How many defected beans in a cup before you taste it?

18 Sep

At the roastery we have a great dry processed coffee from Santa Alina in Brazil. The only drawback is that it comes with it’s fair share of unripes. So each time we roast this bean we spend some time picking unripes and defects from the cooling tray. As you probably know they stand out by being of a lighter colour than the rest. As we are a small specialty roaster we can take the time to pick out these and just to keep reminding ourselves of the importance of removing them we keep them and once in a while cup them.

But we have asked ourselves the question: How many defects can you have in a cup before it ruins it?

Today was the day to put this to the test. We picked a clean coffee (La Montanita CoE, El Salvador) as a control and a base to add the defect beans into. We set up the cupping table with six cups. One was a clean cup of La Montanita, the next we added one defected bean into, then two into the next and so on until the last cup which had five.

For our cupping cups we measure 12 grams of coffee to be within the ratio of 55 grams to 1 litre of water. Each defect bean weighed around .2 grams. This means that the ratio of bad beans to good ranged from roughly 60:1 to 12:1 in favor of the good beans.

Todays panel of cuppers consisted of the usual supects: Tim Varney, Tim Wendelboe and myself.

Personally, after tasting a cup of defect beans several times before I thought this would be an easy match. I was wrong…

We blindcupped the six cups and none of us got them all right. In fact Tim V and Tim W only got the cup with the most defects and the control cup right. Myself I got none spot on, but were able to distinguish them roughly. The challenge seemed to get the better of us. For instance we all thought cup number one had a definite taste of defected bean in it but it proved to contain only one.

This is the cup with 5 defect beans. The horror!

Tim W was suprised over how difficult it was to pinpoint them excactly, and I could not come over the shock of not getting even one cup right.

In conclusion we agreed on that the actual taste of defect in the cup would probably have more to do with the type of defect than the amount of defected beans in the cup.


6 Responses to “How many defected beans in a cup before you taste it?”

  1. Tim Varney Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 22:31 #

    Nice one Ola… This indeed was a tough one, perhaps we should should try with an Kenyan or maybe with the TW blend…

  2. Jacob Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 0:18 #

    Very interesting to know that it wasn’t very detectable. Keep up the good work; your scientific approach makes for an engaging read!

  3. Olings Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 9:08 #

    Thanks for the feedback Jacob. We will continue our scientific approach and play around with coffee. It’s really good fun!

    Tim, you could have just told me at work. 😉 It’s hard to find defects in the Eeagads or Koro Koro but I’ll start searching.

  4. emily Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 23:41 #

    Ok so here is maybe a stupid question – did you wash the spoons (thoroughly) between samples in clean water… I was at a CofE once where we had cross contamination of samples from the spoons not being washed properly between tasting…since then whenever I cup I’m vigilant at washing the spoons especially if I taste a fault or a defect.
    If you did, then I’ll shut up 🙂

  5. Olings Friday, September 21, 2007 at 0:05 #

    No, it’s not a stupid question at all.

    THOROUGHLY is the key word here I guess… We rinsed them in near to boiling hot water, but didn’t bring out the sponge and detergent if thats what you’re thinking of.

    We were and are always aware of the problems of cross contamination of the coffees when we cup, but I don’t know if we couldn’t get better at it.

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ll certainly be more vigilant as far as the proper rinsing of the equipment goes. After all we’re trying to be as scientific as we can without taking all the fun out of the experiments.

    Maybe thats an idea to test though; the effect of cross contamination on a cup. Hmm… Emily, I think you just gave me an idea. Thanks! I don’t doubt that it’s a potential problem, but to what degree? I guess we’ll just have to try. Keep an eye out next week!

  6. emily Wednesday, September 26, 2007 at 12:06 #

    awesome… look forward to what you find!

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