The Art of Cupping with Brio Coffeeworks

How many of us have caught up with a friend, ignited sparks with a new acquaintance, or studied our days away with a cup of coffee between our palms? For some, no routine is more sacred than that morning cup of coffee. Coffee can be, simply put, what makes some of us function.

That’s why Juniper has partnered with Brio Coffeeworks to maintain our coffee selections. Turns out coffee, much like all the food on offer at Juniper, is seasonal. All of our coffee offerings are roasted weekly at Brio Coffeeworks’ Pine Street location, but the green coffee beans shipped to Vermont tend to lose flavor and stop brewing an ideal cup of coffee if allowed to sit around too long after harvest. That’s why Nate and Magda, the owner’s of Brio Coffeeworks, change up their offerings, capturing beans from various parts of the world and offset harvests in order to offer the best beans to brew.

The Honduras we’ve been enjoying in the restaurant of late will slowly no longer be available in good quality, and so now we’re deciding between a Guatemalan and a Brazilian offering. Now hold up. If the Honduras harvest is so long ago that the beans are no longer fresh, what the what is a Guatemalan bean doing on offer? We asked Nate the same question, and he didn’t skip a beat in his response. Elevation plays a key role in ripeness, and Brio’s Guatemalan sources pick later than those in Honduras. Advancements in technology play a role too; Guatemalan producers have begun using hermetically sealed bags that prolong the shelf life of a green coffee bean. Brazilian beans are grown south of the equator, and thus harvest on a diametric schedule.

Now that we have the freshest raw ingredient on offer, how do we choose the best roast for the restaurant? The industry standard in coffee selection is known as a cupping, and much like wine or beer tastings, a coffee cupping is designed to expose and highlight all the best traits of a coffee while accounting for variances in brewing styles. Here’s how it went down.

First, all of our coffee options are presented in ceramic cups, with two cups of each roast being available. Having two cups means a single bad bean or defect in that sample wont lead us to misjudge a roast and allows a composite tasting to occur. The beans are smelled whole, and then smelled again after grinding to take in their dry aroma.

Next the coffee is brewed in the cup by adding 200 degree water and allowed to steep for 4 minutes. While steeping, the grounds of the coffee float to the top to form a crust. Once our brew time is finished, we use a spoon to push back the crust and release the wet aroma of the coffee. After a quick pull back on the spoon to coat its convex surface, we can raise the spoon to our nose to smell the wet aroma even more closely.

Now comes the tasting portion. The coffees are skimmed to remove as much of the grounds as possible, while leaving brewed oils behind. Spoons are taken and with about 1/2 tsp per dip, the coffee is audibly slurped onto the palette, aerating and spreading the liquid across the mouth. Coffee is evaluated for aroma, perceived sweetness, and the expression of acids (be they fruity, citric acids, or tannic tartaric acids). Our goal was to identify a balance of all these roles and to select a coffee that we can all wake up to.

Want to know more? Nate and Magda love visitors, and they hold a public cupping every Friday at their Pine Street Location.

This guest post authored by Cameron Keitel, Hotel Vermont’s Food & Beverage Manager.

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