Tasting Two by Two

And the number shall be… three? There’s a tried and true technique called triangle cupping that’s used to identify which of three coffees is different. (For you Sesame Street fans, it’s a game of One of These Things Is Not Like The Others.) You take two samples of one coffee, and one of another; you randomize them so you don’t know which is which, and taste them with the goal of identifying the odd one out. Triangle cupping is an excellent tool for building sensory skills. You can start simple: identify the one Kenyan out of a flight that consists of that cup plus two cups of Colombian. And as your skills progress you can make finding the odd one out increasingly difficult: try identifying the odd Sulawesi in a field rounded out by Sumatrans; or the Kona peaberry in a triangle of coffees where the others are estate-run beans from the same farm. It’s surprising just how much you can boost your sensory ability with practice. Triangle cupping is also an excellent diagnostic for folks who roast coffee. Want to figure out which roast level brings out the very best in a given bean? Cup a triangle of two samples roasted at Agtron 47, and one at Agtron 46. Repeat at Agtron 45, 44, 43… Want to see if you’re maintaining the taste profile for your blend? Cup a triangle of Monday’s roast compared to Wednesday’s. A single cupping session may not tell you all you need to know… but cupped again and again, sooner or later the statistical weight of your choices will become clear. Triangle cupping...

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