To determine the grade of an Arabica coffee, it goes through a process known as coffee scoring, or coffee cupping to coin another term.
We’re going to take a look at ‘what is coffee scoring?‘, how it’s done, and why it’s done. Let’s do this.
What Actually Is Coffee Scoring?
Every coffee in the world is given a quality score out of 100, which is broken down into sections. The coffee will be scored on a number of things such as defects, acidity and body and balance to name a few.
Let’s Break It Down
Firstly, let’s look at defects in coffee. When coffees are cupped or scored, multiple cups of the same coffee are sampled. This allows the taster to notice any differences between one cup and the next.
Coffees that have defects often don’t score anything higher than 80 points and depending on how serious the defect, up to 3 points can be deducted with the points then being multiplied by the number of cups the defect is present in.
To judge the body and acidity of a coffee, coffee tasters will be given a small chart. The Y-axis of the chart allows them to show, in their opinion, how heavy the body or strong the acidity is. The X-axis indicates the quality of the body or acidity. Only the quality axis is used to add points about the coffee.
To find the balance of a coffee (this includes sweetness, mouthfeel, bitterness and flavour) a radar chart is used. More experienced tasters will have more axis on their radar chart compared to tasters who are new to coffee scoring. Each axis is worth up to ten points. Starting at the centre of the radar, the further out on the chart you head, the more points are awarded. However, with bitterness, points are deducted the further out you go.
Finally, a coffee is given an overall score. This is also out of ten and is your overall impression of the coffee.
The scores from the coffee tasters, known as Q graders, will be totalled up and averaged out. Once a coffee has been given a score, it will then be put into one of three categories.
If a coffee receives a score between 65 and 80, it will be known as a commodity coffee. This is the stuff you will find in your local supermarket.
Anything over 80 is what’s known as speciality coffee. This is the stuff we roast here at Two Chimps Coffee. It’s a much higher grade of Arabica coffee and has been cared for throughout its life.
The Presidential Award is given to coffees of 90 or above. Very few coffees currently receive such a score. We love to roast these, as and when they become available to us.
How It Is Done
A process known as Coffee Cupping is used to find the quality score of a coffee. This is the fairest way to find a score as every step is completed in the same way. For instance, each coffee will be weighed out, then ground at the same grind size. The water will always be at the same temperature, and each cupping bowl will also be the same size.
A timer is used too, to keep track of how long the coffee has been brewing for. Preparing each coffee, in the same way, means that the only thing that creates differences in the coffee is the coffee itself.
For our cupping bowls at the roastery, 13.4g of coffee is weighed out and ground into each bowl. The timer starts, and the water is poured onto each coffee.
Then, after four minutes, the crust of the coffee is broken. After the crust of each coffee has been broken, any remaining ground coffee on the top of the liquid will be scraped off. At around the 12-minute mark, the coffee tasting can begin.
A cupping spoon is placed gently into the bowl as not to disturb any grounds that have settled. Next, we give the spoon a big slurp. The louder, the better! Although it is a very odd way of tasting coffee, there is method in the madness! Slurping the coffee rather than just drinking it means that the coffee will coat the whole of the mouth.
Why Score Coffee?
Without a coffee quality score, one would never know the quality of the coffee they were drinking, or, in our case, sourcing. All the hard work that coffee farmers put in to grow the coffee and care for it would be for nothing, as there wouldn’t be any way for anyone to know how good their coffee was compared to others.
What we’re trying to say is that without coffee scoring there wouldn’t be any structure to the world of coffee. Without coffee scoring, no one would appreciate good coffee as they do now. Imagine that…. A world with no good coffee. It is like a nightmare!
But luckily, we don’t have to worry about any of that. Coffee scoring saves the day.