The cupping score developed by the Specialty Coffee Association goes from 0 to 100, and only coffees scoring 80 points or above get the “specialty” badge of honor. Commercial-grade coffee scores anywhere from 60 to 80.
Before the cupping: visual inspection of green beans
Before the Q-graders even start the cupping, they inspect a sample of 12 oz (350 g) unroasted green
beans to see if they contain any defects. These can be primary (e.g., sour beans) or secondary
(e.g., broken beans).
For coffee to be graded as specialty, its sample must contain zero primary defects and less than five secondary defects.
A bit of perspective: in 12 oz, you will get around nine hundred beans. Find six broken ones—and you’re out.
The cupping process
The roasters must roast the sample within 24 hours before cupping and allow it to rest for at least 8 hours.
The beans should be ground right before the cupping, with an ideal ratio of 0.3 oz (8.25 g) of coffee per 5 fl oz (150 ml) of water.
The Q-graders then score 5 cups from the same sample and give them a grade from 0 to 10 according to the following criteria: