I wrote about Edinburgh's Police Box cafes for Barista Magazine Online

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Cupping the same coffee roasted three ways: Part two

Written by . Published on under the Coffee category.

Three glasses containing coffee sitting on a white table

I ended my last blog post on coffee cupping, where I cupped the same coffee roasted to three different degrees, with two questions: “What did I miss? How will the coffees taste in another blind taste test?” I was sure there was more to learn from the samples I used for my cupping yesterday so I decided to replicate yesterday’s cupping. I used three samples of the same coffee roasted differently. As I expected, I learned quite a bit from the cupping.

When I started the cupping, I noticed that the crusts on all three coffees did not last as long as they usually do. I cannot give a specific reason for why the crusts broke so soon. All three of the crusts broke before the four minute mark. I think one broke before then. I had to do some research to figure out what would cause this. All of the coffee was ground within a few minutes of being used, so I do not suspect freshness to be a factor. I did not agitate the coffees significantly after pouring in the water. Some research pointed me to how the degree of roast can change the way that crusts form in a cupping.

In a Barista Hustle article, I read that how the coffee is roasted changes whether the coffee will form a good crust. The article claims that the lower CO2 content in lighter roasts may cause a less robust crust. But, there may be other factors that influence the crusts breaking. I do not have enough information about each sample to know exactly why the crusts broke so soon. I just know that all three crusts broke quicker today and yesterday than I’ve seen in any other coffee.

I also spent some time looking at the coffee beans before I ground them. I noticed that one coffee was slightly darker than the others; the other two coffees were lighter. I did not correlate this information to the tastes because I did not think to do so. But, next time I cup coffee I want to pay attention to the colour of the beans. I suspect the colour will tell me a bit more about the degree of roast, when comparing multiple samples of the same coffee.

Today, I remembered a piece of advice I got from someone I was speaking with over email for my interview series. They recommended that you should cup what is in front of you, setting aside any opinions you may have about the coffee. This came to mind because, like yesterday, I felt a bit overwhelmed by how similar all three of the samples were. In the end, I told myself to take notes on body, flavour, sweetness, acidity, and finish, from an objective perspective. One coffee was clearly more bitter but I still commented on these other factors. One undesirable quality should not mean I stop analysing a coffee.

Like yesterday, I cupped until the coffees were at about room temperature, although the coffees were a bit cooler by the time I finished today. I found the temperature changes helped me develop a profile about each coffee. One coffee did not hold up so well as it cooled. This was the coffee I noted had a bitter quality, which I did not enjoy. The other two coffees were nice. I would have consumed them both. But one of them had a slight edge over the other in terms of balance; all the qualities of this coffee were more enjoyable than the other sample.

I found myself asking this morning: why am I cupping? As I started tasting – and especially as the coffees cooled, giving me a better insight into the differences between each sample – I remembered how good cupping is at helping me improve my palate. If I can build up a sensory memory of particular qualities in coffees on the cupping table, I will be able to apply that knowledge to all of the other coffees I drink, whether they are on the cupping table or in my mug. To celebrate, though, I had a cup of tea, as I have consumed a lot of coffee this weekend.

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