Archive for May, 2009

Coffee Cupping 101

Cupping is one of the coffee tasting techniques used by cuppers to profile coffee aroma and flavor of coffee beans. To understand the differences between coffee bean growing regions, it is important to cup coffee from around the world side-by-side. Cupping is also used to evaluate a defective coffee or to create coffee blends.

Cupping Coffee

Setting Up the Coffee Table

I prefer to set up the coffee cupping table with 6 to 10 cups per coffee. These are set up in a triangular manner. At the top of this triangle you should place a small sample of the roasted coffee beans and a small sample of the green coffee beans. In the center of the table place a cup of room temperature water and an empty cup containing the coffee cupping spoons. Cover both the green coffee beans sample and roasted coffee beans sample until the cupping session is over and the coffee aroma, fragrance, and flavor profile have been written. After this time, the coffee samples should be uncovered and additional comments can be documented on appearance.

Preparing the Coffee Samples

Place 2 tablespoons of freshly roasted and freshly ground coffee in a 6 oz cup. Ideally one should use 55g of coffee per liter of water. The grind should be medium (between a French press size and a drip coffee size). The coffee should be roasted light. Roast about 30 seconds into the first crack long before the start of the second crack. This allows you to compleatly evaluate the coffee for defects, sweetness and aroma that are burned off at darker roasts. The roast should be similar for all coffee beans being cupped. During each coffee cupping the roasts should be similar, this can be verified visually by grinding a portion of each coffee beans sample and lining the ground coffee bean samples up next to each other on a black sheet of paper.

Analysis of Coffee Fragrance and Aroma

Smell the coffee grounds and write down your observations. The smell of the grounds is referred to as the fragrance.

Next add fresh hot filtered water (just off the boil) to each cup. So that the spoons stay at the same temperature as the coffee add hot water to the cup containing the spoons also. Smell each cup without disturbing it and write down your first observations of the coffee aroma.

Wait 1-2 minutes then Put your nose directly over the cup and break the crust of the coffee with one of the preheated coffee cupping spoons by pushing the coffee down . This is the most potent burst of aroma you will have during cupping and is the best time to evaluate the coffee aroma. Now stir the cup a little to make sure all of the coffee is emersed in water this will help the coffee sink to the bottom of the cup. Write down any further description of the aroma that you notice at this point.

Rinse the spoon in hot water before going to the next coffee sample. After evaluating the aroma of all of the samples, scoop out any grounds that continue to float. Most of the lightly roasted coffee grounds will sink to the bottom of the cup Due to thier high density.

Analysis of Coffee Flavor

When the coffee has cooled enough to taste, spoon up some cooffee and slurp the coffee strongly to aspirate it over the entire tongue. It is important to aspirate strongly since you are trying to cover the entire tongue evenly. Aspirating strongly will also cause some coffee to be distributed into the throat and nasal passage. The nose is another powerful tasting tool. Most of the flavor observed in a coffee is a result of aromatic compounds present in the coffee. This can be experienced by plugging your nose while drinking coffee. While your nose is blocked, the coffee will likely taste similar to instant coffee due to its lack of aroma. When the nasal passage is opened, a full rainbow of flavors will immediately become evident.

After every time you taste each coffee, document your observations of coffee taste, acidity, aftertaste, and body. Move to the next cup and try to compare the different cups. As the coffee in each cup cools, it is often possible to detect new flavors. Therefore, it is important to cup a coffee when it is both warm and when it has cooled to just above room temperature. The best coffees will have positive characteristics at both ranges of temperature.

If you’re cupping more than two or three coffees, it is recommended you spit out the coffee after abserving it. When cupping several coffees it’s possible to get too much caffeine, which can adversely alter your ability to properly taste the coffee.

Conclusions of Coffee Cupping

One of the keys to cupping coffee is practice and humility. Some of the best cuppers I know are modest and always want to learn more. Even some of the best cuppers in the world do not always agree. The beauty is that they agree to disagree while respecting and trying to identify the characteristics that other people find.

Do not be intimidated by people that try to impress you with some abstract description of a coffee. This is more of a romantic tribute to a coffee rather than a reality. Cupping coffee should be fun and interesting, but not a contest of who is more articulate. However, your evaluation should be more in depth than a reiteration of a textbook definition of a coffee.

Coffee cupping may seem strict and scientific, but the method followed in the coffee industry is quite varied and most good coffee cuppers have thier own permutation. Cup under standards you are comfortable with, but try to stay close to the industry standards in case you cup with other people.

Becoming a good coffee cupper is not hard. Trust yourself by practicing regularly and be humble enough to continue to learn from others.

Sono Coffee Beans
Josh Schrock & Jeremiah Reynolds


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Coffee for the birds!

The conection between your dailly cup of coffee and the sweet melody of morning songbirds.

New, or conventional coffee plantations are replacing wildlife habitat at an astounding rate. The significant decline in the number of songbirds across North and South America has been widely noticed. Shade grown organic coffee bean farming is recognized as a promising alternative.

In the past all coffee was shade grown.

Most varieties of coffee are naturally intolerant of direct sunlight, and grow better with a canopy of shade trees. The trees not only filter sun light, they also mulch the soil with their fallen leaves which helps retain soil moisture.

The nitrogen-fixing shade trees enhance the soil, and also provide habitat for birds. The birds provide natural insect control with their constant foraging which enables this sustainable method of farming to use little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.

In 1972, new hybrid varieties of coffee beans were developed to help increase production of the coffee crop. These new varieties produced significantly more coffee beans, were smaller and easier to harvest, and produced best in direct sunlight.

A big majority of growers cut their shade trees and switched to the new hybrid varieties. Out of the 6 million acres of coffee lands, 60% have been stripped of shade trees since 1972. Only the smaller farms preserved their shade trees.

Unfortunately, the new varieties of “sun” coffee came with an additional cost: the hybrids were dependent on high doses of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Soil erosion, water runoff and soil depletion caused coffee bean growers to clear vast tracts of rainforest for new field land to plant thier coffee bean crop, and it became apparent that this new method of growing coffee beans was unsustainable.

The loss of shade trees on such a large scale caused an estimated 20% decline in migratory bird populations in the last decade, due to loss of habitat.

The declined songbird population has been noted as far away as 1500 miles from the coffee growing regions.

In 1996, the movement to support shade grown coffee was sparked by the Smithsonian Institute’s Migratory Bird Center, which gathered environmentalists, farmers and coffee companies to address the problem and promote awareness of shade grown coffee.

Sales of Organic, Shade Grown Coffee are Increasing
Recent sales of organically grown, shade coffee represent about 1%, or $30 million, of the U.S. market for coffee beans.

The best way to encourage organic, shade grown coffee bean farming is to buy the organic, shade grown coffee beans. Production follows demand, and many farmers are switching back to shade grown methods as consumer awareness and demand increases.

To take a virtual tour of a shade-grown coffee farm which is committed to sustainable coffee farming, Click Here

Cost and Selection
How do I know if my coffee is organic, shade grown:

Look for coffee plantations which state in their literature, or on their website, that they produce “shade-grown” coffee and use no pesticides or herbicides.

Country of origin is an indicator. Although there are exceptions, coffee produced from southern Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala are primarily shade grown. Coffee from Sumatra, Timor, New Guinea and Ethiopia are mostly shade grown. Coffees from Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica are more likely to be “sun” coffees, but there are some shade producers from these regions.

Shade grown coffee ranges in price from $8 – 12 per pound for roasted blends. Although more expensive than regular coffee (because less coffee beans are produced for the same amount of labor), there is far less cost to the environment.

As the coffee beans mature more slowly in the shade, natural sugars increase and enhance the flavor of the coffee.

Next to tobacco, coffee is sprayed with more chemicals than any other product consumed by humans. Shade grown coffee is most often organically grown, free of chemical use.

Promotes healthy environment.
Shade grown coffee requires little or no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The shade trees filter carbon dioxide which causes global warming, and aid in soil moisture retention which minimizes erosion.

Provides bird friendly habitat and greater biodiversity.
Migrating bird populations have been in rapid decent since the introduction of “sun” coffee and the consequent destruction of rainforest for more coffee bean plantations. As many as 150 species of birds have been identified on shade coffee farms.

Helps sustain rainforests.
Coffee plantations which are chemically dependent suffer from soil depletion and increased erosion.

Rainforest is stripped to provide more field land.
Most shade coffee farms are organic and sustainable.

Reverses the trend to chemicals.
Shade coffee farms traditionally use little or no chemical fertilizer. If they are also organic there is no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides used.

Find your organic, shade grown, fair trade coffee beans at http://www.sonocoffeebeans.com or Click Here

Sono Coffee owners and Coffee Aficianados Jeremiah & Kasandra Reynolds and Josh & Sarah Schrock thank you for your support to organic, shade grown coffee bean farmers.

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Each year coffee beans are harvested in the dry season when the red coffee cherries are bright, glossy, and firm.

The Way Coffee Beans are Harvested

Ripe red coffee cherries are harvested either by hand, stripped from the trees with both unripe and overripe beans, or all the coffee beans are gathered using a harvesting machine. These procedures are called selective picking, stripping, and mechanical harvesting. To maximize the amount of ripe coffee harvested, it is necessary to selectively pick the ripe coffee beans from the tree by hand and leave behind unripe, green beans to be harvested at a later time.

There are some books that will give you more info. on coffee beans harvesting and equipment. I will recommend some in a blog at a later date. The book that comes to mind is the “Coffee Harvest” by Michael Clark, but I’m not sure that is the correct name I’ll have to check and get back to you.

Brazil’s Procedures to Harvest Coffee Beans

Harvesting the same coffee tree several times is less cost effective than separating and discarding the unripe or overripe cherries. Therefore, Brazil typically harvests using the stripping method when 75% of the coffee crop is perfectly ripe. Stripping is cost effective in Brazil due to the uniform maturation of Brazilian coffees. When harvested by stripping, the coffee beans are removed from the tree and fall to the ground where they are caught by sheets. The coffee beans are seperated from unwanted debris by tossing the coffee beans in the air allowing the wind to carry away sticks and leaves. The coffee is then put in 60 L baskets, which is the tool of measurement used by coffee producers to determine wages. Some coffee estates, such as Fazenda Monte Alegre in Sul de Minas Brazil, have a computerized system to determine wages for harvesting coffee beans. This system accounts for the amount of coffee collected from each person, the difficulty of the coffee harvesting conditions, and the production of the region being harvested.

The Weight of Coffee Beans

About 12-20 kg of export ready coffee beans will be produced from every 100 kg of coffee cherries harvested.

For information about fresh roasted coffee beans, Click Here.

Sono Coffee Beans

Josh Schrock – coffee aficianado

View our blog Click Here

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