As new coffees roll in, we have been scoring them with our new spider graphs. We hope they are (and have been) a great tool to help you decide what coffees to buy from our site. We suggest that you also pay attention to the written comments as well since numbers aren’t always the best way to judge a coffee’s taste. If you are really into the dark chocolateA general flavor or aroma term reminiscent of chocolate. But what type? Usually described with more specifics.: Chocolate is a broad, general flavor or aroma term reminiscent of... ...more notes and heavy bodyAssociated with and sensed by mouthfeel, body is sense of weight and thickness of the brew, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup, including all... ...more of coffees from NicaraguaNicaraguan coffees from the Segovia, Jinotega, Ocotal and Matagalpa regions are nice balanced cups. They often possess interesting cup character along with body and balance, outperforming many other... ...more and SumatraIndonesians are available as a unique wet-hulled or dry-hulled (washed) coffees. Giling Basah is the name for the wet-hulling process in Bahasa language, and will have more body... ...more, you will probably be disappointed with even the highest scoring GeshaGesha is a long-bean Ethiopia selection with unique cup character.: Gesha (often wishfully misspelled as Geisha) is a long-bean Ethiopia cultivar selection with unique cup character. It is... ...more coffees that have a very light body and floralFloral notes in coffee exemplify the connection between taste and smell. Describing the taste of a specific flower is near impossible...we always default to “it tastes like it... ...more notes.
When reading about a coffee on our site, notice the small images under the main image. Click the circular one with the weird, blue shape inside or CLICK HERE.
There might be a few coffees on our site that still have the old-school graphs. These are larger lots that have been in stock for a few weeks.
Some call them “spider graphs”. Some call them “radar graphs”. Whatever you call them, they can be useful when deciding on what coffees you include in your next order. Our coffee rating system has changed over time and will probably continue to evolve. We are always trying to find better ways to communicate how our coffees taste so you won’t end up buying coffee that just doesn’t taste good to you. Each coffee we sell is rated by Tom and Dan in our cuppingCupping is a method of tasting coffee by steeping grounds in separate cups for discrete amounts of ground coffee, to reveal good flavors and defects to their fullest.... ...more lab (usually a day or so before we post the coffee on our site).
Notice how our spider graphs start at 6 instead of 0? We figured we would break the rules a bit since we would probably never carry a coffee that scored under 6 anyways. Starting from 6 also makes for a more dramatic shape in the graph so you can glance at it and tell how balanced or if it weighs in heavy in a characteristic you really like.
It will expand into a larger one where you can quickly see the score and shape of the graph. Click on “zoom” and the graph expands again so you can see all the scores of that coffee.
-Dry Fragrance: Refers to the aromaAroma refers to sensations perceived by the olfactory bulb and conveyed to the brain; whether through the nose or "retro-nasally": The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence its... ...more of the dry ground coffee before hot water is added.
-Wet Aroma: The smell of wet coffee grinds, after the hot water is added.
-Brightness/Acidity: AcidityAcidity is a positive flavor attribute in coffee, also referred to as brightness or liveliness. It adds a brilliance to the cup, whereas low acid coffees can seem... ...more is the taste of sharp high notes in the coffee caused by a set of chlorogenic, citiric, quinic, acetic acidsMany acids contribute to coffee flavor: acetic, malic, citric, quinic, tartaric, phosphoric, etc.: Many acids contribute to coffee flavor; malic, citric, quinic, tartaric, phosphoric, etc. See Acidity or... ...more and others, sensed mostly in the front of the mouth and tongue. (It is a good quality; not related to bitterness in coffee, and not directly responsible for upset stomachs). Acidity is prized by many cuppers, and relates directly to the quality of the cup since acidity is the product of high altitude plantings.
-Wet Aroma: The smell of wet coffee grinds, after the hot water is added.
-Flavor: This is the overall impression in the mouth, including all the other ratings. There are 4 “primary taste” groupings (sourSour is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, sourness... ...more, sweet ,saltySalty is one of four basic sapid (in the mouth) tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter (and possibly a 5th called Umami which indicates savory flavors). In coffee, saltiness... ...more, bitterBitterness is one of 5 basic tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter and Umami (savory flavors). There are many types of bitterness, hence not one avenue to tracking down... ...more) and many “secondary tastes”.
-Body: Often called “mouthfeel”, body is the sense of weight and thickness of the brewed coffeeBrewed Coffee refers to all coffee preparations produced by adding non-pressurized water to coffee grounds. Contrasted with espresso coffee, which is produced under pressure, brewed coffee is primarily... ...more, caused by the percentage of soluble solids in the cup including all organicGrown without the use of artificial fertilizers, herbicides, etc.: Organic coffee has been grown according to organic farming techniques, typically without the use of artificial fertilizers. Some farms... ...more compounds that are extracted (the brewing method and amount of ground coffee used influences this greatly). We rate Body on a lower scale because light bodied coffees are certainly not bad, and in some origins the lighter body best suits to overall cup character.
-Finish: The lingering or emerging tastes that come after the mouth is cleared. This includes the time when the coffee leaves your mouth to minutes afterward…a reason that you will find a lot of cuppers revising aftertasteAftertaste refers to lingering residual sensations in the mouth after coffee has swallowed. It might be distinguished from "finish" which is the final sensations of the coffee while... ...more scores when they are still experiencing a positive flavor a minute or two later.
-Sweetness: SweetnessSweetness is an important positive quality in fine coffees, and is one of five basic tastes: Sour, Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Savory (Umami). In coffee, sweetness is a highly... ...more is almost always a desirable quality in coffee, even if it is described in euphemistic ways such as “rusticA general characterization of pleasantly "natural" flavors, less sophisticated and less refined, but appealing. : What is Rustic? This is a general term we came up with... Dried... ...more sweetness” or “bittersweetness.” You may notice that refined sweetness (think European pastries, fine candy, white sugar, pure sweetness) scores high, as well as complexThe co-presence of many aroma and flavor attributes, with multiple layers. A general impression of a coffee, similar to judgments such as "balanced" or "structured" ...more sweetness from fruit sugars (fructose). Malty sweetness (maltose) is less traditional, but quite desirable and honeyIn coffee, honey-like sweetness is often found, but we use terms such as refined honey (highly filtered and processed) as opposed to raw honey rustic honey sweetness. This... ...more can range from the very pure and clean to complex, rustic almost yeasty. Basically, if sweetness is a key to the cup, it will be rated well.
-Clean Cup: Note that “clean cup” does not literally mean that there isn’t dirt on the coffee. It’s just about flavor and raw, funky coffees that are “unclean” and the flavor can also be quite desirable, such a wet-hulled IndonesiaUSDA is (obviously) the United States Department of Agriculture. USDA also had coffee plant breeding programs in the past and one variety they distributed to Indonesia and was... ...more coffees from Sumatra, or dry-processed EthiopiaEthiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia, or a coffee cultivar: Ethiopia, or more specifically the Empire under Haile Selassie, was known as Abyssinia. The name is Latin, derived from... ...more and Yemeni types.
-Complexity: Complexity compliments “flavor” and “finish” scores, to communicate a multitude or layering of many flavors. It means that there’s a lot to discover in the cup. Then again, simple coffees can be a relief after over-exposure to many powerful, intense, complex coffees.
-Uniformity: Uniformity refers to cup-to-cup differences. Dry-process coffees can be less uniform than wet-process coffees by nature. We would never avoid a lot that has fantastic flavors if occasionally it waivers. This is scored during the cupping protocol, where multiple cups are made of each lot being reviewed.
-Cupper’s Correction: This is adopted from the SCAA system and Cup of ExcellenceThe Cup of Excellence is a competition held yearly in many coffee-producing countries, designed to highlight the very best coffees from each origin.: The Cup of Excellence (COE)... ...more scoring (they sometimes call it “Overall Points”). It allows a cupperOne who cups, or tastes and evaluates, coffee.: A cupper is a person who performs the somewhat formal analysis of coffee quality, called cupping. See the definition of... ...more to ensure that the total score correctly communicates the overall impression of the cup. You might criticize this approach and consider it “fudging”the total. In a way, you would be correct … but it would be much worse to change the category scores to acheive the desired total (to give a coffee a 9 for acidity when you know it is a 7), or conversely to have a coffee that absolutely deserves a 90 end up at 84. The specific Cupper’s Correction number matters naught, be it a 5 or an 8 … the idea is that the total score gives a correct impression of the coffee quality.
-Score: 100-95 = Astounding, 90-94 = Outstanding, 85-89 = Very Good, 80-84 = Good, 75-79 = Fair, 70-74 = Poor
It’s Not About The Numbers
Don’t get hung up on the total scores. If you are looking for bright citrus notes with tart acidity, you will be disappointed by even the highest scoring Sumatra with tons of earthiness, body and dark chocolate notes. Take a look at how the coffee is scored, not just the total score. More importantly, read the review…it’s an actual narrative of how the coffee tastes and we always use comparisons to foods, fruits and drinks that you are hopefully familiar with.