Out and About: Coffee Cupping in Encinitas
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.
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.
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.
Lofty Coffee likes their beans as fresh as possible,so they get them direct from the farmers and roast the beans themselves.
Next Matt ground our beans.
The smell was heavenly. Grinding, Matt explained, intensifies their aroma.
Rather than brew the grounds traditionally, Matt simply poured hot water over them and let the mix steep for four minutes.
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.
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.
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
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.
Are you a coffee lover? What’s your favorite cuppa? Share in the blog comments.