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In cup quality: what it means and how to best ensure you’re producing top quality coffee

A quality coffee experience can encompass a lot of things: the environment you consume it in, the people you drink it with, and the ritual that so often surrounds it. But the base that holds all this together is the aroma and taste = flavour of the coffee — the way you react to that first sip. All the best things that come from a great coffee experience originate here. In the coffee world, that is known as ‘in cup quality’, and it’s essential to get it just right to ensure your cafe’s success.

What is in cup quality?

Before you can master and fine tune the in cup quality of your coffee, it’s best to understand exactly what it means. Here at Lavazza, we rely on our head trainer John to define it. He says when thinking about how to produce the best quality coffee, it’s best to keep it simple, but not to solely focus on taste.

John explains, “So there's a few band members. It's not just the violin solos, there's an orchestra.” To truly know your cup of coffee, you have to think in terms of “flavour profile, temperature and texture.”

What affects in cup quality?

Beans, and how you roast them, will ultimately have the most effect on the flavour profile and texture of your coffee. There are over 1000 varieties of coffee beans in the world, but the most commonly used species are Coffee Arabica and Coffea Canephora, also known as Robusta. Like its adopted name, John says that blends with Robusta “generally will have a darker roast with chocolatey and nutty flavours that tend to linger.” That big bodied flavour will come “with a longer mouthfeel and syrupy texture.”

When it comes to 100% Arabica, John says this coffee will have “bright fruity flavours that are almost citrusy or sweet.” Think light and floral. On average, Arabica only has half the caffeine content versus Robusta. Caffeine in itself is bitter, so this means arabica coffee will have a less bitter taste. 

Water plays a dominant role in producing quality coffee. Not only does it act as the solute to carry the flavour packed inside the beans, but it can also have an effect on taste in multiple ways. Tap water can have a drastically different taste to coffee made with filtered water. The temperature of the water used can dictate how much of the flavour of the beans are brought across: Too cold and you risk a weak or sour brew; too hot and your coffee could taste burnt.

Human input is involved with in cup quality from farmer to barista. Lavazza’s professional coffee quality tasters know how to accurately identify coffee tastes and aromas through a tasting process called ‘cupping’. This careful process will help to ensure only the best quality coffees are used to create delicious blends for you to use at your cafe. Not unlike wine tasting, cupping involves tasting many cups of coffee with a spoon, slurping each coffee to take in the flavours and mouthfeel, and finally spitting the coffee and moving onto the next cup.

How in cup quality is assessed: Lavazza’s ICQ audit process

Lavazza has its own tried and true quality checks that assures cafes are producing only exceptional cups of coffee. John says that by checking the “the way baristas care for their coffee, the cleanliness of the grinder, machine and workspace,” as well the general processes of the barista, he and his team are able to help guide baristas and business owners to always be passionately learning and working hard to make excellent coffee, every time.

Whatever the size of your venue, the in cup quality of your coffee is the pillar on which the rest of your business stands. If you would like to know more about how you can maximise your business, download our latest ebook: ​Fill Your Cup: How cafe owners can maximise value and work smarter.

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