What is cupping?

I believe you have heard somewhere of the phrase, “cupping coffee”. You also then wondered what exactly does that mean?

Cupping coffee is just a fancy coffee terminology used to define the action of tasting coffee. It’s basically like you would go and do a wine tasting. Yes, you can go and TASTE coffee. Pretty rad, right?

Cupping coffee is a professional practice done by coffee experts, but it can also be done informally just for the love of coffee. It’s a practice to observe the different tastes and aromas present in fresh roasted coffee as well as brewed coffee.

This particular procedure involves deeply sniffing the dry and wet coffee, loudly slurping the coffee so that it spreads all the way to the back of your tongue. It is not considered rude among coffee lovers to slurp your coffee, it’s totally normal.

When cupping coffee, the attempt is to measure certain aspects of the coffee such as; body, sweetness, acidity, flavor, taste. All of these factors are evaluated during cupping and contributes to the flavor profile.


The following aspects are evaluated during the cupping of coffee and scored individually by coffee experts:

  • Aroma/Fragance
  • Acidity
  • Flavour
  • Body/Mouthfeel
  • Finish/Aftertaste


The aroma/fragrance of coffee can be perceived in two different ways when tasting coffee. It can be perceived nasally or retro-nasally. What does this mean?

Nasally: the aroma is sensed through smelling the coffee through your nose.

Retro-nasally: this will occur while the coffee is present in the mouth or swallowed. The volatile compounds of the coffee move upwards in your nasal passage where you’ll perceive the aroma of the coffee.

So not only do you smell coffee through your nose but while the coffee is present in your mouth or after swallowing. There’s over 800 aromatic compounds that’s present in coffee, and increases year by year, as more compounds are identified. These aromatic compounds can be perceived in dry coffee as well as wet coffee.

Dry coffee refers to coffee beans or coffee grounds that hasn’t been extracted yet. You will smell the fresh roasted coffee beans as well as ground coffee beans.

Wet coffee is when coffee grounds has been infused with hot water. You will smell the coffee during this process as well as after waiting a few minutes for extraction to take place.


The acidity of coffee usually refers to the pH of the drink. This can be referred as the brightness or sourness of the coffee. It contains various acids which contributes to the acidic flavors present in your cup of joe and is responsible for creating a more sophisticated flavor profile.

A cup of coffee with a good or high acidity usually has a round, lively fruitiness which is bright, tangy and compared with a clean finish.

One with a lack or low acidity is referred to being dull, smooth feel in the mouth and the tastes lingers in the mouth after swallowing it.


This is simply how your cup of coffee tastes like. When you are tasting your coffee, the following aspects are looked at in the flavor; sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, savory.

So, what do you taste when you are sipping your coffee? This is something that you will accumulate over time as you taste more and more coffee. Some of the coffee flavours are considered being bold where as others are subtler. The flavour of coffee is also a characteristic of the region it’s been grown.

The various flavors of coffee has been put into a diagram known as the flavor wheel. The flavor wheel is most commonly used when cupping coffee.



This refers to the palate’s tactile experience and not so much the flavor characteristics of coffee. How does the coffee feel in your mouth? Is it heavy on the tongue or is it light?

When a cup is regarded as light, it tends to be waterier, has lesser milk and the flavor doesn’t linger. With a heavier body, it’s creamier and buttery which is due to having more milk as well as the flavor lingers in the mouth.


The finish/aftertaste of a cup of coffee refers to the positive flavors and how long they linger on the palate, after swallowing.

The aftertaste can be evaluated according to the sweetness, bitterness or is it astringent. What are the tastes that stays behind in the mouth? This will determine the finish of a cup of coffee.


Origin Coffee Roasting


“Our Head Roaster, Mike MacDonald, creates an exceptional experience for each Cupping Session. From the coffees tasted to the session’s focus each Cupping is a unique experience.”

  • Taste coffee like the professionals
  • Explore and understand different origins and characteristics of coffee

They can take up to 12 people per session.

R50 / 1 hour

Book your ticket online now: http://originroasting.co.za/v3/barista-order/

Contact details:

28 Hudson Street De Waterkant
Cape Town 8001

+27 21 421 1000


I hope you found this interesting and resourceful. Stay tuned as I will be blogging about how to cup next week. Make sure not to miss out in this one. Be bold and go try out some cupping.

Till the next cup of coffee.



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