Evaluating a quality coffee with cupping - let's taste it together


We often talk about quality coffee: a word that is too much used, which for this reason has lost part of its meaning. On the other hand, what does quality really mean?

The textbook definition for quality coffee is "a coffee that has no defects".

This, in a very simple way, means that the green beans must be beautiful round, whole and without chromatic defects and that in the cup the coffee must not have unpleasant aromas or smells.


Unpleasant perfumes can be, for example, the smell of burning, ash, jute, wood or wet earth, grass, rubber and many others.

These defects are brought to the coffee either by the environment in which the coffee berries grow, or by the bad processing of raw beans or even by incorrect and excessive roasting.


On the contrary, the positive aromas that you can find in the cup while drinking your coffee can be aromas of fresh fruit or nuts, spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, pepper, cumin and so on, licorice, malt, flowers, chocolate, caramel, honey and citrus fruits and much more.


Having established the definition of quality coffee, let's now find out how it is evaluated.


It is important to underline that the "quality" of a coffee is not established by subjective opinions of personal pleasure, but is defined on the basis of objective, pre-established criteria, valid internationally.

Furthermore, the fineness test of a coffee is carried out by expert professionals in the sector, authorized to determine the sensorial profile of the cup examined.


The protocol used for the most part was launched by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America), which provides for the tasting of coffees in Cupping mode, i.e. with coffee brewed.

This protocol offers as a set of guidelines for obtaining a measurable, internationally valid and unambiguous evaluation of the coffee being tasted.


Without going too much into details about the specific Cupping procedure, I can tell you that:

  • it requires a suitable environment, with optimal conditions of air, light, humidity, distractions and temperature
  • you need more samples of each coffee to taste to verify that they are all homogeneous, generally 5 are used
  • specific cups and tasting instruments are used
  • specific times from when the coffee is roasted to when it is tasted
  • certain steps that pass from the evaluation of aroma, taste, and aftertaste, to the homogeneity of the samples and the cleaning of the cup


As the various steps are completed, the official SCA tasting sheet is completed.


The characteristics to take into account are: fragrance, aroma, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, uniformity, cleanliness in the cup, sweetness and overall result.

Each criterion is associated with a numerical score that starts from 0, if of bad workmanship, to 10, a symbol of very high quality of the characteristic under consideration.


All in all, to start determining good coffee, the coffee must get at least a score of 6 on all characteristics. In fact 6 means that it is "good", 7 that it is "very good", 8 is "excellent", 9 and 10 are "exceptional".


At the end all the scores obtained are added together and any defects found during the tasting are subtracted.


If at the end of this process the coffee gets a score of 70 points, it can be considered a good quality coffee. If, however, it reaches at least above 80 points, the coffee is certified as Specialty coffee, that is, a coffee with so unique and special characteristics that it deserves particular recognition.


All this talking about cupping is useful to make people understand that it is not enough to write quality coffee on the package to make the coffee contained inside actually good. There is a long process to complete and certifications to fill out.


It is important to underline again that evaluations are not carried out on a personal pleasure, but objective, measurable and well-determined criteria are established thanks to which it is possible to carry out a professional and valid international analysis.


Having said that we understood together when a coffee is worthy of being called "quality"!


But a truly valid and exceptional raw material is not enough to make the coffee sold by a roaster a Specialty coffee... because a roaster can ruin everything even with just a few more seconds of roasting.


This is why we at Ernani are proud to have such an expert, passionate, meticulous and focused on green coffees  roaster. It is thanks to him that our quality raw coffees are exalted to the maximum by the roasting profile that is attributed to them.


Thanks to our medium roasting we can thus amplify and make you taste even better every aroma present in our coffees, making them intense and complex, creamy and never excessively bitter.

Now it's your turn to try our coffees and tell us what you think! For us, your opinion is important and we hope to improve even more based on your advice!

Martina Mazzoleni

The best coffees, roasted to perfection and delivered where you want

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