• QA 088
    Is there a standard form for cup testing, i.e. to record coffee quality?
    Is there a standard form one can use for cup testing or should every operator create his own?
    Asked by:
    Roaster - Morocco

    There is no internationally recognised standard form as such, basically because different producing countries, different markets and different users do not have the same requirements and do not use the same terminology. In its 1991 publication entitled 'Sensory Evaluation of Coffee' the International Coffee Organization - ICO (www.ico.org) referred to 'the bewildering variety of quality control methods and terminologies' companies and producing countries use. The book (ISBN-0-905461-09-6) tracks the development of interesting flavour profiles and terminology, but the effort did not result in a universal cupping or tasting standard.

    Many producers, exporters, importers and roasters use standard forms to record their tasting results.  However, they have mostly designed these forms themselves, and they therefore reflect their particular requirements. Research Institutes also use standard type forms, usually much more elaborate, as do cupping competitions and others for whom continuity in detail and methodology is very important. 

    In general terms one is of course able to compare findings that are recorded in different formats and use different terminology. But never in detail and, as the saying goes, before spending your money you better know what you are spending it on... Meaning that 'taste' and 'value' mean different things to different people. 

    A number of organizations have published standard cupping forms, partly because they are used by competition juries for whom standardization is an absolute must (see www.cupofexcellence.org *), or because of attempts to create some kind of standardized quality assessment for the specialty industry. The Specialty Coffee Association of America - SCAA has what is known as the 'Q' cup testing form  (see www.scaa.org **). The Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE - www.scae.com) recommends its members to use the Cup of Excellence format.

    However, both are more appropriate for specialty coffee. They contain considerable detail and may not suit the average buyer of mainstream or industrial type coffee. Such buyers are more interested in knowing whether a particular coffee can economically be used in their product range or blend, not whether it is the best within a competing group.

    A mainstream cupping form will usually contain brief details of a coffee's green appearance, including the bean size and the type and number of defects found; the appearance of the roasted beans and, of course, the cup or taste.  For more on defects go to 01.01.03 which deals with Grading, classification and defects, 12.09 on Coffee tasting, and 12.10 for a Glossary of the most commonly used terminology. Chapter 11 of the Guide deals with Coffee quality as a whole and is recommended reading…

    The French CIRAD*** Research Institute (www.cirad.fr) has worked on coffee sensory evaluation issues for many years and may perhaps be able to assist you further as regards the recording methodology they use.

    Posted 5 April 2006

    * www.cupofexcellence.org/WhatisCOE/CompetitionProtocols/CuppingForm/tabid/186/Default.aspx 

    ** www.scaa.org/pdfs/specialtycoffeefacts.pdf To obtain the 'Q' form contact the SCAA.

    *** Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement in 

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