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Jim's Method

I cup and rate using the same system as Bob, the older SCAA rating system, since most people are familiar with it. This system has a few issues that need to be briefly discussed:

The acidity and body scores in it, are quantitative, not qualitative. This has the advantage of telling readers how much body and tongue tingle they can expect; but it has the drawback of downrating a light-bodied, mellow coffee that happens to taste delicious. We use cupper's correction points to compensate for this, and will give the reason for the awarded points in the review. We discussed using the new system, which explicitly separates quantitative and qualitative scores, and instead of corrections gives bonuses for sweetness and balance, and deductions for defects. However, this involves a lot of extra scores whose value to the reader or taster are dubious. I'd rather use the space for added verbal description.

The +50 I don't much like it; and in reviews I've posted on newsgroups, I don't use it. Instead, if I give a coffee 40 out of 50 points, it's an 80 point coffee, not a 90 point coffee. If we ever posted a review of a real dog, like some coffees from Vietnam, we'd have to use negative scores to overcome this. However, this is the custom, so we're using it unless we get a lot of email to the contrary (please). In the meantime, remember a score of 9 out of 10 is superb, 8 out of 10 excellent, and 6s and 7s are still very good specialty grade coffee. Scores from 2 to 6 are appropriate to commodity grade coffees, and you won't see them for the coffees we normally review here, Finally, scores from -10 to 1 are for subgrade coffees like those found in mass market brands.

I roast differently from Bob. I do an 11 to 13 minute roast up to 435, a true City Roast that will taste more like a drum than an air roast. This is still 10F below the first pops of the second, and too light for espresso; but it does develop more roast tastes, and makes it easier to tell how they will develop in darker roasts. The drawback is that it subdues some of the origin flavors and makes detecting subtle processing faults harder. Bob does most of his cupping, vetting coffees for the; whereas I do them for reviews or espresso blending. Our cupping roasts are reflections of these separate purposes.

In most cases, one can tell at a lighter roast how the coffee will taste as darker ones. The ashyness, saltiness, or acridity that disqualifies a coffee for darker roasts will be present as distillate, meaty or tannic flavors respectively at lighter roasts. So cupping at a light roast is usually sufficient for us to write a review. However, if the tasting at the lighter roast contains no clues about the coffees dark roast potential, we'll recup at a darker roast.

Each review features one sentence summaries for light and dark roasts, and for espresso: here's what they usually mean:

Light Roast: Taste at City roast level: roasted lighter than, or to the first pops of the second crack.
Dark Roast: Taste at Dark Full City, Vienna, French: rolling second crack and beyond.
Espresso: Tips on the coffee's suitability for straight shots, blending, or cappas; as well as roasting recommendations for these purposes.


UPDATED: June 27, 2005


Jim's Cupping Setup
Jim's Cupping Setup