Kike descends once again from the heavens and humbles us by shedding light on the eternal question: what even is a Q Grader, is coffee cupping a spa treatment or something else, and how he uses the Tastify app to consistently and beautifully convey each of our distinct coffee varieties' flavours, aromas & fragrances.
Following on from Kike's Vlog Chapter 1 where he talks us through his approach to developing the perfect coffee roasting profile, Chapter 2 delves into the intricacies of actually describing how a coffee may taste and smell.
It's not for the faint of heart though. Just as a sommelier is to wine, or a Scotsman is to whisky, Licensed Q Graders (of which there are only about 3,500 worldwide) are a rigorously trained, jacked-on-caffeine elite group of noisy coffee slurpers. Certified by the Specialty Coffee Association, every Q Grader can with pin-point accuracy taste, describe and communicate any particular coffee -- regardless of whoever conducted the tasting. As a sort of 'universal language' of flavour, it's a great way of consistently being able to classify coffee.
Tastify takes standardising flavour descriptors one step further, and is a great tool for being able to intelligently categorise, and re-communiate the description of a coffee's aroma, fragrance and taste.
We at Bonaverde are pretty excited to say goodbye to paper-based scoring forms so as to evaluate and store our speciality coffees -- we are working towards implementing Tastify flavour wheels very soon in our own coffee marketplace online -- so watch this space!
A Quick Coffee Cupping Approach:
Whilst SCA already provides an exhaustive protocol, below is a quick overview of Kike's coffee cupping methodology before updating Tastify:
- Kike conducts his cupping about 40mins after roasting in a Bonaverde Berlin coffee roaster (no sooner than 30mins, no later than 4hrs -- but waits for them to drop to room temperature)
- Using a calibrated digital scale, he weighs 11g of each coffee variety he wishes to evaluate (equating to a ratio of 55g coffee per Litre of water at a later stage). It's best to have at least five samples of each coffee variety to ensure uniformity.
- Coarse grind the coffee
TEST 1: FRAGRANCE
Smell the freshly ground coffee sample to detect the coffee fragrance. For Kike he finds he garners most of the coffee's identifiable traits during this process.
- No later than 15mins after grinding, pour hot water 92-94C over the ground coffee. DO NOT disturb the grind's "crust" whilst it steeps for about 3-5minutes!
TEST 2: AROMA
After 3mins, gently break the coffee "crust" by stirring three times, and smell the aroma as you do so. Kike looks for any change or development from his first fragrance test, and notes these accordingly.
TEST 3: TASTE
Using a regularly cleansed tasting spoon, slurp that coffee like there's no tomorrow. The key is to draw air and coffee over the palate so as to detect as many subtle nuances as possible. If you think it sounds like gratuitous noodle-gobbling in a ramen house, you're doing it right!
Kike specifically looks for a holistic relation between flavour, aftertaste, acidity and body.
TEST 4: FINAL NOTES
As the coffee continues to cool, Kike periodically re-tastes the coffee and considers its sweetness, uniformity, and cleanliness -- it is worth noting, these traits are eerily mirrored both emotionally and physically in this hero amongst men.
TEST 5: The Score aka BECOME A Q GRADER ALREADY
This is what truly defines a Q Grader -- being able to cut the chaff from the wheat: distinguishing sub-par, from great, to truly outstanding coffees. Anything scored in excess of 80/100 points on the Total Quality Score Evaluation is classified as Speciality Grade coffee.