A new cupping form: First draft

Working with the SCAE Gold Cup research group, I’m trying to put together a good coffee scoring sheet for different extractions of the same coffee. Which takes me back to question how we score and note coffees ourselves.

Cupping at Kaffemisjonen, we started out using the CoE scoring sheet to describe and score our coffees. But after a while we stopped scoring them all together. It seemed to take focus away from actually analyzing the coffee. It’s designed to help you rank hundreds of coffees from the same country, not to help you decide what coffees to buy the next week in your coffee shop.’

I still think forms are a good way of standardizing cupping notes, which makes communication easier as to how you rank a coffee. So I made one(click image for pdf-version):

cupping form

The first part, “aroma”, is simply open space to put your taste descriptors. The second section is mouthfeel, which I have divided into four subcategories: body, minerality, viscosity and uniformity. The three first are to be scored from Low to High – the last as to how long the mouthfeel persists (a.k.a. deveolops as the coffee gets colder – does it keep it’s traits or transform quickly?).

Third section is taste. Sweetness is asked to be categorized as mostly towards Sugar Browning (Caramel, Vanilla, Chocolate, nuts etc) og mostly towards Enzymatic (Fruit, berries, florals, etc), then scored from low to high. Acidity, Bitterness and balance from Low to high.

Fourth section is complexity/development. Again you score the firs two according to how much it is. The last part is for graphing your experience with the coffee as time passes. Would you score it high or low at the first sip? How does it cooling down effect your experience with it?

At Kaffemisjonen we always cup coffees blindly. When the coffees are revealed, we rarely add anything to our notes apart from the names. However evaluating the coffee again when we know where it origins from, is also important information. “vs origin” reflects on weither it’s transparent (T)(easily detectable from origin, varietal and processing) or original(O)(Which by all means can be exciting as well). “vs expectations” goes to everything else, be it reputation of farm/roaster, someone elses opinion etc. The last part is for cuppers’ comments.

It’s just a first draft, and I already see some weaknesses with it. It needs a box for aftertaste, the scoring system needs to be more differentiated,  the word “length” should be substituted with “time” etc. But it’s along the lines i want to go with this I think.

Comments are very welcome as to where to take this further.


6 Responses to “A new cupping form: First draft”

  1. James Hoffmann Says:

    I think where we perhaps go awry with cupping forms is attempting a one size fits all approach.

    COE has an excellent scoresheet if the job is ranking a relatively high number of coffees comparatively. The numerical aspect works well for this. However I am not sure that the majority of our cuppings as part of our working day are comparative competitive scorings.

    A lot of the time a roaster may be cupping production. Coffees are cupped with preconceived expectations (the desired profile) and we are looking to see if that particular roast meets, or ideally exceeds, them.

    However there are cuppings I might do where I am tasting many samples. I’ll be honest that a part of me is no worried about specific breakdowns as much as whether this coffee is exciting/interesting/saleable!

    A consumer cupping form, in order to ease them into the process, might benefit from a much more explicit comparison of coffees. Asking them to rank which is more acidic/sweet/heavy bodied than the others – not against an unknown scale of 0 to 8, seeing as their experience of huge coffee variation might be limited. Helping them focus on the differences and guiding them through exploring them in a helpful way is likely to elicit a stronger sense of pride and enjoyment than a bewildering and complex form (that comes from my own first use of a CoE form!)

    Sorry to go off on a rant, cupping has been at the front of my mind for some time. I do really like your cupping form, it just spurred a bit of discussion in me!

    • recaf Says:

      I see your perspective above, and it meets most traditional cupping needs. However as you may know we do not cup for any of those reasons. We don’t source from hundreds of coffees, we source from 4 roasteries. Our main objective when cupping is quality control, judging both the roast on this particular roast and weither or not this coffee has faded. Our second objective would be to be able to describe the coffees, and that’s where i think this might help.

      In general I would say that a lot of cuppers, baristas and consumers focus too much on aromas when asked to describe how a coffee tastes. This form is an attempt to organize some of the other, more quality measuring descriptors I find in coffee. You can tell me a coffee reminds you of blueberry, but that wont tell me weither or not it’s interesting.

      I realize that this sort of form probably isn’t too helpful to most coffee professionals’ everyday cuppings, but I still think it can be a good reference point for describing coffees. And it’s still a first draft.

  2. Stian Horne Says:

    Great form Rasmus…
    But as a barista, when i taste coffees, my main objective is often to figure out and taking notes on what it tastes (not only the aromas), so how the mouthfeel is, what kind of sweetness it has, and so on. Not only high, mid and low. So more space for taking notes, then this form would really meet my needs in a cupping form.

  3. Magnus Says:


    I think the term “aroma” in the form is used for describing the whole sensory experience. Taste alone can only be perceived as either sweet, salty, bitter, acidic, etc. (Pinch your nostrils together, then try tasting some strawberry jam on a spoon. Let go of your nose while the jam is still in the mouth.) you need the nose to sense i.e. blueberry or tangerine or whatnot in a coffee. So you can safely write down what you think the coffee tastes in the “aroma”-box, Stian. 🙂

    More space for comments would be nice though, and maybe: Some simple indicator system for degrees of smell/intensity when smelling the grounds/the crust etc. ? It could be like a – / – / + / ++ / * – type of thing, maybe with room for a comment or two.

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