Cupping with a french press?

Cupping for clarity

Cupping is the way the coffee industry grades coffee… and it’s hilarious. Not that it’s not  important or that it’s done in a stupid way, it just looks silly. Here is an abridged version of the Specialty Coffee Association protocol;

Cupping Glasses

  • Cupping vessels shall be of tempered glass or ceramic material. They shall be between 7 and 9 fluid ounces (207 ml to 266 ml), with a top diameter of between 3 and 3.5 inches (76 – 89 mm). All cups used shall be of identical volume, dimensions and material of manufacture, and have lids.

Determining Measurements

  • The optimum ratio is 8.25 grams of coffee per 150 ml of water, as this conforms to the mid-point of the optimum balance recipes for the Golden Cup.
  • Determine the volume of water in the selected cupping glass and adjust weight of coffee to this ratio within +/- .25 grams

Pouring

  • Water used for cupping should be clean and odor free, but not distilled or softened. Ideal Total Dissolve Solids are 125-175 ppm, but should not be less than 100 ppm or more than 250 ppm.
  • The water should be freshly drawn and brought to approximately 200º F (93ºC) at the time it is poured onto the ground coffee. Temperature needs to be adjusted to elevation
  • The hot water should be poured directly onto the measured grounds to the rim of the cup, making sure to wet all of the grounds. The grounds to steep undisturbed for a period of 3-5 minutes before evaluation.

Evaluation Procedure Samples should first be visually inspected for roast color. This is marked on the sheet and may be used as a reference during the rating of specific flavor attributes. The sequence of rating each attribute is based on the flavor perception changes caused by decreasing temperature of the coffee as it cools:

  • Step #1 – Fragrance/Aroma
    • Within 15 minutes after samples have been ground, the dry fragrance of the samples should be evaluated by lifting the lid and sniffing the dry grounds.
    • After infusing with water, the crust is left unbroken for at least 3 minutes but not more than 5 minutes. Breaking of the crust is done by stirring 3 times, then allowing the foam to run down the back of the spoon while gently sniffing. The Fragrance/Aroma score is then marked on the basis of dry and wet evaluation.
  • Step #2 – Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, and Balance
    • When the sample has cooled to 160º F (71º C), in about 8-10 minutes from infusion, evaluation of the liquor should begin. The liquor is aspirated into the mouth in such a way as to cover as much area as possible, especially the tongue and upper palate.Because the retro nasal vapors are at their maximum intensity at these elevated temperatures, Flavor and Aftertaste are rated at this point.
    • As the coffee continues to cool (160º F – 140º F), the Acidity, Body and Balance are rated next. Balance is the cupper’s assessment of how well the Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, and Body fit together in a synergistic combination.
    • As the coffee continues to cool (160º F – 140º F), the Acidity, Body and Balance are rated next. Balance is the cupper’s assessment of how well the Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, and Body fit together in a synergistic combination.
  • Step #3 – Sweetness, Uniformity, and Cleanliness
    • As the brew approaches room temperature (below 100º F) Sweetness, Uniformity, and Clean Cup are evaluated. For these attributes, the cupper makes a judgment on each individual cup, awarding 2 points per cup per attribute (10 points maximum score).
    • Evaluation of the liquor should cease when the sample reaches 70º F (21º C) and the Overall score is determined by the cupper and given to the sample as “Cupper’s Points” based on ALL of the combined attributes.
  • Step #4 – Scoring
    • After evaluating the samples, all the scores are added as describe in the “Scoring” section below and the Final Score is written in the upper right hand box.

 

A cupping session can appear painfully serious, yet includes adults slurping and sucking out of spoons dipped into community cups. Lol

But this is the way coffee grading is done, and determines the price of a coffee (commodity coffee costs somewhere around 1 USD per pound, while highly sought after coffee can go for hundreds of dollars per pound at auction). Coffee pros claim that cupping results in the cleanest and best representation of what a coffee tastes like, which is why so much rides on a cupping session.

Ok, so I’m not saying that we should all be cupping at home. What I’m getting at is that the cupping protocol is a refined process with an explicit purpose – total appreciation of the coffee being tasted. So, shouldn’t we be trying to simulate the brewing process of a cupping session when we make coffee at home?

 

Simulate a cupping with french press

This was exactly the question posed by James Hoffmann on his blog JimSeven. Something you may have noticed; the brew method used during a cupping is a full immersion method. This is where coffee is steeped in water, rather than letting the water percolate through. This is the same thing that happens in a french press, so maybe we can simulate the cupping experience with a french press!

The major difference, though, comes in separating the brewed coffee from the grounds. In a cupping, the floating grinds and oils are scooped out, and coffee is slurped from the top surface. With a french press, the floating grinds are pushed to the bottom of the vessel. No matter how carefully you do this, the press inevitably agitates and forces a final percolation in the beans. It’s this step that James attempts to avoid. Below is a quote from Jame’s original post where he outlines a little experiment he performed to compare his regular french press technique to the kind of brew you’d get at a cupping:

So today I did a little experiment. I brewed two press pots:

The first was brewed as I usually do: 60g/l (in this case it was 24g/400g water), 4 minutes, break and clean (see cupping protocol), press and then after a minute or so I served/decanted. The grind was a little coarser than cupping (2 steps on our VTA6).

The second I treated like a cupping bowl. Cupping grind, 4 minutes, break and clean (see cupping protocol) and then I left it sitting there for 10 minutes (around the time a cupping bowl starts to get really tasty). When it was time to pour I put the strainer in but didn’t plunge – I just poured it through the mesh.

James Hoffmann, on JimSeven.com

Soooooo….

I have been playing around with this technique for the last month. Typically I am a pour-over or aeropress guy but I gotta say, I’ve been really enjoying my french press a lot more. I might be converted to using the french press for my everyday coffee.

Go ahead, give it a shot! If you are a Level 3 subscriber, you have a perfect A/B test set-up. Just follow both of Jame’s recipes, one bag per recipe from a single variety. Otherwise, try it out with your regular coffee. If you do, let me know what you think in the Patreon comments!

For current subscribers, you will be receiving a printed summary with your package that you can take to the kitchen. It looks something like this:

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