Coffee Tasting Class: A Cupping

Barista Badge, Step 2

Did you know that coffee tasting can be an experience a lot like wine tasting? I had no idea, but was pleased to find out when we walked into The Brew on a snowy Thursday evening to find our class space laid out with colorful wheels of tasting notes.

We contacted a local coffee shop to ask if they offered barista classes of some sort. Jordan at The Brew Cafe kindly put together a cupping for us. What is a cupping? I had to google it to find out… it is an awesome experience that gets you nose deep in coffee in a variety of forms: roasted, ground, cooked, and steeped. We tried coffee in different forms: batch dripped, pour over, french press, and espresso. I love coffee. I drink it every day. But I had no idea how much I didn’t know about this magical bean. Read on and watch the video below to join us on our adventure into coffee with The Brew Cafe.

But first, if you are interested in learning more about coffee, it’s history, and the tools and terms we use for coffee, check out our posts on the history of coffee and terminology, tools, and coffee techniques.

Earn the Barista Badge

If you are interested in earning the Barista Badge yourself, you can see the Barista Badge Guide, or “recipe” for the badge here. Each Badge Guide contains three steps to be completed in order to earn the badge. These steps can be done on your own, but we encourage you to grab a few friends and learn together!

Step 2 of any badge is to learn from others. Taking an organized class is a great way to do this step if you can find one!

Coffee Class

Technically, a cupping is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of coffee. It is typically led by a professional, but you could host your own cupping at home using the following steps.

The Cupping

The actual coffee tasting portion of the evening consisted of a series of steps, each one followed by observing the aromas and or tastes induced by that step. We had a colorful wheel of aromas and flavors to reference. Each step revealed a slightly different version of the smells and tastes.

The cupping steps:

  1. Looking at roasted beans of different varieties.
  2. Smelling ground beans.
  3. Wetting ground beans with hot water to create a bloom, where CO2 is released from the ground beans.
  4. Cracking the “crust” on the top of the bloom for more aroma.
  5. Slurping the coffee (with grounds still in it – watch out!)
  6. Tasting the coffee made with different techniques like pour over, drip, and french press.

The best way to get a feel for the cupping experience is to watch the video of us discussing the class below.

Espresso

At the end of the class we sampled espresso. We learned that The Brew Cafe uses a blend of beans for their espresso. The beans are ground finely and shaped into a “puck” with a metal tool that attaches to the espresso machine. The espresso machine, by the way, is GORGEOUS. It is shiny and high tech and simply gleams from the center of the shop. Jordan kindly let us behind the counter to take a closer look.

We asked: What are some of the more “out there” orders you have gotten in the shop? The answer that jumped to mind was actually an example from another coffee shop that served smoothies – a customer often ordered a berry smoothie with shots of espresso in it. That does not sound appetizing to me! Another customer ordered a cold brew with two shots of espresso. That is a LOT of caffeine!

A big difference between coffee tasting and wine or beer tasting is that you get BETTER at it over time instead of drunker and therefore worse at picking out the notes and flavors. We did our cupping in the evening, so we were quite cautions about our coffee intake. In the future, I would schedule something like this for a weekend morning!

For Step 3 of the Barista Badge we hosted friends and family to do a coffee taste test and make some “fancy” coffee drinks at home! We’ll share the results of our taste test and how to make a few coffee shop drinks at home in our next post. 

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