What Is The Purpose Of Coffee Cupping? Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re a coffee-lover, coffee cupping can help you refine your palate. Discover what is the purpose of coffee cupping in this article. 

young African-American woman tasting coffee and assessing its quality - What Is The Purpose Of Coffee Cupping
Coffee cupping is both an art and a science

If you’re a wine drinker, you’ve likely gone to a winery for a tasting experience. There, you can sample a variety of unique wines to see which ones you like best. For coffee lovers, instead of calling it a “tasting,” the process is called “cupping.”

Coffee cupping is both an art and a science, depending on how serious you are about it. The purpose of coffee cupping is to sample different coffees to determine their flavor notes and other highlights. Usually, only professional roasters and tasters will do this, but individuals can create their own coffee tasting experience.

Here is everything you need to know about why you should be cupping coffee.

What Is Coffee Cupping? 

Technically, you could call any coffee-tasting process “cupping.” However, if you want to do it the way the pros do, you need to follow a few rules.

Step One: Get Your Samples Ready

Usually, coffee cupping involves freshly ground coffee beans. You can choose the type of roasted coffee you prefer, such as light or dark roasts. Make sure that the grounds have not been sitting for too long after roasting.

When coffee cupping, you can sample as many blends as you want. Typically, professionals will taste about 10 or 12 at a time.

Pour hot water into the coffee grounds and let it steep for about three to five minutes. Make sure that the liquid has cooled off before tasting.

Step Two: Taste Your Samples

Barista using two spoon during coffee cupping
Professional coffee cupping uses two spoons

Professional coffee cupping uses two spoons—one spoon for stirring and scooping the coffee and one for tasting. The reason for this extra spoon is to ensure a clean flavor profile. However, if you’re cupping on your own, you can use one spoon if you like.

After about 4 minutes, you’ll notice a crust on top of each cup. Use your spoon to break the crust so that you can taste the coffee below.

Step Three: Take Notes

The primary purpose of coffee cupping is to identify specific flavor elements with each coffee. You can pay attention to the acidity, fragrance, aftertaste, and more. From there, you can score each coffee or rank them however you wish.

Why Is Coffee Cupping Valuable?

coffee experts testing the quality of coffee
Coffee cupping is a form of quality control

For professionals, coffee cupping is a form of quality control. Roasters and distributors need to know how every coffee tastes so that they can market them effectively. If a batch is bad (i.e., too sour or burnt), they can take it out of circulation before customers experience it.

On a personal level, cupping allows you to sample coffees from around the world. As long as you have a relatively refined palate, you can identify different aromas, flavors, and tasting notes. Afterward, you can choose the coffee you like best.

Cupping also allows you to identify specific roasts or regions you prefer. For example, maybe you like dark roasts from Bali more than those from Central America. Perhaps you prefer the sweetness of cold brew coffees over hot varieties.

Tips and Tricks for Cupping Coffee

If you want to cup coffee like the professionals, follow these tips:

Use High-Quality Equipment

A cheap coffee grinder will deliver subpar results. You should also use professional-grade drip machines to ensure a more consistent flavor.

Be Consistent With Your Process

coffee grinder with lots of coffee beans
Use the same grind method on all of your coffee beans

Use the same grind method on all of your coffee beans, and let each one steep for the same amount of time. Even your slurp technique should be the same with each variety.

Spit Your Coffee Out

Once you let the flavors dance across your tongue, spit the coffee into the disposal can. Doing this will ensure that each tasting is fresh and unique. Otherwise, the taste of one roast could bleed into the next.

Repeat As Necessary

Master tasters can identify subtle characteristics with a single slurp. You may need a few rounds of practice to pinpoint the differences.

The Final Word on What Is the Purpose of Coffee Cupping

Unless you’re trying to get into the coffee tasting industry, you don’t need an expert-level tongue. Overall, coffee cupping is a great way to sample new flavors and roasts without committing to a whole bag of grounds.

The more you practice your cupping form, the better you’ll get, and eventually, you’ll refine your palate. From there, you can make better cups of coffee.

FAQs About What Is the Purpose of Coffee Cupping

Is there a specific ratio of coffee to hot water?

The industry standard is 8.25 grams of ground coffee beans to 150 ml of water. Ideally, you can put the same in all your cups, but you’ll need quite a bit of hot water to do this.

Can I use any spoon for cupping?

Technically, you should use a special spoon with a deeper bowl. This way, you can sample more of the coffee at once. However, for practice at home, you can just use a regular spoon.


  • Jonathan

    Jonathan is an avid coffee drinker, although he's known to knock back a few energy drinks too. He's been a writer for over seven years, which is why caffeine runs through his veins. Find Jonathan on WriterAccess.