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You’ve heard of wine tasting? Well, coffee tasting (also known as coffee cupping) is a similar idea. Coffee tasters determine the characteristics of a particular coffee blend and try to guess the orgin of a particular coffee bean. Coffee tasters judge coffee on its appearance, aroma, body and flavour. First they smell the coffee and then they slurp it, tasting the coffee at various temperatures, which lets them discover all the complexities within the blend or coffee bean.

Though coffee cupping is a professional practice, you don’t have to be a coffee connoisseur to try coffee tasting. Any coffee lover will surely find this activity interesting and enriching, and over time you’ll become an expert at identifying the different aromas and flavours. Once you’ve tried coffee tasting, you’ll never look at coffee the same way again. You’ll appreciate the difference between the good and the bad, and you’ll know what it means to truly enjoy a great mug of coffee.


There’s a reason why the smell of a great coffee brings a smile to coffee lovers. It’s because a good, clean coffee aroma is the mark of a truly good coffee.

However, coffee aroma is not the same as coffee flavour. Aroma is essentially the smell of the coffee. And as our senses of smell and taste are linked, the smell of the coffee aroma helps a coffee taster to distinguish the different flavours present in the coffee. When coffee tasters talk about a balanced cup, they often mean a coffee has a delicate blend of aroma and flavour, where neither one overpowers the other.

Some common coffee aroma characteristics are:

  • Intense (total intensity of all types of aroma)
  • Coffeeness
  • Clean (meaning absence of grassy, rubbery, mouldy and other off-tastes that signify a lower quality coffee)
  • Roasty
  • Groundsy (for coffee that has come in contact with grounds for too long)
  • Cooked (left on stove too long, stewed or even burnt)
  • Milky
  • Caramel (due to caramelised sugar)
  • Nutty


Think you’re up to the challenge of a coffee tasting session? We’ve got some great tasting tips to help you become a master of coffee cupping!

Getting Started: To start your tasting session, boil some water to make your coffee with. Be careful not to let it boil for too long though. Use a silver spoon or stainless steel to mix and taste your coffee as this will stop any strange, off-tastes from affecting the cupping process. Also, don’t use filtered water, as the artificially softened water can affect the taste of your coffee too. Serve your coffee in a mug or bowl. And then grab some paper so you can write down what you find as you taste!

Now for the tasting: The first step of coffee tasting is actually noting the appearance of the coffee. Once you’ve done that, the real tasting begins! Break the surface of the cup and smell. The aroma is important in providing cues to the quality of the coffee. Take a spoonful of coffee, pucker your lips and forcefully sip or slurp it. This is a procedure called “aspirating” or “slurping” which spreads the coffee around your tongue and palate which enhances the taste experience. By slurping the coffee you ensure all your taste buds experience the coffee taste more or less at the same time. This allows your tongue to better identify the coffee’s flavour. Plus, slurping is more fun!


At NESCAFÉ® we regularly conduct coffee tasting sessions. It’s important to us that our consumers always have the best-tasting and highest quality coffee. Our coffee cupping sessions help ensure our products consistently taste just as great as you expect them to be.

Our teams of coffee tasters use our NESCAFÉ® standard of aroma and taste for each blend, which we adapt to suit the local tastes of different countries.

Every step in the production process helps us to achieve the ideal mug of NESCAFÉ®. In all our NESCAFÉ® factories, trained NESCAFÉ® mug tasters try and taste different blends and note each coffee taste and characteristic on a grading sheet kept at the factory.