A Coffee Cupping

A Coffee Cupping

What Does A Coffee Cupping Involve

Coffee Tasting Terms Explained

How to Taste Coffee Like a Professional?

Whether you’ve got a coffee cupping session coming up or just want to learn how to appreciate your morning coffee more, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your knowledge of coffee tasting vocabulary.

Knowing how to describe the impact that coffee has on your senses is a real skill, and once mastered, it can help you on your way to making the perfect brew.

Getting to grips with the terminology can also empower you to communicate and understand what you like and don’t like about coffee.

Understand the various types of coffee and their preparation for tasting during a cupping session. While hosting events may not be necessary, it’s interesting to learn how professionals worldwide brew and evaluate different coffee types.


What Does A Coffee Cupping Involve?

There are a number of procedures involved in brewing coffee for tasting or “cupping” activities. You won’t have to worry about this unless you’re hosting the event, but it’s still interesting to see how pros from all over the world make and analyze different varieties of coffee.

Setting Up

Coffee is brewed by pouring hot water over freshly roasted and ground coffee beans in cups. The grounds steep for 3-5 minutes, allowing the aroma to be noted. Coffee brewing involves breaking a ‘crust’ on the top, releasing floating grounds, and releasing additional aromas, which are then analyzed. Remove foam or grounds from the coffee surface to start tasting, allowing for a smoother experience.


The strong, intense aromas of ground beans during the brewing process are crucial for a satisfying experience. To fully enjoy the experience, inhale deeply through your nose, ensuring a close connection to the cup.


Slurping is maybe the most unique aspect of every coffee cupping session. Instead of sipping a cup of coffee as normal, slurp it into your mouth (with the aid of a spoon! ), enabling it to “spray” within your mouth. This allows the coffee, including its most subtle flavors and smells, to spread across your whole palate and nose.

You don’t have to slurp as quickly as your host, but even a controlled sip will help you learn about the coffee and its flavors.

Analyzing and describing

After tasting a coffee, you will be asked to either privately note your feelings on the flavor, body, acidity, fragrance, and finish or to share them with the other participants in the cupping session. One of the most enjoyable facets of coffee cupping is discussing what others notice about the coffee!

If you’re still learning to taste, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to recognize all of the more delicate or complex flavors.

What is a flavor of coffee?


Coffee’s flavor may be likened to an infinite number of various components and scents. With training, you’ll be able to identify comparable taste notes in different brews as well as find out what you enjoy and don’t like in coffee.


A coffee’s acidity is often described as ‘fruity’ or ‘citrussy, likened to lemons, oranges, or berries. It can be seen as positive or negative.

Acidic coffees are often characterised as being ‘bright’ and ‘sharp’, while low acidity coffees are ‘smooth’, ‘dull’, and ‘mild’.


The body of a coffee relates to the physical sensations felt in the mouth after having a sip. Some coffees will feel heavier on the tongue than others, in the same way that full-fat milk is different from skimmed milk.

TIP: Let the coffee sit on your tongue before swallowing to get a better understanding of its texture and mouthfeel.


Can you detect a sweet or sugary quality in the aroma or flavor of the coffee? And if so, what kind of sweetness is it? Some beans will have notes of brown sugar or molasses, while others may be more reminiscent of honey or agave.


A coffee tasting doesn’t end when you swallow. Notice what kind of aftertaste (if any) is present in your mouth. Some coffees will leave a very strong flavor and feel on the tongue, whereas others will not be anywhere near as potent.

The Most Common Coffee Tasting Descriptions


Aroma encompasses smell and fragrance and is often the first thing that you notice. It is how you get a feel for the complexities and more understated flavors of the coffee.


An aroma usually found in coffee beans that have been dark-roasted, similar to the way that a fireplace or ashtray smells.


Astringent refers to the bitter taste that makes your mouth react when you take that first sip of coffee.


A coffee described as ‘baggy’ usually means that the beans have been stored for too long or that the roast is light and has brought out flavors of mildew.


‘Baked’ coffee typically means that the flavor is hollow, flat, sometimes less sweet, and not as pleasant to drink.


If a coffee tastes unpleasantly harsh on the palate, it would be described as bitter.


If someone refers to a coffee as tasting bright, this usually means it is bold and has pleasant levels of acidity to it.


You will typically only hear dark-roasted coffee beans described as tasting of carbon, as though they have been deliberately charred to give a flavor or aroma of burnt wood or food.


If a coffee is described as clean, it generally means that the coffee’s complexity is balanced and pleasant to drink, often featuring refined notes of sweetness.


Complexity pertains to the combination of aromas and flavors that you experience when tasting a coffee. Both single-origin and blended coffees can be complex, and a coffee is able to be both complex and perfectly balanced at once.


If a coffee aroma is described as flat, it either means that the beans are stale or that the bean’s natural aromatics have evaporated.


The overall flavor of a coffee depends on a number of things, among them the roast, country of origin, and processing and washing methods of the beans. At a tasting experience, you might hear people say, “This coffee tastes like citrus fruits, chocolate, tobacco, cinnamon, etc.


Coffees are often said to be fruity, which can be hard to detect if you’re a beginner coffee taster. Some characteristics of a fruity coffee include a higher level of acidity and undernotes of berries or citrus.


A grassy-tasting coffee is often a sign of a defect. It occurs when beans are either harvested prematurely or not roasted enough.


This is not a positive quality for beans to have; harsh coffee will taste unpleasant in the mouth and be crude in flavour.


Mellow coffee is typically light or medium-roasted and well-balanced, with a light and airy body.


Mouthfeel refers to the way that a sip of coffee physically feels in your mouth and on your tongue. Some of the ways that the mouthfeel of a coffee can be described include heavy or light, buttery, smooth, thin, and syrupy.


When you first taste a coffee and do not get any immediate or dominant flavors in your mouth, it can most likely be labeled as neutral.


A rich coffee is usually full-bodied and bold in flavor.


A rubbery, harsh, or unpleasant taste in the mouth is more common when tasting Robusta coffee beans over Arabica. It is often caused by allowing coffee fruit to dry out on the shrub it was grown on.


A coffee that is soft on the tongue usually tastes sweet and mellow and does not produce an astringent or acidic reaction in the mouth.


If you hear someone say that a coffee tastes spiced or likes spice, the chances are that they aren’t talking about chili. In this instance, it relates to the flavor or aroma of spices like cardamom, cloves, cedar, and pepper.


Thin coffee is a descriptor typically used in an unpleasant way and means that the taste is lacking in depth, flavor, and acidity. However, some prefer their coffee to have a thin body.


Some beans have a distinctive odor of freshly toasted bread and are described as having a toasted quality.


A term used to describe the flavor or aroma of fresh tobacco in certain coffees; this is not necessarily a negative attribute.


What is a flavor of coffee?

Cupping Photo

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