Serving the Roasting Community with Expert Independent Reviews




Bob's Cupping Setup
Bob's Cupping Setup

Bob's Method

In general: I have come to believe that an accurate evaluation of coffee does not require a super-taster's palate. What is absolutely essential is the ability to describe what is being experienced, a good memory for flavors and aromas, reasonably sensitive taste and olfactory faculties and most of all, lots of experience. How else can one recognize off-tastes (a "rioy" or a "baggy" coffee for example), if one hasn't experienced and identified these tastes before? It has been particularly helpful to have cupped with others, experienced cuppers especially, and discussed the results.

There are many different variations possible for the cupping process and many different ways to document the results. Here's what I do every time in exactly the same way because, in my view, consistency is crucial for comparing coffees from one cupping session to the next:

Examination of the green beans: I evaluate the green beans and note their color, consistency, odor, physical faults, preparation, etc.

Roasting: I always roast my sample in the same roaster, a PID'd (electronically controlled) Sirocco "fluid bed" hot air roaster. This roaster was probably the prototype for current hot air roasters and was made by Seimens in the 70's and 80's. It is no longer available but mine has done close to 4000 roasts without a hiccup and is still going strong. I've included some photos at the side. For formal "open cup" evaluation, I roast a bit on the light side because I want minimal roast tastes and maximum varietal flavor. I find that although that level might not be the way I would roast for enjoyment of the coffee, it does accentuate faults. The roast usually finishes in about 8 minutes and I end somewhere between 1st and 2nd crack. The roast profile is electronically controlled.

Sirroco Roast Profile

Rest: The coffee is allowed to rest, often for between 8 and 12 hours after roasting and before brewing, to sample the coffee while it is still very fresh but also to get rid of the initial CO2 that can affect the flavor and cause foaming in the cup.

Cupping: I usually sample from at least three cups at a time; two, the same or similar coffees and one control sample with which I am very familiar. The control is used as a kind of bench mark against which the others can be compared. Also, the cups are marked on the bottom with a little sticker that I can't see until after the cupping, so that the identities of the coffees are unknown until the cupping is finished. I play a little shell game with the cups until I don't know which is which. This is what I call "blind cupping using the triangle method". This, or variations of it are used extensively in many professional cupping situations.

The roasted beans are inspected somewhat the same way as the green beans and the aroma of the dry, ground coffee is noted. The coffee is then ground in a small Zassenhaus Turkish hand grinder and ground rather fine, always the same degree of fineness, so that grounds do not tend to float on the surface after the water is poured and ensuring that the brewed coffee is fully extracted.

The water is boiled and allowed to cool slightly, to about 200 deg F and then poured directly on the ground coffee in the cup, trying not to leave any "islands" of dry coffee. The aroma of the brewing coffee is noted. Then, after about 4 minutes, the crust that formed on the top of the coffee is broken with a cupping spoon and the aroma noted. The coffee is then stirred a few times and allowed to settle to the bottom of the cup.

The surface foam is carefully removed and the coffee is then tasted to determine flavor, aftertaste, body, acidity, finish and balance. Much has been written on this part of the process so I won't go into detail here. Jim and I are going to try to use the same scoring system eventually, but in the meantime I've attached a sample of my 3-cup cupping form. It's both similar to and different from many others that you can find, but this is the one that I have developed over the years and it works real well for me. It is loosely based on Ted Lingle's original scoring method even though there are those who now prefer a system that does not add a rather arbitrary "50" to the score to obtain 100 for a perfect coffee.

Bob's Cupping Form

There is no universally accepted method for rating coffee so this method helps me to compare coffees that were rated somewhat the same way in the past. There are forms that are a lot more complicated and some that are much simpler, but again, this one works for me. Also the point system I use is the same one I've used for years and can't really be compared exactly, to the systems others use.

Additional Evaluation: If there is a sufficient quantity of coffee and if it is appropriate for the beans being evaluated, I re-roast and try the coffee as a straight espresso, a cappuccino, an americano, a french press and a vac pot.

Jim's Method (more)...



UPDATED: June 27, 2005




Stock Sirocco Roaster
Stock Sirocco Roaster


Modified Sirocco Roaster
Modified Sirroco Roaster


Bob's Attempt at Latte Art
Bob's Amateur Attempt at Latte Art