Coffee Review and many others in the coffee industry have long believed that the standard for coffee should be no different than that for wine, insisting that the pointing system of 1-100 is a secure method for evaluating coffee. It's a strict standard that Coffee Review uses to blindly taste or "cup" their coffee, removing as many variables as possible to the objective observer, used in a controled environment to level the playing field for each individual varietal.
I came across a very interesting evaluation of Coffee Review's methods this morning in a recent post from Coffee Geek's Mark Prince. In this, he takes to task Coffee Review's generally accepted methods of cupping espresso, suggesting that espresso would be better evaluated through pulling consistent shots than through cupping alone. I found this to be the most interesting observation by Prince:
Start your list with the variables. In cupping, variables are controlled and regimented. In espresso evaluation, as much leeway as possible (within reason) should be given. Tamping - I remember being at Alistair Durie's lab with Vince Piccolo (49th Parallel Roasters) and other baristas, pulling shots of Heather Perry's WBC Competition blend. We were doing the same dose (from an Anfim timer grinder), same machine temperature, aiming for the same brewed volume, but changing only one thing - the tamping method. Vince would try his and pull a shot. He'd vary the tamp, and pull another. Alistair would go up, not change anything except tamp in his style. And I'd do the same. And every shot came out different - different tastes, different look during the pull, different variances in the finished shot as it sat in the cup.This is what makes the barista profession so unique. You'll get one dude on one machine and another on another machine with the same grind and variables -- one puts a little more muscle than the other into the tamp, and you get two completely different personalities in the espresso shot. I guess it's the dork in me that loves this stuff, but also the reason I have hope for the future of our profession.
There is very little personality in a Starbucks super-automatic-uniform shot, but you'll get some interesting character in your drink from a local, independent barista. So I guess this gets back to my original subject of this post... What's your standard for evaluating espresso? Should it be considered the same as coffee cupping, or should it be evaluated as Prince suggests?
How do you evaluate your espresso?
You can learn more about Maestro Coffee Roasters at www.maestrocoffeeroasters.com.