Isn’t it just frustrating when you can’t get that blend just the way you want it by the desired launch date, only then to be distracted by seemingly important admin related duties, leaving QC and product development by the wayside? Even more so, one would argue, is when you hyper-enthusiastically purchased a delicious specialty lot only to be left struggling with flavour balance or some other issue.

I have created a 2-point thought process for increasing the efficacy of your QC sessions and new product releases- Prep and Assess

A cupping focusing on acid identification- an exam in the Arabica Q- Grader course.

PREP

  • Get into the mindset of prepping. Be intentional about what you want to achieve before you actually get into cupping. Prep your cupping sessions. Prep your brewing sessions. Have each coffee needing to be assessed, physically listed on a piece of paper, notebook or a basic spreadsheet and tick them off once they have been assessed. Remember to file this work appropriately for easy retrieval.
  • Set up your cuppings first thing in the morning, most people seem to be more perceptive in the morning hours and just like the ritual that it is, ensure cleanliness and a clean space. A cluttered room is a cluttered mind. It’s also good to do it first thing in the morning so that you can tick it off your list, and consequently lessen the likelihood of your cupping session being disrupted.
  • Treat your cupping sessions like a business meeting and show up on time. If you forego the cupping for that day and then the next day and so on, the roasted sample needing to be assessed is likely to show some oxidation effects if it ages enough and you won’t be getting the correct impression, and then it would of all have been a waste of time. If you are cupping with a colleague, try to appoint a time instead, when whomever is cupping can focus while doing so. This experience accumulates over time and will eventually bear fruit. Think of it as an investment.
  • Only prep for the amount of cupping that you know you can handle. Know your limits. Sensory stamina is a real thing. You will build it up over time. Initially, you might only be able to assess 3 coffees in one session, but as you gain momentum you can increase that number. If you have 20 roasts to assess, break them up into groups and plan those individual cupping sessions based on what needs to be approved/resolved/optimised, first.
  • If you have a colleague cupping with you who may not have the same stamina you do, rather divide your coffees into more sessions so that the group cupping sheet accuracy rate is higher and more uniform, it will also be easier to assess their development this way. This will allow for a reinforcement of ones sensory capabilities and instil confidence and enthusiasm. (Stay tuned for a future post on staff training for QC)
  • Create a consistent cupping regimen. Once a week? Twice a week? It depends on factors like; how diverse your offering is; how often you change it; how experimental you are in roasting; etc. 1-3 times a week is typically sufficient.

ASSESS

  • Zone in when you start cupping. Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ or aeroplane mode. As I said in the last section- treat this like as a business meeting. You can’t have colleagues sending you a WhatsApp mid-cupping to inform you that your regular customer Sally complained yesterday that one of the kitchen staff burnt her chocolate croissant in the oven when heating it up. Just imagine how that’s going to disturb your thought process and sensory impressions.
  • Think about the purpose of the cupping session. Blend component roast profile ideas should preferably be cupped side by side for immediate and direct comparison. Emphasis on interpreting roast effects should be of paramount importance and your notes should reflect this too. i.e. too dark!, underdeveloped, baked!, dev-time too high, etc. All aspects of the cup profile can relate to the roast in some way. Make sure you have a full assessment by the end of the cupping session so that you can make meaningful conclusions at the end and come up with the best action plan.
  • If it’s a serious cupping with others- make a hard rule about quietude in the cupping room. It will make a difference in your sensory progression and in your results, it’s even more important for inexperienced cuppers.
  • Near the end of your cupping session, make sure you were happy with the general conditions of the cupping and the results. If a colleague dosed or ground the coffee incorrectly, do it all over again, and make sure it’s correctly done this time.

The work that you put into your quality control, product development and enhancement will stand out to your customers.

You can roast until your brains ooze out of your ears, but if you are not assessing your roasts with meaningful intent, you will likely have very little positive progression in roast quality.

Well, that’s all for today. If you need some ideas about this based on your unique situation, drop me a mail at mike@sevenoakstrading.co.za

Until next time.