Cupping and the Evaluation of Specialty Coffee: Unraveling the Secrets of Specialty Coffee

cupping specialty coffee

One of the most essential aspects in this process is the evaluation of specialty coffee. This comprehensive evaluation is carried out through a careful process called 'cupping', during which the taste and aroma of the coffee are analyzed.

This blog post tells you everything about the evaluation of specialty coffee and the 'cupping' technique. Readers gain an in-depth insight into how this technique contributes to creating that perfect cup of coffee and how it influences the facets of taste, aroma and quality. Dive with us into the fascinating and enchanting world of specialty coffee, where every sip becomes a unique experience.

The essence of cupping

'Cupping' is an essential technique in specialty coffee evaluation. It is a standardized process in which experts analyze and compare the aromas and flavors of different types of coffee. This technique helps identify the quality of the coffee and assess the complexity of its flavor profile.

In a typical 'cupping' session, the coffee beans are first ground and then doused with hot water. The coffee is then left to steep. After a certain period of time, the surface of the coffee is 'broken' and the aroma is evaluated. The coffee is then tasted to assess the taste.

The specialty coffee evaluation is not just limited to tasting. It is a comprehensive analysis that also takes into account the color, texture and mouthfeel of the coffee. The evaluators also pay attention to the aftertaste and balance of the coffee. All these factors together determine the overall quality and enjoyment of the coffee.

The 'cupping' technique and the specialty coffee evaluation are therefore crucial steps in the process of creating that perfect cup of coffee. They reveal the fine nuances of the coffee and help to create truly special coffee experiences. Every coffee lover should attend a cupping session to fully appreciate the complexity and beauty of specialty coffee.

The cupping ritual

In the world of specialty coffee evaluation, the cupping ritual is an important event. This ritual is not something that is done behind closed doors, but is often shared with a group of experts and enthusiasts alike. The aim of these sessions is to unravel the fine details of a coffee, and to discover how the different elements of the coffee come together to create a unique tasting experience.

Specialty coffee evaluation begins with visually inspecting the coffee beans. Cuppers look at the size, shape, color and consistency of the beans. They look for any defects that could affect the taste of the coffee. The coffee is then ground and the smell is assessed, which provides clues about the taste and quality of the coffee.

The warm water is then added and the real 'cupping' begins. The cuppers scoop a spoonful from the surface of the coffee to assess the aromas. After a while they taste the coffee, slurping to aerosolize the coffee and experience all the flavors. They look for notes of fruit, chocolate, spices and other flavors, and evaluate acidity, sweetness, body and finish.

The specialty coffee evaluation is a complex and fascinating process that involves much more than simply drinking coffee. It is an art and science that brings out the unique characteristics of each type of coffee. It's about appreciating the passion and hard work that goes into every step of the process, from growing the beans to roasting and brewing the coffee. By participating in a cupping session, you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the world of specialty coffee.

Specialty coffee flavour

The language of taste

The language of taste in the world of specialty coffee evaluation is vibrant and diverse. Just as no two coffee beans are exactly alike, no two coffee tasting experiences are exactly alike. Each individual brings their own perception and experience to the evaluation of coffee, which contributes to the rich variety of descriptions and impressions found in the specialty coffee world.

There are general terms and concepts that are often used in specialty coffee evaluation, such as acidity, body, aroma and aftertaste. These terms represent the essential characteristics of the coffee and give an indication of the quality and complexity of the taste. But the true beauty of the language of taste lies in the more specific and unique descriptions used by individual cuppers.

For example, a cupper might describe a coffee as having 'notes of dark chocolate with a slight hint of berry and a hint of caramel on the finish'. Another cupper might describe the same coffee as 'rich and full-bodied, with a deep chocolate flavour, a subtle fruitiness and a sweet, smooth finish'. Both descriptions are valid, and together they form a rich and varied picture of the coffee taste experience.

Specialty coffee evaluation goes beyond just tasting the coffee. It's also about understanding and interpreting the flavors, and being able to communicate those experiences in a way that others can understand and appreciate. It is an art form in itself, and one that allows for a deeper appreciation and understanding of coffee.

The role of cupping in specialty coffee

Cupping plays a crucial role in specialty coffee evaluation and is used to assess the quality and taste of coffee. This process, which is both science and art, involves carefully tasting coffee to identify the aromas, flavors, and characteristics that make it unique.

Specialty coffee evaluation requires keen sensory perception and a thorough knowledge of coffee. It involves smelling, tasting, and feeling the coffee, focusing your attention on all aspects of the tasting experience. Cuppers analyze factors such as acidity, body, aroma, and aftertaste, and describe what they perceive in detail.

When evaluating specialty coffee, cuppers should also consider the variables that can affect the coffee's flavor, such as its origin, growing conditions, and processing methods. They must also take into account their own subjective experience and personal preferences, and try to separate these from their objective evaluation.

The ultimate goal of specialty coffee evaluation is not only to determine the quality of coffee based on an SCA score, but also to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexity and diversity of coffee. It is a continuous learning process, a journey of discovery that helps cuppers understand and appreciate the subtleties and nuances of coffee, and share their love and passion for coffee with others.

We at Zwarte Roes also use the cupping method to evaluate specialty coffee. We do this, for example, to test whether the quality is consistent, but also whether a new or adjusted roast profile has the desired result. We also use the cupping method when we want to purchase new coffees. By cupping different coffees next to each other, it gives us a good idea of ​​the quality of the coffee and the associated taste recommendation. We purchase new coffees based on this!


Cupping specialty coffee is an essential part of the specialty coffee evaluation. It is therefore the foundation of quality assessment and crucial for the development and growth of the specialty coffee industry. Every element of the cupping procedure, from smelling the ground to tasting the brewed coffee, is aimed at discovering the unique characteristics of each coffee bean.

Specialty coffee evaluation is an art that requires both skill and a finely developed palate. It is a complex process that requires knowledge of coffee production, understanding of flavor profiles and the ability to recognize subtle differences in taste and aroma. It is a process where every nuance counts.

Specialty coffee evaluation considers not only the quality of the beans and the way they are roasted and brewed, but also the way they are grown and processed. This means that the cuppers not only assess the taste and aroma of the coffee, but also take into account factors such as the origin of the coffee, how the beans were grown and processed, and the impact of these factors on the final product .