“Cupping” is the coffee equivalent of a wine tasting—but specialty coffee actually has more flavor and aroma compounds to discover than wine does (800, vs. just 200 in wine 😲)

…AKA there’s even more deliciousness to discover, and even more opportunity to sound knowledgable, sophisticated, and all-around awesome as you sip.

But just like wine, coffee’s notes can be subtle and hard to pick up on, even for professional palates. An official “cupper” is an employee of the Specialty Coffee Association of America whose job it is to test cups of coffee… talk about a dream job!

But you can also practice the art of cupping and DIY an easy cupping set up at home – so read on to follow your coffee cupping dreams 🙂 


What is “Cupping”?

Have you ever been to a wine tasting? Cupping is similar in the sense that you’re simply tasting the coffee as a way to test it.

Except it’s not so simple.

Coffee, just like wine, has subtle notes and hints of flavors that aren’t always immediately recognizable (even to the well trained palate).

Put simply, “cupping” is a refined method of evaluating various characteristics of a specific coffee bean. The purpose of this process is to gather data that helps label coffees as specialty or otherwise as well as education – each time a cupper tests coffee (sometimes up to 15 cuppers test a single cup of coffee!), new and better understandings of coffee in general come to light.

Why do it?

Cupping is used to identify the various layers of flavors in a coffee, from the most basic to the best hidden. This method particularly helps distinguish which coffee would be best used in blends vs. which is considered specialty coffee.

The method is extremely versatile – there is no right or wrong way to do it per se. It can be utilized to identify coffee from a myriad of different areas involved in coffee production – like farms, individual crops, regions, and countries – as all aspects vary from one to the other. Coffee grown in Costa Rica tastes different from coffee grown in Ethiopia or Indonesia (which is why a coffee world tour is the best way to discover what the world of coffee has to offer!)

How to Cup

As mentioned, there really is not a right or wrong way to “cup”, but if you’re giving cupping a try at home, you’re probably aiming to train your palate to pick up on subtle notes – which ultimately can make coffee that much more enjoyable and delicious!

We encourage you to make your cupping process your own! That being said, whatever you do, always use the same method each time.

Here is a general outline for the cupping process (using what’s called the ‘infusion method’):

What you’ll need:

  • Coarsely ground coffee
  • Small bowl
  • Kettle or saucepan
  • Water
  • Spoon
  • Deep spoon/ladle


  1. Place grounds in small bowl.
  2. Pour nearly boiling water over the grounds.
  3. Allow water to imbue grounds for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Break the crust of the bowl with the spoon.
  5. Stir gently, allowing grounds to sink to the bottom – those left on top should be discarded (use spoons to scrape away). The surface should be clear of grounds before you start sipping.
  6. Fill deep spoon/ladle and bring to your lips. “Inhale” the coffee on the spoon by sucking in your breath very quickly so that the coffee is sprayed across the roof of your mouth. Roll coffee over your tongue- trying to figure out what flavors you taste – and then let it fall into the back of your mouth. Drinking the coffee in this manner creates a “vapor” that also stimulates the sense of smell when tasting.
  7. Repeat until you detect all the flavors that you can.

Other Coffee Cupping Tips

  • A light roast is best for novice cuppers as it is easier to pick out subtleties in the flavor. Generally, the darker the roast, the more intricate the flavors.
  • It is best to coarsely grind your coffee and then let it rest for two days
  • Smelling the coffee during step #4 will help you better define flavors when tasting.