You might think you’re objectively evaluating the coffees on your cupping table – but, chances are, you’re not. Your expectations and personal biases will always impact the scores you’re giving.
The only solution? Blind cupping.
This won’t just help you to accurately score coffees. It will also reveal your personal biases and test your taste buds. So, let’s take a look at what it is and how you can do it.
You might also like Coffee Tasting Exercises That Will Improve Your Palate
Coffees on the cupping table. Credit: Dennis Tang
What Is a Blind Cupping?
Blind cupping is different from regular cupping in that you don’t know anything about the coffee you’re tasting. This means that near objectivity can be achieved. What’s more, for greater objectivity and insights, you can include coffees from other roasters on the table.
In a blind cupping, the people tasting the coffees don’t know which coffee is which. In a double-blind cupping, the people hosting the event also don’t know.
When blind tasting, the goal is to find the best cup of coffee – without ego affecting the results. Branding, the opinions of others, and the relative cost of a coffee are all influencing factors in how we judge a coffee.
So, how do you blind cup coffee? I’m glad you asked!
Preparing to cup coffee at home. Credit: Tall Mast Coffee
How to Blind & Double-Blind Cup Coffee
Do you have to be a coffee roaster to conduct a blind cupping? Absolutely not! All you have to be is someone passionate about coffee, keen to improve your palate or increase your appreciation for our favourite beverage.
I won’t recap how to cup coffee – if you want to learn this, check out the guide here. (You can also view the cupping protocols recommended by the SCAA, now part of the SCA, here.) Let’s go straight ahead and look at how to conduct a blind or double-blind cupping:
1. Choose (at least) two coffees.
2. Invite a fellow coffee professional to bring (at least two) coffees roasted by someone else.
3. Get your equipment ready (clipboard, spoons, etc.).
4. Ask someone else to label the bottom of the cupping vessels and place the ground coffee samples in their corresponding cups.
Weighing beans before cupping to ensure consistency. Credit: Joel Andrew Photography
5. Fill the cups with water and go through the coffee cupping process, starting with smelling and progressing through flavour, acidity, body, uniformity, and so on.
6. Score each aspect of the coffee.
7. Total the scores.
8. Lift up the vessels and write the name of each coffee next to your cupping notes.
9. Don’t judge the outcome! Maybe you scored a coffee roasted by a competitor’s café higher than your own. Let this be a teachable moment where you learn something about yourself and your roasts.
Cupping samples, before and after roasting. Credit: Peet’s Coffee
Extra Tips and Tricks
To get the most out of your blind cupping, try the following:
1. Do it regularly (especially if you’re a roaster). The more you cup, the better you get at it.
2. Invite your coffee-obsessed friends over and host a wine tasting to train your palate. Take it a step further with beer, cheese, chocolate, or any other specialty food and beverage.
3. Ask a friend of yours who dislikes coffee to blind taste with you. Their tasting insights will be enlightening. (My own mother told me that she prefers her tried-and-true pre-ground dark roast supermarket coffee to the variety of locally roasted coffees I had her sample.)
Breaking the crust, a moment that releases aromas during cupping. Credit: Maren Barbee
Challenge your biases and open yourself up to learning by blind cupping coffee. Remember that, every day, you consume foods and drinks comprised of hundreds of different flavors. When you embrace the creative process of blind tasting, you get better at tasting these and grow as a coffee professional.
Enjoyed this? Check out Coffee Tasting Exercises That Will Improve Your Palate
Written by Daniel Gonske of Tall Mast Coffee.
Perfect Daily Grind
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