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Simon Says - How to judge a great cup of coffee

Today on Simon Says Episode 4 we delve into the world of ‘cupping’, to find out what our qualified Q Grader, Simon looks for when scoring a cup of coffee!

There are two distinct areas that will determine how well a bean scores and these are: flavour and aroma, with an assessment of the aroma being the first to take place.

Simon says that while judging coffee beans has quite specific criteria, when assessing the aroma he is generally always looking for variety and complexity. Coffee with minimal aroma notes (e.g. chocolate only) is generally considered too one-dimensional and will not score highly, so the more complexities packed in – the better. No coffee lover enjoys a dull coffee!

So as we know - the first step is to take in the aroma of the coffee, which for a high score should be nice and strong with a variety of different fragrances. These will range from flowery, fruity and nutty to things like caramel, chocolate and spice! Coriander seeds, pipe tobacco and cucumber are some of the more surprising aroma’s that the judging panel will look for.

Next up, we’re onto the flavour. Here we are looking for a nice combination of flavours that will offer a complex cup without going overboard. Too many flavours at once will make it unbalanced, and too little will be dull. Coffee flavours come in an incredible variety - from juniper berry, to nutmeg, to hazelnuts!

Fun fact: Did you know that a lighter roast will make it easier to pick out the individual characteristics of the coffee? As the roast gets darker, the coffee gets more body and a more rounded flavour.

After flavour we then need to assess the aftertaste, body, acidity, balance and finally give a ‘cuppa’ score! We want the coffee to be well-rounded in these areas and if it is, you might be inclined to give it a high score at the end.

Check out the tasting notes from a recently released Single Origin Merlo coffee bean below. Can you guess which coffee it is?! If you can, send it through to us on on Social via @merlocoffee

Tasting Notes