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Coffee tasting

Coffee tasting determines the quality of the beans

Coffee tasting (also called coffee cupping) is done to determine the characteristics of a particular coffee blend or to guess the origin of a particular coffee bean. A coffee taster judges coffee based on appearance, aroma, body, and flavor by first smelling and then slurping the coffee. He or she will taste the coffee at various temperatures to discover all the complexities of the blend or bean.

Though coffee cupping is a professional practice, you don’t have to be a coffee connoisseur to try coffee tasting.  Any coffee lover will surely find this activity interesting and enriching.  Think of it as a little like a wine tasting where, with practice, you come to recognize different aromas and flavors. Once you get the feel for coffee tasting, you'll never look at your coffee the same way again. You'll be able to appreciate the difference between the good and the bad, and you’ll know what it means to truly enjoy a great cup of coffee.


Aroma is the key to the coffee tasting experience

Did you know that a good, clean coffee aroma is the mark of a truly good coffee? Instinctually, you probably already did. But what is aroma anyway?

Aroma and flavor can be hard to separate. Aroma is mostly perceived through our sense of smell and allows the taster to distinguish different flavors of a coffee. When tasters talk about a balanced cup, they could mean that a coffee has the satisfying presence of aroma and flavor where no one characteristic is more powerful than another.

Some common coffee aroma characteristics are:

•    Intense (total intensity of all types of aroma)
•    Coffeeness
•    Clean (meaning absence of grassy, rubbery, moldy and other
     off-tastes that signify lower quality coffee)
•    Roasty
•    Groundsy (for coffee that has come in contact with grounds
     too long)
•    Cereal
•    Cooked (left on stove too long, stewed or even burnt)
•    Milky
•    Caramel (due to caramelized sugar)
•    Nutty

Coffee cuppers or tasters use special techniques. (©Oddner, Malmö)

Think you’re up to the challenge of a coffee tasting session? The following tips will help you master the art of coffee cupping!

What you need:
To start the tasting session, bring water to a short boil. Do not use filtered water, as artificially softened water can affect taste. Also, in mixing and tasting the coffee, use only a silver spoon so that an off-taste doesn’t affect the cupping process. Serve your coffee in a mug or bowl. And you might want to have paper on hand to note your findings.

What to do:
First note the appearance of the coffee. Then take one spoonful of coffee, pucker your lips and forcefully sip it. This procedure is called "aspirating" or "slurping" and it helps enhance the taste experience. By slurping the coffee you ensure that all your taste buds all over your tongue experience the coffee taste more or less at the same time. This allows your tongue to better identify the coffee’s flavor. Another reason to slurp? It’s just more fun!

NESCAFÉ teams regularly conduct coffee tasting sessions because it’s important to us that our consumers always have the best-tasting and great quality coffee. Our cupping sessions help ensure our products consistently taste great the way you expect them to.  

For example, in NESTLÉ Philippines’ Cagayan de Oro Factory, trained NESCAFÉ cup tasters note each coffee taste and characteristic in a grading sheet in the factory where NESCAFÉ coffee is produced.

Our teams of coffee tasters base their evaluations on the NESCAFÉ standard of aroma and taste for each blend. Each detail in the production helps them achieve the perfect cup of NESCAFÉ.

Helpful Links

Coffee history



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