Flavor, Aftertaste, Salt/Acid, Bitter/Sweet, and Mouthfeel
When the sample has cooled to ~160º F (about 70º C or 8-10 minutes from infusion), evaluation of the liquor should begin. The liquor is aspirated into the mouth in such a way as to cover as much area as possible, especially the tongue and upper palate. Because the retro nasal vapors are at their maximum intensity at these elevated temperatures, Flavor and Aftertaste are rated at this point.
- Flavor represents the coffee’s principal character, the mid-range notes combining taste and aroma.
- Aftertaste is defined as the length of positive flavor (taste and aroma qualities emanating from the back of the palate and remaining in the mouth after the coffee is expectorated or swallowed.
As the coffee continues to cool (160º F – 140º F), the Salt/Acid Aspect Ratio, Bitter/Sweet Aspect Ratio and Mouthfeel are rated.
- Salt/Acid Aspect Ratio is the relative balance between the salt sensations, principally driven by the higher potassium levels of Robusta coffees in contrast to the normally lower levels of organic acids, particularly citric acid. Fine Robusta coffees are noted for their lower levels of salt, producing a harsh taste in the cup and their higher levels of organic acids producing a soft taste in the cup. Low saltiness is rated on the vertical scale of 1 to 6, with the higher number representing a low saltiness perception. High acid is rated on the vertical scale of 1 to 6, with the higher number representing a perceived high level of acidity. The two scores are added together for the total Salt/Acid rating, with the maximum score of 10.
- Bitter/Sweet Aspect Ratio is the relative balance between the bitter and sweet taste sensations, with the optimum result coming from a low bitterness and high sweet combination. Low bitterness is rated on the vertical scale of 1 to 6, with the higher number representing a low bitterness perception. High sweet is rated on the vertical scale of 1 to 6, with the higher number representing a high sweet perception. The two scores are added together for the total Bitter/Sweet rating, with the maximum score of 10.
- Mouthfeel is a combination of weight and texture. The weight comes from micro-fine fiber particles swept off the ground up beans and the texture comes from the oils extracted from the coffee particles and suspended in the brew. Both the weight (heft on the tongue compared to pure water) and texture (slipperiness compared to pure water) are rated on the vertical scales from 1 to 6. The two scores are added together for the total Mouthfeel rating, with the maximum score of 10.
The cupper’s preference for each of the attributes is evaluated at several different temperatures (2 or 3 times) as the sample cools. To rate the sample on the 16-point scale circle the appropriate tick-mark on the cupping form. If a change is made (if a sample gains or loses some of its perceived quality due to temperature changes), re-mark the horizontal scale and draw an arrow to indicate the direction of the final score.