A Cupping kit: Part 2

Please kindly find the Vietnamese edition of this post here

I’m always inspired by cupping sessions where coffee samples carry distinguishable flavors and aromas which left me a “lingering” memory after finish. Last Tuesday, 96B Experiment (one of my favorite third-wave cafés in Saigon) organized special cupping series with coffees from two champion houses of U.S Roaster Championship 2018 & San Francisco Ritual, which left a big mark on my sensory experience and motivated me to write a review about it. If you’ve never joined any cupping session before, this article is absolutely for you. Part 2 of “A Cupping kit” will give you a quick closer look at how things go in a typical cupping session, which can help you get on well with your fellows in the community. Let’s get practical!

P/s: Since this is my personal experience, you’ll find my strength and weakness along the cupping.



As explained in Part 1, you’ll have to smell both the dry grounds (FRAGRANCE) and after water is poured into it (AROMA). The intensity level is just my personal idea when comparing samples to each other, based on their transparency. This comparison doesn’t mean anything outside of the cupping session. For example, the Honduras coffee might have the most intense aroma among 5 samples but it’s probably less aromatic than Ethiopian or Kenyan coffee and vice versa.

Step 1 must be taken place right after grinding the beans and last for about 8 minutes (evenly separated for dry and wet). Don’t worry if you’re in the below situations, remember that sensory has no right or wrong and mostly depends on your experiences before.

  • It smells very familiar but I couldn’t remember what it is.
  • It smells odd (like your grandpa’s hair or some stinky foods).
  • It smells awesome but I’ve never experienced before.

And here it is: my cupping result!

  El Salvador Colombia Burundi Honduras Blend
Fragrance Spicy, sugar-coated cherry Malt-like, fermented rice Berry cheesecake Pepper, ashy Caramel
Aroma Hay-like, a bit greenish Floral Green tea, jasmine Caramelized onion (undesirable) Caramel
Intensity level


4 2 1 5


Take a breath and have a look at what criteria you’ll have to work with during cupping. Or, you can just go with the wind, do the best job with your palette and memory, write it down as clearly and detailed as possible. The Calibration step will help you out for better cupping next time. I myself found confused several times in defining the flavors, all I could describe then is feelings!

Here is my cupping result:

  El Salvador Colombia Burundi Honduras Blend
Flavor Fruity Nutty Tea-like, fruity Caramelized onion, herbal, dark chocolate Dark chocolate
Aftertaste Fresh, long-last Floral, bitter-sweet, dry Short, bitter like black tea Smooth, long-last Smooth but short
Acidity Malic Bright, citric, increase when cooled down Brightest citric Low Medium, more like malic
Body Medium Medium, silky Lightest Medium, oily Medium, silky
Balance Balanced Balanced Low balance The least balance, bitterness overwhelms other flavors The most balanced


Wait for about 5 more minutes and taste the samples again. There will be more layers of flavors showing up, which gives you an overall opinion about each sample.

  El Salvador Colombia Burundi Honduras Blend
Sweetness Sweetest when cooled down Medium fruity sweetness Low sweetness Low sweetness Medium brown sugar sweetness

I will skip this part since we just did 1 cup for each sample


All of them are clean and smooth on the tongue and also aftertaste


Calibration is the best part of cupping when you can have more reference information from other fellows and check if our sensory properly detects all flavors and aroma. Here are some other feedback that made me really curious, but I have to wait until 96B finalizes recipe for each coffee to find out!

  El Salvador Colombia Burundi Honduras Blend
Calibration Berry-like Raisins or dried fruits Stone fruit Earthy Earl grey aroma: intense for espresso

Now that we finished cupping, here are information of the 5 samples:

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Please be patient if you don’t feel confident with your palette. In the last part of “A Cupping kit”, I’ll give you some clues on how to practice your sensory in the most effective way !

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