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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 Centre of Specialty Coffee, The Interview

Coffee Centre of Specialty Coffee, The Interview by
Brian Clark, (PhD. in Psychology, USA)

Coffee Centre of specialty Coffee and Premium Whole Chocolate ‘Esquina de los Cafés’ – Celebrating Coffee Country.

‘Esquina de los Cafés’ a Coffee Centre for Coffee Business in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Esquina de los Cafés – Celebrating Coffee Country
by  Brian Clark

  • Direct Deal is Fair

  • Quality Matter: Better Coffee, Better Experience

  • C:\Users\clark13\Documents\alex_carlita.jpg

    “You go to wine country, you get the best wine. You go to coffee country, you get the worst coffee,” says Alex, the coffee-roasting savant behind Esquina de los Cafés, a specialty coffee roaster in Matagalpa Nicaragua.

    Alex and his wife, Carla, who is in charge of Esquina’s finances and packaging, including artistic design, are on a mission to flip that “coffee country” dynamic on its head. They have spent the last five years building their business from scratch to offer high-quality specialty coffee for purchase at their storefront by locals and tourists. They also ship worldwide to tourists who fall in love with their coffees and return home wanting more. Full disclosure: I am one of those tourists.

    Hard Times for the Market Niche

    Being heavily based on tourism, Esquina and businesses like it have been hit hard by current civil unrest throughout the country, which has resulted in an estimated 215,000 jobs lost (a third of those from the tourism industry). At the moment, Esquina is looking into possibilities of distributing to Nicaraguan coffee shops or increasing sales through prospective US partnerships, and just very basically trying to keep costs down and the lights on. If and when the political situation restabilizes, Esquina intend to take back its tourist market niche, acquire new equipment to increase manufacturing capacity, and focus on new projects, like chocolate production.


    More information go to:

    Cornerstones of the Coffee Corner

    Whether it’s coffee or chocolate, the cornerstones of the Esquina operation are originality, data, and control. Originality describes the product; it’s what is done. Esquina is about developing new and different takes on old stuff, like coffee and chocolate, which create new and different experiences for consumers. Data and control are how it’s done. Esquina develops originality through data about processes and experiences while controlling quality, quantity, and market niche. Alex draws on his experiences in Germany and the US and with tourists visiting Nicaragua from those countries to drive these fundamentals forward. He boils down his experiences into complementary foci. One focus is on the product itself – “make it right, make it honest,” he says of the German style. The other focus is on people’s experience of the product – “make it better, make it new,” he says of the American style.

    As to why it’s done, the “coffee country” dynamic encapsulates Esquina’s purpose. There are two interrelated parts to the purpose: tourism and economics. Notwithstanding current sharp decline, tourism currently accounts for about 6% of Nicaragua’s GDP. To put that into perspective, that’s on par with the entire retail industry (motor vehicle, food/beverage, general merchandise, and other) in the US. In other words, tourism a pretty big part of the economy. Coffee was Nicaragua’s third largest export in 2016. So, coffee – also a big part of the economy. Coming to coffee country should maybe be, at least in part, about the coffee. However, there’s a lot of pressure to export the best beans away from where they’re grown, to roasters and retailers in more-developed countries.

    Direct Deal is Fair


    Alex bristles at the notion of “fair trade” and has little faith that it is actually fair. Carla knows this aspect of the business from experience working in client relations for a large exporter of coffee and other commodities that markets itself on principles of environmental sustainability and social responsibility, boasting numerous badgified certifications to prove it. Although such enterprises may do a decent job of curtailing modern forms of slavery, they may not do enough to keep economic benefit at the point of origin, and they definitely do nothing to celebrate Nicaragua, or other coffee-producing nations, as “coffee country.”

    Esquina takes a direct trade approach, and to express it loud-and-proud but simultaneously tongue-in-cheek, they have their own “certification” badge emblazoned on their packaging: “Direct Deal is fair.”

    Esquina’s “Direct Deal” involves working with local growers around Aranjuez – between Matagalpa and Jinotega in the Cerro Dantali El Diablo Natural Reserve – to source coffee fruit, paying them premium prices, and tying price to quality standards.

    This is like any other direct trade arrangement, in that the roaster/retailer works directly with the grower to source beans, except that Esquina being a Nicaraguan roaster and retailer means that the entire supply chain and its economic benefit is kept at the point of origin. In other words, it’s pretty much the most direct that direct trade can be for coffee consumers. It also means empowering the celebration of Nicaragua as “coffee country.”


    Better Coffee, Better Experience

    Alex is unsurprisingly pretty critical of big roasters/retailers, like Nestle and Starbucks, for their economic role. But he also takes aim at the quality of their products, citing temperatures that are way too high, resulting in a burnt beans and acrid-tasting brew, not to mention mildly carcinogenic chemicals. A master of thermodynamics, Alex suggests that proper roasting procedure should keep the temperature of the roasting machine around 300° F (about 149° C) and shouldn’t really exceed 330° F (about 165° C). Contrast that with a typical Starbucks temperature of 400° F (about 204° C). It makes sense. When you burn the crap out of the beans, that’s what your brew tastes like: burnt crap. When you don’t burn the crap out of them, your brew opens a door to a world of interesting flavors and a great sensory experience.  

    Alex isn’t just a roaster. He’s an educator. He is in his element leading coffee farm and milling facility tours and teaching roasting classes. Even his tastings – cupping in the lingo of the coffee arena – are instructive. He doesn’t just pour you some coffee and leave you to your own devices. He guides you through an experience – an experience that is, in my opinion, well worth having.

    SPECIALTY COFFEE Information

    Specialty Coffee is a label to distinguished coffee through different qualities.

    The coffee qualities are according to its physical condition (the grading and classification) and its chemichal condition (the cupping).

    According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), coffee which scores 80 points or above on a 100-point scale isgraded “specialty.”  Specialty coffee refers to the whole process from farmer to cup using single origin coffee.

    Specialty Grade Coffee Beans

    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.

    Example: 3 full defects, less to 5% out of buyers 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.
    With a cupping punctuation of 85 to say that coffee is having in average high distingushed characteristics, and a high probability each other characteristic with no less than 80 points.

    Density is the major element related to the Coffee Quality

    The Coffee Notes relies on:
    #1. The variety in particular (Java, Bourbon, Maragogype, etc). 

    Coffee Varietals
    Specialty Coffee Varietals

    #2. The density which at the same time depends on: 
    2.1. The Altitude, like SHB refers to the High Density Bean, which according to its latitude varies the reference height, example 1200 m in Costa Rica = SHB = 1000 m in Nicaragua. 

    Finca Matagalpa 1400 meters
    Finca Matagalpa 1400 meters

    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

    2.2. The chemical composition of the Coffee Seed in which the CHLOROGENIC acid is the compound that determines the density. 
    High density is a Coffee Seed that contains between 6.0%, 6.5%, 7.0%, which in turn defines that its density is 0.68 g / mL, of 0.70 g / mL, of 0.72 g / mL respectively. 

    #3. The chemical composition of the soil, for this the preparation according to the analysis and evaluation in the leaves determines the deficiencies and the repairs. 
    #4. The Water: Rainfall, or irrigation, is important at the time of the growth of the seed, the endocarp, and in itself of the fruit and the plant. #5. The level of light and its use in the process of photosynthesis and maturation (beta carotene) is essential in combination with the above factors: type of variety, water, composition of soil and nutrient, and height.

    The Grading and Classification

    The diversified classification terminology used in the trade is illustrated with a few examples below.
    It should be noted that descriptions such as ‘European preparation’ differ from one country to another. The examples refer primarily to the trade in mainstream coffee and do not reflect the often more detailed descriptions used for niche
     markets.The elements for classify Greenbeans are:
    Process: Conventional (Washed), No conventional (Un-washed in fruit, or Semi-washed in pulp mucilage)
    Riddle size
    Colours allowed
    Defects allowed (imperfections in 350 grams of green coffee sample)
    Specialty Grade samples must have zero Category 1 defects and no more than five Category 2 defects. 

    Coffee Primary Defects

    Primary DefectNumber of occurrences equal to one full defect.
    Full Black1
    Full Sour1
    Large Stones2
    Medium Stones5
    Large Sticks2
    Medium Sticks5

    Coffee Secondary Defects

    Secondary DefectsNumber of occurrences equal to one full defect
    Insect Damage2-5
    Partial Black2-3
    Partial Sour2-3
    Small Stones1
    Small sticks1
    Water Damage2-5

    Pressed or Crushed Bean

    Check out all pictures for each type of coffee defect at cafedecolombia.com

    Crushed beans
    Bruised beans with partial fractures

    Some examples of Country standards for Specialty Coffee

    El Salvador SHG EP max. 3/5 defects
    Strictly High Grown (above 1,200 m on a scale which also includes High Grown from 900–1,200 m and Central Standard from 500–900 m). EP (European preparation) permits max. 3–5 defects per 1,000 beans according to some exporters, others indicate defects per 300 g. 

    Ethiopia Jimma 5 
    Sun-dried (i.e. natural) arabica from the Jimma region. Type 5 refers to a grading scale based on screen, defect count and cup quality. 

    Guatemala SHB EP Huehuetenango 
    Strictly Hard Bean is from above 1,400 m. Scale includes five altitude levels from below 900 m (Prime washed) to above 1,400 m. European preparation: above screen 15, allows max. 8 defects per 300 g (American preparation: above screen 14, allows 23 defects). 

    India Arabica Plantation A 

    Washed arabica, screen 17. Classification is PB, A, B and C. Other classifications apply to unwashed (naturals) and robusta. 

    The coffee grading and classification (the coffee preparation) relies on each different physical condition in order to grade the coffee, usually at the laboratory and then in the dry mill using high tech machinery such as Optical recogniser selector, automatic densimeters, and size sorting machines.
    The objective is to separate the coffee – the buyers want – as the Premium Coffee, and in the other side to get each other sub qualities from the Farm Production Batch.

    To drink specialty coffee vs to grow specialty coffee

    The difference bewteen to grow specialty coffee and to drink specialty coffee?
    Very simple.  To grow specialty coffee is the intention of get the best varietals accordingly to consumer and cuppers experience, and harvest those varietals in accordance to its best conditions to grow. 
    To drink specialty coffee is that one that overpass the condition of being above 80 points on cup, and within a physical condition of  permissible defects.

    Drinking Specialty Coffee.  American Roast.
    Drinking Specialty Coffee. American Roast.

    The Premium Coffee

    The Premium Coffee is the best part of a particular ‘Specialty Coffee’. The Premium Coffee is also referes to those GreenBeans (Unroasted and Graded Coffee Seeds) that are chosen because profile. The profile is usually intended to call a more flowerly or fruity note, but over 85 points on cupping as a minimum. 

    Premium Coffee is also an awarded coffee that you buying directly in an open bid. Let’s say the Specialty Coffee Contest of a particular country in origin from the best #1 to the best #10 Coffee.

    Specialty Coffee Roast 70 on Agtron Scale
    Specialty Coffee Roast 70 on Agtron Scale