Brown’s is a favourite haunt of mine in Kent for good coffee, my original blog about them is a bit out of date but can be found here. They’re starting regular cupping sessions. In a nutshell, cupping is the process of brewing beans to get the most flavours out of them. Coffee shops and roasters often do this to come up with flavour profiles, and really is the best way of understanding how a coffee develops. Coffee cupping is about getting to know the coffee, as intimately as possible.
The process is straight-forward: the beans are measured and then ground. 12g of beans to 200g of water (a ratio of 60). Take a moment to smell the freshly ground coffee to discern some of the early qualities of the aroma. Pour off-boil water over the grounds, which then begin to bloom. Soon a crust of coffee grounds will form, once this happens, take a spoon and break the crust. This will release the most powerful burst of aroma you are liable to get, and will enable a thorough analysis of the scent of the coffee. Take a long breath of the coffee.
The next stage is to let the coffee cool a little before skimming the grounds out of the cup and you’re ready to taste. Take a spoon and take a little drop of coffee, and then slurp quickly. The slurp is important because it aerates the coffee, and helps move the coffee across the whole tongue, maximising flavour. Bear in mind that the coffee will change as it cools, and flavours will evolve and interact differently with other qualities of the coffee as time progresses. Make notes, pick out distinct flavours, or just enjoy being as close to the coffee as you are ever likely to be.
The coffees on offer this time round were from Has Bean, Origin and Workshop. The cupping itself was also an experiment. Two of each coffee were prepared to see what factors appeared to effect the clarity of the coffee. One cup of each coffee was prepared with mineral water, and the other with tap water. The low pH and impurity rating of the mineral water had a massive impact on the qualities of the coffee – this was expected, but the unanimity and vociferousness behind the superiority of the mineral water coffees was unmistakeable.
The results explain why such efforts go into water filtration in coffee shops these days. But they also bring up wider questions surrounding the experiential side to coffee. Is taste really subjective? And what does that even mean?
A big thank you to @BrownsCoffeehse in Canterbury for putting this free event on. It’s set to be a regular fixture, so watch their Twitter for details. Thanks also to @ThomBurrows for hosting the cupping and educating everybody.