Tasting coffee for more than just drinking it is done through the practice of Cupping. Simply put, we use a specific system to ensure each coffee we ever cup (professionally taste) is done in the same way. This means any coffee can be profiled against another in a repeatable and controlled way.
The main elements we are looking for are defects and flavour.
Defects might happen in the management and storage of the unroasted green coffee beans or might occur during the roasting process, such as the bean being roasted too much, too little, or the smoke inside the roaster not being managed properly leaving an unpleasant smokey after taste.
These are important elements to keep on top of to do justice to the beans. A defect caused by roasting could be as part of the experiments needed to find the roasting sweet spot. A poor cup giving an idea of how to do a better roast. Quite often when roasting a new bean, a series of experimental roasts will be needed to extract the flavours you are looking for.
A defect from the bean on the other hand, such as rotting or insect bites may mean the whole batch needs to be discarded to stay on top of quality control.
Taste-testing is an important part of roasting coffee. Ultimately we want to produce the best coffee we can, and this is measured in the final cup! You can have the best quality green coffee bean and the best roasting equipment, if however, the end cup doesn’t taste great we have missed the mark!
In the roasting process the main variables to control are time and heat. Each imparting their own effects on the taste. There are also the beans own characteristics. Some are sweeter, some more fruity, some which produce thick syrupy coffee and some delicate almost tea like drinks.
Each coffee is roasted, ground and mixed with hot water at a set temperature and left to brew. It is then tasted over the next 30 mins in stages from hot to cold.
By preparing all the coffees in the same way, and tasting/classifying them using a standard scoring model, we can go about producing the best cup. Similarly, tasting each roasted batch this way ensures consistent quality and ensures the coffee tastes like it should.
In a following post, I will share the cupping procedure.