How To: Taste Coffee

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If you love coffee, you don’t want to settle for just an average cup, but producing the perfect cup of coffee is not an easy process. Even tasting coffee is an art, one that Ian Picco, manager at Topeca Coffee in Tulsa, teaches at weekly sessions called “cuppings.”
Like wine, coffee has distinct characteristics that depend on several factors, such as where the beans are grown, weather, etc. Similar to wine, coffee can have notes of chocolate, nuts or fruit.

“Cupping is an easy way to break down coffee into individual taste components,” says Picco. The technique is a primary way to get to know a coffee. Used by the farmer for quality control and by the consumer to decide which coffee to purchase, there is a method and science behind the cupping process.

At Topeca, after touring the roastery and hearing a history of the evolution of coffee from seed to cup, the cupping process begins.

Several small cups of ground beans from all over the world are lined up on a table. Pick up a cup, tap gently with one hand and sniff. The tapping helps release the gases and delivers chemicals to the nose.

Next, the cups are filled to the rim with hot water. After all the grounds are wet, the coffee is allowed to steep for four minutes. Be sure to smell the coffee as it steeps. A crust will develop over the surface of the coffee. Break the crust by plunging a spoon directly into the center and stir exactly three times. Spoon out any floating grounds.

Since the palate can better detect the individual characteristics of coffee after it has cooled slightly, let it stand for a few more minutes before sampling.

The proper way to taste the coffee is to noisily slurp it through a spoon. The purpose is to aspirate the liquid into a mist that hits the entire palate at once. Chew the coffee for a few seconds and then spit out. Otherwise, you may experience a caffeine overload by the time the cupping is finished.

For more information about Friday cupping sessions, contact Topeca at 918.398.8022.

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