Clean cup Properties – SCA Cupping Form – This article is part of a group of posts that explain the 10 sensory attributes of the SCA Cupping Form (or SCA Arabica Cupping Form) based on knowledge from the book Sensory Science.
In cupping, Clean Cup is defined as “no flavor other than coffee”, so Clean Cup is designed to identify contaminants in coffee, usually caused by non-coffee ingredients or biological contamination (mold, bacteria, etc.) in poorly processed coffee.
When cupping, a major challenge for cupper is identifying what is considered a “non-coffee flavor”, as a large number of coffee varieties belonging to the arabica family do not actually exhibit coffee flavor attributes (e.g., aromatic substances involved in fermentation produced by lactic acid bacteria) are very common and are an important part of the weight of coffee flavor in practice.
Therefore, the line between “clean” and “unclean” is the subject of much debate, which requires cupper to use their best judgment and knowledge of the coffee market to determine if certain flavors are: not coffee flavors; or are considered unacceptable in the coffee market.
Clean cup review in cupping
In the context of SCA standard cupping, the three properties in the form of checkboxes (tick the blank box – instead of scoring) on the cupping form are designed to bring the total score up to 100.
In other words, to identify flavor defects in coffee, a cupper will melon on three attributes: Sweetness, Uniformity, and Clean Cup. Therefore, as an unwritten rule, when trying a specialty coffee (really), a cupper will not have to deduct points on these attributes.
In the illustration above, the cupper vacated the second Clean Cup box, in coffee sample A, because the second cup of this sample had an unpleasant taste (Defect/Faut).
In terms of Sensory Science, the Clean cup attribute assessment (or Sweetnes and Uniformity) is a simple variant of a sensory evaluation method known as Check All That Apply (often abbreviated as CATA).
This is a rapid sensory profiling technique that can help identify the main organoleptic characteristics of a product, and not judge their intensity.
In a CATA test, participants were given a list of terms and asked to confirm the terms specific to the product. In the context of Cupping, this test is used to help Cupper determine if a cup has a different flavor than coffee!
- NOTE: In most cases, flavors other than coffee or not clean are also considered defective. As a result, cups are often deducted points in both the Clean Cup and Defect attributes.