Steve Kraus of Press Coffee Roastery Takes Us Through a Coffee "Cupping"

Categories: Chef and Tell

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Evie Carpenter
Steve Kraus of Press Coffee
This is part two of our interview with Press Coffee owner Steve Kraus. Today, he's taking us through our first coffee "cupping," a process similar to a wine tasting -- except with a lot more slurping. On Monday, we chatted about coffee as an agricultural product and found out why cuppings are so important for roasters when selecting coffee beans. If you missed that part of the interview, you can read it here.

See also: Toddy Takedown: Press Coffee Roasters vs. Cartel Coffee Lab

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Lauren Saria
Ready for a dry smell

Cupping starts with a dry smell of the ground beans. Usually, you're tasting several beans at a time, so everyone participating in the cupping will take a turn smelling the grounds, making sure to give the cup a shake to release the aromas (the same way you'd do with a glass of wine). Next, they'll brew the coffee, using the immersion method -- which basically just means pour hot water over the grounds and letting them sit for about four minutes.

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Lauren Saria
Kraus breaks the crust on a cup of coffee.
Once the coffee is brewed, you "break the crust," or the layer of grounds that will have risen to the top of the cup. Breaking the crust involves getting your face up close to the cup and taking in the "bloom" of aromas that get released when the layer is punctured. After all the crusts have been broken and the ground is skimmed off the top of each cup, it's time to actually begin tasting. Except that tasting acutally means "slurping," a special way of sipping a spoonful of coffee while trying to inhale air and take in the coffee's aroma and taste. It's pretty similar to how you'd taste wine, except more difficult to do without coughing and (at least for us) a lot more awkward.

"Coffee is very similar to wine," Kraus says. "So I never say this coffee is better than that coffee. It has to do with your taste."

Press offers public cuppings, which you can get information about on their website. You can also arrange for a private cupping if you call the roastery.

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Lauren Saria
Press General Manager Alex Mason slurps coffee.

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Press Coffee Roastery

4243 S. 36th Place, Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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4 comments
steve1221
steve1221

@swag unless of course the purpose of the cupping is to teach a roaster/consumer/customer the characteristics and general knowledge of coffee beans or beans from different countries. It's also used in pallet development, aroma, fragrance and sensory. Much like what a Sommelier does when getting he/she's certification or in this situation maybe a Q grader. 


Your right, cuppings were/are designed for finding defects and thats still common practice when sampling new crop, however if your cupping coffees that have already been stocked, then why wouldn't it an acceptable practice if your enjoying a product thats already been approved. Common practice and acceptable by SCAA standards.  So the question to you would be, how would one go about learning coffee aside from visiting a local coffee shop that doesn't practice coffee education? I for one learned wine from visiting wineries, meeting wine makers and sommeliers not by tasting it at from a vendor as I sought out the best way to be better educated on wine. 


swag
swag

Similar to wine tasting? Hardly. Unlike wine tasting, which is the best way to enjoy and experience the product, coffee cuppings are designed for anything but enjoyment. They were designed by industry workers to taste for defects and reject bad bags of beans before splashing out the cash on them.


If you've been to a wine barrel tasting, even that's more enjoyable - but clearly something that's not designed around enjoying the end product.


Public cuppings are a bit like trying to make a fun social game out of meat inspection. I wish people in the coffee industry would stop treating customers as if the only way to relate to them is to turn them into employees first.

jaminsky
jaminsky

@swag  Actually, for many of the same reasons that cupping is used all over the world for grading defects, a large percentage of the coffee industry argue that it is actually the most enjoyable way to experience a coffee. Its both a great brewing method, in that its difficult to mess up and consistently excellent, as well as inherently being a process that encourages you take some time to enjoy what a given coffee can offer.


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