Understanding Coffee Cupping

From green coffee buyers, roasters, quality control specialists, baristas, to baristas, and several others along the supply chain, coffee is evaluated and scored by a standard methodology called cupping. For green coffee buyers, cupping is crucial in deciding which coffee to be purchased whereas for roasters, cupping means choosing a right roast profile to ensure the coffee is developed at the right stage. For quality control specialists, this translates to making sure every coffee bean that makes out of the warehouse and ready for export tastes excellent without any potential defects or foul flavours.

Figure – Coffee Cupping Form

Aromatic Profile

What’s fascinating about aroma is that there are currently over 800 varieties of aromatic compounds found in coffee which to a large extent influence the overall flavour perception. As a matter of fact though, humans only perceive only a fraction.

Evaluating the array of flavour profile, at the start will give an idea of what to expect in each cup. The cupper can use this part of the cupping process to be attentive towards any faults and note them down, be it green coffee or roasted coffee. Similarly, great coffees will illuminate itself.

Figure – Flavour Wheel


Anything recorded for flavour should be from the overall flavour experience coupled with aroma which would be experienced from the behind of your olfactory epithelium.

A great way to think about how flavour can be experienced is to five basic tastes and their composition in coffee. These can be referred to as gustatory characteristics is that everything experience in the mouth.

Here are the five basic tastes that a human tongue can perceive.

Sweetness is usually perceived at the tip of the tongue. It can be the sugary taste that can be different from normal sugar, but can be something more like honey.

Acidity is the taste which is experience at the lateral part of the tongue. It offers coffee a certain vividness and sparkle or else it would taste bland. Acidity can be tasted within a range of lemon juice to, winey or pineapple-like.

Bitterness is the taste most people relate to. While there are bitter component like caffeine and melanoids developed during roasting, it can also arise from the brewing process. If brewed or roasted correctly, coffee does not have to be bitter.

The other tastes include umami and salty. Umami translates to the Japanese term for delicious.

Body or Mouth feel is a sensation felt in the entire mouth and not essentially a flavour. It is the texture or heaviness of coffee felt on the tongue.

 Uniformity, Clean cup and Sweetness

These sections is used if you are working with lower quality conventional coffees as it deals with adjusting the score based on the level of defect. These are frequently used by Q-Graders, Green buyers and people in similar roles.

But still being aware of uniformity is probably the first aspect to be focused on under these three categories. If there is something out of place about a cup, mark it down, start again and reassess. If the cupper is marking this section, there is high chance that he or she will have to mark down clean cup and sweetness too, but that will depend upon the defect that arose from it.


This segment is a personal evaluation of the coffee. This is filled out at the end of the cupping process, after all other characteristics is closely evaluated.

The whole system is then evaluated on the basis of a 100 point scale. Coffee with scores of 80 or more is considered speciality coffee. As the largest producer and exporter of coffee in Ethiopia, Kerchanshe Trading has a proud history of providing quality specialty coffee to the local and international markets. Kerchanshe specializes in coffees sourced from Yirgacheffe, Lekempti, Gimbi, Djimma, and Sidamo where some of the world’s finest specialty coffees are produced.