If you stop by Elm on a Sunday morning, you might see us in the back hunched over a line of porcelain ramekins, loudly slurping spoonfuls of coffee. It's a practice known in the coffee world as cupping, and it's just one of the many quality checks we use at Elm.
Cupping is a practice that helps us evaluate and observe the taste, aroma and body of a coffee, and compare it to other coffees on the table. Before we start roasting on Sundays, we line up and cup all the coffees we roasted the previous week to make sure they are up to standard. We're always looking for ways to better highlight the best flavors of each one. Here's where we decide, for instance, if we want to try to make a coffee sweeter, if we want to bring out more of its lemony acidity, or if we want to make adjustments to give it a fuller body.
Here's how we cup our coffees.
You'll need coffee, a grinder, ramekins, hot water and a way to heat it, kitchen timer, two spoons per participant, a cup of hot water to rinse your spoon after each dip in coffee, and a spit cup if you don't want to be mega-caffeinated. Have a notebook handy if you are the note-taking sort.
Dose out 12 grams of each coffee you'd like to cup.
Grind and place in equal-sized ramekins, or another wide-mouthed cup. Line 'em up.
Get a kettle of water going. While it's heating up, you can smell the coffee grounds and note anything you notice there.
Have a kitchen timer handy, and set it for 4 minutes. After the water has boiled, wait about 20 seconds or so, then fill each ramekin of coffee grounds all the way to the top with hot water, about 180 grams. Smell the grounds again and note anything that jumps out of you.
Once the timer buzzes and the coffee has steeped, go down the line and 'break' the coffee crust with the back of a spoon. You'll want to do this with your nose really close to the ramekin so you can note the aroma you get when breaking. With two spoons, scoop the grounds off the surface of the cup and dispose. Grounds make a great addition to compost!
Wait for the coffee to cool a bit (can't taste coffee with a burnt tongue!) and now it's time to actually taste it.
Dip your spoon in and SLURP! The technical term for this is 'aspirate.' You want to bring air in rapidly when you slurp your coffee and hit all parts of your tongue. This way, you'll get the full aroma and flavor of the brew. Try to note any sweetness, acidity, and how developed the coffee tastes. The more you do it, the easier it gets to put a name to that thing you taste that you just can't quite pinpoint.
We will begin hosting public cuppings on every last Sunday of the month. The first will be July 31. Stay tuned for more information.