Warming up the palate

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about cupping and dialling in my palate.

I’ve been to a couple of tastings recently in Liverpool and Milton Keynes (that we great fun and really well run) but it took me three or four coffees to really get my taste-buds going. By that time I was using my memory of the coffees as a measurement which makes it so much harder.

Calibrating any equipment is essential and vital, our palates are no different. I know I have always found the calibration days at cup of excellence really useful, but I have always thought it could be done even better with reference points of coffee.

So I’ve decided I’m going to run a two stage experiment to see if by warming up and using these reference points it means we can detect things more accurately.

Experiment one

First I’m going to do a blind cupping without any warm up, and score the coffees.

Then I’ll do a blind cupping after doing an open tasting of reference points. Reference points should be in line with the table. So for instance, if its El Salvador’s, it should be with a exceptional, good and commercial El Salvador. Then go into the cupping warmed up, on a blind table.

Then compare the data of the two tables.

Experiment two

An blind espresso tasting. 5 espressos from around the country and taste them blind and evaluate them. Then I’m going to dial in with a couple of espresso blends I know well, then revisit the 5 espressos and score them blind again, and then compare the results against expectations.

If I think there is some merit I’ll then open this up to a tasting at the roastery and share the results here. I’m thinking small maybe 5 people, but I think it could be very interesting.

Anyway thinking out loud will report back soon.

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  1. This sounds really interesting – I’ll follow this one with interest…

  2. This is a fascinating study – I like the experimental design.

    A friend of mine is doing a drug trial, using a medication (uncommonly) prescribed for Parkinson’s Disease. I was fascinated to learn that the protocol for his trial involves measuring some parameters, then giving the volunteer one single dose, and remeasuring.

    Why i find this interesting is that this is not how the drug is used IRL. Patients on the medication take it every day. They don’t take one dose and then stop. I pointed this out, BTW – ever the troublemaker.

    What I’m getting at here, is that we also need to consider in what context the consumer will be tasting the coffee. There are multiple likely options – “haven’t had coffee in a while”, “had some earlier in the day”, or “just had a cup”. Unlikely options include “first cup ever” and “20th espresso of the day”. Maybe we need to view the experience in those terms?

    Of course, for cupping the goal is different – we want to select a great coffee (and a great roast). Reconciling the two processes sounds like a difficult task!

  3. Sounds very interesting Steve – I look forward to hearing your results and conclusions 🙂

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