As the cool weather rolls in, we really crave coffee. Foamy cappucino. Robust espresso. Creamy vanilla latte. We'll take it all those ways, as long as the beans and the brew meet our lofty coffee standards. So Lofty Coffee Co., (See how well we set that up?) in Encinitas, California, seemed like the perfect place to grab a cup of java and refine our coffee palate with a cupping—the trendy term for coffee tasting.

 

Lofty Coffee Co. | Encinitas, CA

We had our field trip at the Lofty Coffee Company Roasting Works. Before the cupping began, we marveled at all the cutting-edge brewing gadgets. The Kyoto tower. A reverse osmosis cold-brew contraption. An Akira syphon. All so elegantly designed, they could pass for modern art. Or, at the very least, make our kitchen look super stylish. We also admired the eco-friendly Lofty Bean convection coffee roaster.

Out and About: Coffee Tasting

Cupping 101

Our cupping guide was roaster Matt Prior. He informed us that our trio of Lofty Bean craft coffees would be a Mexican decaf, plus Ethiopian and Guatemalan brews. He left the rest of the details out, as that’s part of the fun of cupping. You get to use your coffee senses and play detective.

Raw Coffee Beans

Cool Beans

First off, Matt instructed us to examine the beans: the colors, smell, texture. We also learned that most coffee beans start off green. Roasting gives them their familiar chocolaty-brown color. As they’re roasted, the beans plump up and get bigger.

Coffee Beans | portioning tray

Lofty Coffee likes their beans as fresh as possible,so they get them direct from the farmers and roast the beans themselves.

Coffee Beans | 3 coffee roasts

The Grind

Next Matt ground our beans.

Coffee grinder | grinding beans

The smell was heavenly. Grinding, Matt explained, intensifies their aroma.

Ground coffee

The Pour

Rather than brew the grounds traditionally, Matt simply poured hot water over them and let the mix steep for four minutes.

Water our over coffee grounds

This pour-over method let us experience the raw variety of the coffee’s flavor, for a purer taste than filtered or French press coffee. Then he instructed us to break the crust of the coffee with our spoons.

Grounds floating on top of water

We lifted our spoons up and down in the liquid three times while inhaling the rich aroma. Then, we scooped off the foamy top layer and floating bits of bean and slurped. That’s right, slurped. Like soup. Apparently that’s the best way to taste all the varietal notes.

Scoop off grounds and slurp coffee from spoon

Brew Sleuth

As we sniffed and slurped, Matt asked us to describe the coffee. Some us tasted a hint of blueberry in one cup. Matt advised us to look for acidity, brightness and aftertaste. And to note if the brew had a tea-like finish or a fruity or soily flavor. Then, finally, he revealed the true identities of our coffees and their flavor profiles. We were right about the berry!

Los Grapos Mexican Decaf: toasted almond-milk chocolate

Ethiopian Conga: baker’s chocolate-raw honey-ripe berry

Guatamala Santa Isabel: cacao-molasses-walnut

Brewed coffee

Hosting a Coffee Tasting

As you can imagine, hosting a coffee cupping party is pretty simple. If you don’t have a grinder, a French press and ground coffee work fine. Put a delicious twist on the tasting with fresh homemade nut milk. We’re addicted to Lofty Coffee’s house-pressed hazelnut milk.

Coffee Gifting Tips

Of course, we had to ask Matt for gifting tips. His motto is: the fresher the better. So pick up just-roasted whole beans at a local shop whenever possible. For the best flavor, beans should be used in seven to 10 days. Since ground beans lose freshness faster, gift a grinder with the coffee if you know they don’t already have one. Also, the complex flavors of coffee beans always shine through better in a lighter roast.

Lofty Coffee| coffee's we tried

Coffee Talk

Are you a coffee lover? What’s your favorite cuppa? Share in the blog comments.