The Art of Coffee Cupping

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I literally learn something new every day. Today’s lesson came courtesy of Jarrett Johnson, co-owner of Lineage Roasting, a craft coffee company with a certified mobile roasting facility in Orlando. Johnson bestowed on me the art of coffee cupping.

If you have no idea what coffee cupping is, fear not… I was just in your shoes. Turns out there is an art to roasting coffee and bringing out a bean’s unique characteristics. One of the best ways to appreciate those characteristics is through a process known as cupping.

“When it comes to craft coffee roasting, we don’t simply char the beans and roast the bejeebers out of them, losing all the flavor and dimension along the way,” says Johnson, who imports his unroasted beans from micro farms in countries like Colombia and Ethiopia. “All beans feature a unique flavor profile. What we do is try to find the perfect roast to bring out certain notes in the coffee, such as sweetness or earth tones. As we roast, we adjust the time, temperature and air flow to try to make the uniqueness of that bean shine.”

With his background in the Air Force and then micro brewing, Johnson admits that he could never quite figure out why roast masters called themselves artisans. Now he knows better and not only spends his time bringing out the best of his imported beans, but also educating the public on understanding the difference between mass manufactured coffee and its craft counterpart.

“I really enjoy being part of this craft coffee movement here in Orlando. I want people to demand higher quality coffee.” He even dreams of a day when restaurants and cafes will offer a coffee menu filled with several brews on tap, much like where craft beer has gone over the last decade.

For coffee cupping, you’re going to need a few things to keep the process legit. First, grab three varieties of some freshly roasted whole beans from your local farmer’s market or grocery store. “Make note of the roasted on date,” Johnson says. “You want to know this date because the beans will be at their peak about a week from then. They will start to lose their original characteristics after that.”

Coarsely grind about 2 tablespoons of the beans in a hand grinder, preferably a burr versus a blade varietal. Johnson suggests running a few beans between each grind to clear out any residual coffee. Place the coffee in three separate 7.5 ounce cups.

Johnson uses water that has been boiled to 205 degrees, but since most people don’t have an accurate way of measuring water temperature at home, he recommends boiling the water and then letting it sit for 5 minutes before pouring over the ground coffee to three quarters full.

After about three minutes, the grinds will have risen to the surface and you’ll do something called ‘breaking the crust,’ which is basically using the back of a spoon (silver-plated if ya got it) to gently push the grounds to one side of the cup. “This will release the aroma so get your nose in there and really start to see what the coffee has to offer,” Johnson says.

9 minutes later, the water will have cooled to tasting temperature and most of the grounds will have fallen to the bottom. Time to start slurping. You’ll scrape some of the coffee off the surface and slurp it from your spoon. “This is a pretty obnoxious process of slurping and sipping, best done in triangulation method rotating between your three coffees,” he says.

In the end, Johnson hopes coffee cupping will begin to enlighten consumers to the wonders and delicious intricacies of great coffee. “People can learn to detect better quality coffee,” says Johnson, who sells his roasted coffee weekly at Audubon Park Farmer’s Market, Eat More Produce, and Vespr Craft Coffee & Allures. “Coffee is going in the direction of craft beer. Regular or decaf just isn’t going to cut it anymore.”

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  • Noreen Aldridge

    Wow…who knew!