our heroes find themselves sorting coffee : gross cupping ensues

So, here’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. Several weeks ago, Daria and I came across Calen hand sorting his NERBC practice coffee in lovely Voltage. We joined in. The process was painstaking, but then also kind of fun.



Maybe even very fun.


Soon enough, we had sufficient defect beans to do a lil cupping. One cup with only defect beans and one with regular.


Now, the experiment was really flawed from the beginning. I don’t really know how to tell one type of defect apart from another, so beans that were bad for all manner of reason were all lumped in together. I did a crappy job setting up the cupping an forgot to start a timer at the beginning. Also Calen’s practice coffee was from last years crop while he waited for the new stuff to come in last minute, so it was a bit woody to begin with.

All this being said – the defect cup was bad. very bad. I shudder thinking of it. It tasted a bit like bile, and made me salivate in the way that one salivates before throwing up. I had a very vivid sense-memory of a time when, as a child, I put an old Navajo blanket in my mouth and just let it sit there in my mouth soaked in my saliva despite my stomach turning further and further against me and my brain feeling sick, almost feverish as I dared myself to keep that dirty blanket in my mouth for just a few more seconds. just a few more seconds.


Not that anyone would expect the defect beans to taste good, but it was amazing to me just how bad they were. It gave me a new appreciation for a step along the production chain that I don’t normally give much thought to.

Most people I’ve spoken to who have cupped defect beans say they’ll never do it again. I know several baristas who have never done it and say that they wouldn’t, even if given the opportunity. If I ever have the chance to sort a large quantity of beans again, I’d love to sort by type of defect next time and run the experiment again. At this point, I know I can handle just a few more seconds of it.


About barnwolf

head barista for pavement coffeehouse and erc boston
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