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from the Orkney Roastery
The sound, smell and taste of great coffee

The Orkney Roastery Blog

The Process - Cupping

There are so many aspects to creating the right roast and the perfect cup of coffee, but one of the critical parts of the process sees us retire to our cupping room for an afternoon of taste-testing.

Put simply, cupping is how we evaluate and record the characteristics of any given roasted coffee bean. All our coffees have come through this process, which can get pretty scientific! It’s a vital part of creating coffees and, although we’re by no means absolute experts in cupping, it’s something we do take very seriously.

There are really three strands to cupping. First, we compare coffees from different batches and different seasons to make sure we get a consistent profile in our finished products. Next, we have an agreed profile for all the beans we bring in, which is a great starting point when we’re developing new blends.

The final part is where the fun starts! We take samples of the green coffee beans, the roasted coffee beans and ground coffee and lay them out behind a standard cupping bowl. We add water (at EXACTLY 94 degrees) and allow the coffee to brew. Then, and there is no finer way to put this, the slurping begins! You can make as much noise as you like as you take the coffee off the spoon – the slurp helps maximise aeration and distributes the flavours across the palate.

Finally, we use a score sheet to record our thoughts on each bean. All these results are compiled and stored, which gives us a standard to test new coffees against in the future.

The tricky part is making sure the coffees are all cupped in a similar style. We have to roast all our sample beans to the same profile, and the cupping room and the equipment has to be set-up similarly to remove as many variables as possible. Everything matters and we have to ensure that the tastes, smells and visual characteristics can be compared against each other favourably.

It might sound like a lot of work but it’s essentially the foundation for ensuring the consistency and quality of all our coffees. It also gives us so much data which we can then use when we’re planning new products too. We’re always looking for something exciting and unique, so hopefully you can taste that in your coffees.

Now, as coffee lovers like us, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the cupping room is some kind of coffee nirvana, but in reality, it’s such a different process to simply tasting. We find it requires a high degree of concentration, and you really have to focus on the job at hand, rather than simply having a drink. Sometimes we don’t get the results we’re hoping for, and that can be hard, especially when you’re so excited about certain beans or roast profiles.

Cupping is definitely rewarding, but it’s nowhere near as much fun as simply sitting back and enjoying a good cup of coffee.

Take a look at our Facebook page to keep up to date with what we’re doing and to find out more about how we create the perfect cup of coffee for you.

Remember to take a look at our shop to read about our coffees and order directly from us.