Balance Properties – SCA Cupping Form – This article is part of a group of posts that explain the ten sensory attributes of the SCA Cupping Form (or SCA Arabica Cupping Form) based on knowledge from the book Sensory Science.
In cupping, Balance refers to the relationship between the four previous types of attributes: Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, and Body. Ideally, these four attributes are present at a harmonious level.
If a particular attribute is severely or noticeably missing or dominant, coffee will be considered “unbalanced.” However, referring to equilibrium, we often make judgments based on the multimodal interaction of attributes.
For example, a coffee with high acidity and heavy body may be considered more balanced than a coffee with high acidity and low body.
- The equilibrium property does not need to be left with descriptive notes, although it should be noted how the different properties manifest and how they affect the balance. For example, a thick body and low acidity – or vice versa, should be considered when scoring balanced attributes.
- Here, the equilibrium attribute is given a score of 6 to 10 based on the cupper’s subjective assessment of how the balance of coffee affects the market value.
NOTE: We only work in the 6 to 10 range to score each attribute on the cupping form, including Fragrance/Aroma. Why not 5? Since six is considered “good” and, in other words, it is of above-average quality, if coffee has shown poor quality in any type of attribute, it is not considered a specialty (Specialty Coffee)
Note when evaluating balance in cupping.
Regarding Sensory Science, the concept of “balance” is entirely subjective. If I like dark-roasted and light-roasted coffee, it will be challenging to reach a consensus on how bitter and sour the taste constitutes “balance.”
My “balanced” cup of coffee will tend to be more bitter than your “balanced” cup; on the other hand, your “balanced” cup may tend to be sourer. However, there are certain objective bases to support the general concept of balance, and we can verify it.
As we’ve seen, the compounds that make up the smell and the compounds that make up the taste in coffee can be “counterweights” to each other to help regulate the general perception; for example, the sour taste makes the coffee seem less sweet.
In other words, if we have too many flavoring agents, it can cloud our perception of different flavors. This idea is crucial to the concept of “balance.”
This is similar to the balance a chef achieves when cooking: spices are added only moderately (even if the “moderate” for each person is subjective), then the balance is almost invisible to diners.