these ever changing variables, it is a roasters mission to carve the correct script for a beans’ cooking journey to create optimal flavour from the particular origin.
      Knowing a little of the background of the coffee; origin indicating the characteristics of the prized flavour, body, acidity and balance of the cup allows the roaster to know what to nurture during the cooking of that coffee. An origin that is reputable for lovely light floral/ citrus attributes should be roasted with more delicacy and to a lower temperature or time, than an origin that boasts bold flavour and body. Density of the beans and their size sees crafted roast profiles that involve greatly varied fuel values, temperatures and airflow. To cup these roasts, throughout a year of changing crops, roasting conditions and knowledge we gain of the personality of the beans as we constantly learn, is our means of implementing regular, necessary change.

      Cupping commences with a small 8 grams of coarsely ground roasted beans, at the level of roast we think suitable for customers. The grounds are placed in a white porcelain bowl, with in ten minutes of grinding. The dry aroma of the coffee is smelt and noted. 150 mls of just off boiling water (92c) is slowly poured over the grounds for a gentle infusion. Now that the coffee is wet, a second ‘sniff’ ensues. The overall aroma of the coffee is rated once both the dry fragrance and wet have been smelt. The crust of the cup forms a thick layer of frothy, bubbled coffee on the surface of the liquid. ‘Breaking’ the crust is using the back of the spoon to agitate the liquid and smell the infused brew again. Flavours that burst to mind are hastily scribbled down before a new note appears to contemplate. It is through recollection of past flavour memory that we draw these mud maps of description of the beans. To aid us, flavour wheels are within arm reach to assure us of our perception.
      The tasting begins! The crust, once broken, needs to be skimmed and discarded to reveal the liquid beneath that we slurp. A spoon in each hand to sweep the surface of the cup is an efficient means of removing the coffee froth and grounds mixture. The cupper is to observe and note flavour attributes, acidity, the body (or weight) of the coffee in the mouth, balance, aftertaste, clarity and faults. It is all of these components that create a magnificent coffee, when in the correct states to complement one another.
      The effect of the age of the roasted product has an influence on the flavour of the coffee, as the length of time wine spends in oak! Re-cupping samples of roasted beans at 1, 10 and 20 days, sometimes longer, to affirm that the origins in the blend are compatible with their level of roast and the magical test of time. If it is evident that that particular roast level or marriage of flavours of origins of green within a blend are not performing – back to the roaster we trot and work with a new strategy to unleash the best from our coffee.
      Cupping is the raw sensory analysis of the beans as they age and respond on a chemical level to their environment and the roasting process. It is the unveiling of the coffee seeds secret to the roasters and baristas. A moment where the coffee shines unaided by the often shiny things we today utilize, to extract the juice of espresso.

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