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Specialty Coffee & Cupping Concepts

Specialty Coffee & Cupping Concepts

Specialty Coffee: The coffee qualities are according to its physical condition (the grading and classification) and its chemical condition (the cupping). Specialty Grade Coffee Beans: no primary defects, 0-3 full defects, sorted with a maximum of 5% above and 5% below specified screen size or range of screen size, and exhibiting a distinct attribute in one or more of the following areas: taste, acidity, body, or aroma.

Coffee Seed Density is the major element related to the Coffee Quality

Please read the Blog @ Blogger:
Specialty Coffee & Cupping Concepts

Coffee Batch Example: 3 full defects, less to 5% out of buyer’s size specification from the riddle of 13/64 inches to 20/64 inches so let’s say #16 and above to say [16,20] from size #16 included to #20 and only 5% less than size #16.

What immediate and valuable information you get from a Cupping number?
Example: With a cupping punctuation of 85 to say that coffee is having in average high distinguished characteristics, and a high probability each other characteristic with no less than 80 points.

Coffee Aroma, floral aroma compounds to compare with

Cupping Concepts:

First of all, Cupping is a process to evaluate the chemical condition of a particular type of coffee based on its classification and particular coffee batch. The reason is to determine a standard punctuation so every other party involved in the coffee business be clear on what are they buying, selling, and consuming from.

Therefore this number establishes a well known parameter for the value and its price.

There’s some previous steps to start a proper cupping process and all are related to the conditions of the place where the cupping take place. The high standard is a laboratory, a coffee one of course.

Every other element is important for its process and to keep up the correspondent standard. That means is based on a scientific and statistical model.

The most recognisable standard is the SCAA, but as far you can replicate your own conditions and keep them in the most accurate way is good enough. What I mean, is good you have the same level of light and intensity every other time, the same type of water, of course the same level of roast among each coffee you evaluate for each coffee batch.

The same quality of tools such as cups and spoons, but at the end is that you can keep the metrics of each condition under a register so you can replicate the condition.

The SCA and SCAA have a PDF file for guidance: 

PDF for Cupping Conditions & Coffee Standards

The Scale for cupping purpose is numeric to establish a statistical number, not an emotion. Not psychology of the coffee 🙂 a joke.

SCAA is for specialty coffee therefore 1/5 under 50/100 makes a bulk coffee so not part of the study. Reason why is for those coffees that each element and characteristic is at least 50 over 100.


Overall is your personal opinion for the coffee: some coffees have high body high acidity high sweetness so a high rate, but perhaps the notes are correlated to flavours that you dislike personally, example: roses: some people may have a bad experience with roses them personally that person will not buy roses b even are the best ones. That is one psychological element.

Clean of Cup and Uniformity.

Apparently the same if and only if the amount of cups to evaluate a particular batch is equal to 1.

Uniformity is refer to one of the particular amount of cups on which you evaluate if elements (acidity, body,etc) shows an stable behavior during the time (time in this case is in a each other slurp in that cup).

Cleanness of cup is referred to the consistency of each cup according to it’s uniformity. Each cup of the group must have equal behavior and same punctuation on each element (element such as body, aroma, acidity, etc)

Why? That’s to establish the group, the cup be in accordance to a true value, and not a false positive.

That evaluate not only the coffee, but the method and the evaluator (the cupper).

In general = overall.


Sweetness is the element that make pleasant the level of acidity. Like a tangerine, it’s sweet because sugars, it contains water, but it comes up pleasant because that balance between its acidity and sweetness.

That turn us to the concept of balance.


Balance is the element that says the aroma, the levels of body, acidity are in Harmony with the counterparts such as sweetness and flavour.


Aroma is divided in three: when ground (dry), when ready the extraction of the coffee in hot water (crust), and when ready to slurp (open crust, at this point cupper use two spoons in certain way to set apart the coffee pieces on the top of the cup, you can’t evaluate if slurp and some pieces remains on the spoon within the liquid)

Aroma, you give punctuation according to the identification of particular aroma well known for all the cuppers in accordance to a standard reference for example the SCAA coffee taster’s flavour wheel. Then how intense. The more intense the closer to 10/10.

Same practice to evaluate each other element for cupping each other batch of each other individual cup.


Acidity is the reaction of the coffee soluble elements over the tongue. The tongue has neurosensors distributed in tongue regions. Those regions determine how intense reacts the tongue to coffee and therefore how intense is the presence of acidity, sweetness, bitterness, any other chemical compound that may turn into the report of a desirable note or a defect if so.


Body: this element is also happening for a tongue reaction, but telling you how heavy is felt a particular note according to the same standard. Example: dark chocolate body in high intensity may give you 10/10 and you must write down also dark b chocolate. You may also detect another complementary body note such as syrupy, but still remains the body level and punctuation.


Flavour: here is when you really understand the coffee and you fully correlate to the flavour wheel standard.

You will get the picture and images of well known flavours come up: you must read from the center to the peripheral areas:

Sweet, what type? Cocoa (region on the wheel) what type? Dark chocolate.

Floral, what type? Black tea and roses.

Fruity, what type? Citrus. What type? Orange.

How sweet is that picture?

And this way you give an accurate punctuation.


Aftertaste; well after getting the flavour picture of that particular coffee what remains on the tongue?

  • Which flavour?
  • How intense?
  • How long does it still remains pleasant and consistent?

Each Coffee Batch is in accordance to a level of roast so how dark is a number in another standard: the Agtron scale. Developed by the Agtron Corporation (Reno, NV), the agtron scale is the most commonly used reference scale for roast color classification.

The scale ranges from 25 to 95 and is the measure of light reflected off roasted coffee – measured in either ground or whole bean form. The lower the number, the darker the coffee (i.e. less light reflected back) while larger numbers refer to lighter roasts. Photo below illustrates a typical color disc.

Learn about:

Please after read take this example of a real cupping evaluated. I hope this makes all Coffee Cupping Concepts & Coffee Quality be clearer.

Coffee Process Diagram.
You as a cupper and as a Coffee Producer must know about the Coffee Wet Process and the Dry Process

Cupping Table developed by Alejandro David Bolanos

Coffee Roasting Temperature and Coffee Profiles

Coffee Roasting Temperature and Coffee Profiles: The conclusions shown are a study based on Temperature Gradients and shows the correlation bewteen the Heat and the Temperature the Roasting Machine and the Coffee Seed.

The Working Temperature is the one you set for the Roaster – the Machine-. This one must be [140 C to 165 C] (around 300 F).
This criteria fits the Miallard Process and gives always the best process by avoiding acrylamids and extra bitterness.
The only way to measure the ‘Roasting Temperature’ for the Coffee Seeds (GreenBeans) is at the exit of the machine.

That temperature gradient changes within the time and let the coffee seeds to absorb the heat from the external part to the interior of the coffee seeds.
So even the working temperature still remains at 160 C i.e. the coffee seed will increase its temperature value based on the ratio between the Heat Transfer and the time.

The fastest change occurse just after the coffee seed is considered dry (Drying Phase).
The Drying Phase is the amount of time needed for the coffee to be dry so when the water contained in the seed becomes as vapor in the roasting system helping alos to the heat transfer not only by contact, but by convexion too.

More info.: Alejandro David Bolanos:
Mobile: +(505) Nicaragua 8327-8585

Coffee Roasting Temperature and Profiles: The conclusions shown are a study based on Temperature Gradients and shows the correlation bewteen the Heat and the Temperature the Roasting Machine and the Coffee Seed.

The heat transfer to the interior of the Coffee Seed relies on its density.
The density in this case acts as the capacity to resist a change: a Chemical structure change i.e. form Chlorogenic acid to Cafeic Acid.

A grain of high density values ​​is one whose value is greater than 0.68 g / mL. Coffee seed density usually comes from: (0.64 to 0.72) g / mL. The Chlorogenic acid is related to those coffee density values in terms of its presence and The Chlorogenic acid is the most important compund in relation to the aroma, flavour and notes.
The Coffee seed in general has 6% to 7% mass/mass of Chlorogenic acid and based on that mass of The Chlorogenic acid we can tell the correspondant coffee density value: 6% to 0.68 , 6.5% to 0.70 , 7% to 0.72. 

The Chlorogenic acid (CGA) is the ester of caffeic acid and (−)-quinic acid, functioning as an intermediate in lignin biosynthesis. The term “chlorogenic acids” refers to a related polyphenol family of esters, including hydroxycinnamic acids (caffeic acidferulic acid and p-coumaric acid) with quinic acid. The name “Chloro” comes from the Greek χλωρός (light green) and -γένος (a suffix meaning “giving rise to”), pertaining to the green color produced when chlorogenic acids are oxidized.

About the chemical composition and all the different chemical substances that may exist in the coffee seed there are Coffee Seeds (coffee grains, green beans, beans) that contain in greater proportion the compounds responsible for the aroma and flavor.

The highest concentration of the most desirable compounds depends on different main elements such as: density, the coffee varietal, the soil composition, water and rain, Sun and light conditions, the fermenting process, but mainly all are related to what’s the final value for density.

The elements that interfere more with the density beyond the coffee varietal is the altitud that cause stress in the plant for less presence of oxygen in the air composition. The fermenting process such as non-conventional process (honey: semi-washed, natural: unwashed) creates new falvours and aromas.

The effect of Altitude on the concentration of Coffee Seed compounds?

The Farm Altitude (above the Sea level): The greater the Altitude, the lower is the presence of oxygen in the air. So the plant must resort to its nourishment, to those soil nutrients, including water source, for via photosynthesis create compounds that allow the highest dilution of oxygen and thus avoid dying or malnutrition.
This has an obvious improvement in the final result of the Coffee Seed(coffee bean, GreenBean).

The altitude condition will affect the coffee seed density in certain possible ranges according to varietal, Latitude North or South insde the Tropic of Cancer range, and photosynthesis. 

The phtoshyntesis depends on rain or irrigation, and the Sun or light conditions during the year. In combination with the soil preparation, the soil nutrients the Coffee Seed density will have a higher value, but much more if the altitud is higher. 
That is the reason to name Coffee as SHB, SHG, and HG in accordance to the Farm/Lot altitude and its own country standard that change the value for SHB depending on its relative distance from the Ecuador line, Latitude.
Example: Costa Rica has its standard for SHB above 1.200 m over the Sea level, if we use the same standard for North Nicaragua Region that makes that an SHB become 1.000 m over the Sea level.  
SHB: Stricly Hard Bean
SHG: Stricly High Grade
HG: High Grade

The Maillard process is a chemical reaction that under the presence of a heat source reacts an amino acid with a sugar.

Cholorogenic Acid
Cholorogenic Acid

Cafeic Acid

Coffee Roasting Curve of Caturra and Red Catuai, Un-washed process, single origin.

The graph above shows the curve of the change of Temperature versus Time, that is to say the changes of temperature of the coffee during the toasting time. Additionally there is a cooling curve that is the final stage of the pyrolysis in the post-combustion.

The Roaster Temperature is affected by factors heat source and its performance relies on his Heat Distribution.

The Coffee Seed Temperature depends mainly on two elements: Coffee Seed Moisture (Relative humidity) and Coffee Seed Density Value.

1. Coffee Seed Moisture: for Green Beans must be between 10% up to 12%. The Coffee Roasting batch must be all at the same level of humidity. It means the level of each other GreenBean must be the same: homogenic. ywhich affects the performance (weight input / weight output), normally located between 80 to 83%.
2. Coffee Seed Density Value (organic compounds: amount of, types of, and relative presence of), which allows the best resistance to heat and a more even development, which is why, for the best roasted coffee it is only achieved with coffees from first selection, high density.Recommendations: The working range should be between 140 ° C and 165 ° C. The work at high temperatures favors the development of Acrylamide, which influences unpleasant odors of nitrogen oxides. Acrylamide is a dangerous carcinogen.

What is a Roasting Sample ?

A roasting sample is a representative quantity that is specified by the standard referred to, for example it is usually taken between 250 grams and 300 grams, and is usually ordered 1kg or you can also ask for 1 pound which would make an average test pound and a reference reserve of half a pound is left.

The sample of tasting is usually done to determine the quality and valuable properties of the grain and its presentation to analyze. In general, a clear City-type roasting is chosen, which is between 75 and 85 points on the Agtron scale.
The development of the subtle properties and flavors are still present in the light roast, and in the roasts of greater duration in the roasting process (medium and dark) some flavors and elements are lost, but others are intensified in a very specific way, by For example, the greater caramelization of the sugars gives more caramel and chocolaty tones, but it is usually in the same way to decrease the level of acidity of the present sample.

There is another type of analysis of samples which are considered personalized, which are used for a custom criteria to match the characteristics and qualities with their respective cup quality score. For example the evaluation of a coffee roaster under a FULL CITY profile, with a color score in the Agtron scale of 55 to 65 for different grains which are going to be roasted in very similar ways to finish with that requested color and that roasting profile to evaluate if flavor elements such as aroma, or the body develop more or if they decrease and if the balance level at the end of everything is of greater consistency than the others. You can try whatever you want, but these are quality control tastings and they are more used now not in the Benefit but rather in each of the Roasting Industries.

Coffee Chemical Structure

Coffee Chemical Compunds

Coffee Chemistry Maillard Reaction

More info.: Alejandro David Bolanos:
Mobile: +(505) Nicaragua 8327-8585