Now that I have your attention with the Yak reference. If you were to take a stroll through downtown Zionsville on any evening, you’d have to be absolutely blind if you didn’t take notice that there is somewhat of a wine culture present. (Hey, my store in a past life was the home to Doug Pendleton, Zionsville’s self-proclaimed Wine Guy) It goes without saying; Zionsville is a very active community. Wine has been known as a symbol of fine life, but the role of wine has evolved over time, moving from a nutrition source to a cultural complement to food and the trappings that are compatible with a healthy lifestyle. But, I’m a coffee guy, so be prepared for some kind of tie-in right? Much like the distinctions that a Sommelier (a French way of saying wine taster) aims to discover with a glass of wine, coffee has a similar process. It’s called “coffee cupping”.

Coffee cupping is the process of tasting and grading the various profiles of coffee. Cupping coffee has a great deal to do with the grading of the levels of Specialty coffee. I spoke about that in a previous post. When a coffee is cupped, scores are given for the aromas, textures, and flavors of the coffee.

Wine and coffee are very similar. Coffee and wine are agricultural products that are fruits to be harvested when they are ripe. They can also be identified by variety and origin, and they both use like terms in description, in some instances. But as a coffee guy I can confidently say, that you should NEVER pay $800.00 for a 20 year old bag of coffee. I’m pretty sure that would be your last coffee cupping experience. You should read this article where an award winning barista gives a shot at cupping a few supermarket favorites. If I had a penny for every conversation I’ve had that begin with, “I usually drink… And I know that ain’t good.” Don’t be embarrassed, we’ve all started somewhere.

Back to cupping. Coffee’s flavor has a wide range of tastes and aromas that are indicative of the regions and elevation of where the plant was grown. Thus we have the Q Grade. But cupping coffee also has a lot to do with the roasting process. The Roaster aims to determine and to highlight certain flavor characteristics that are in the coffee, so the coffee “cups” well.

My first experience in cupping coffee makes me still chuckle a little bit inside. Why?  During the coffee cupping procedure, first the coffee is sniffed and then there is a loud slurp of the coffee to allow the coffee to move to the back of the tongue. Now imagine hearing that for the first time in a room of 40 people? Something out of Monty Python to say the least!

Some of the things that cupping aims to grade are the body of the cup. That’s basically the mouth feel of the coffee. The mouth feel can be a light or thin feel of the coffee. Or it can be a heavier feel, think whole milk. The cupping also rates the taste of the coffee which is a measure of sweetness, saltiness or worse yet sourness. Yuck! And finally cupping tries to rate the aroma of the coffee. Terms that describe the aroma of the coffee are things like “animal-like”, “chemical/medicinal”, “chocolate-like” or “caramel”. Funny, “animal-like” is sometimes seen as a good thing to smell in a cup of coffee? Can you imagine a coffee that smells like a horse or a yak? Not to knock yak smell, but I don’t want to drink yak smelling coffee. No thanks!

So I hope that this was EXACTLY enough to get you in trouble. Just kidding. Ultimately, like a lot of things with human beings, we try to make the simple things in life complicated, but when it’s all said and done… It’s just coffee.  I’m just sayin’.



Coffee Cupping Wheel