Blog Post

Liveblogging ScienceOnline '09: Coffee Cupping Event


ScienceOnline '09 kicked off this morning with an unusual but quite interesting tour and tasting: the science behind coffee, hosted by Counter Culture Coffee. We dropped in on their regular Friday tradition of 10 a.m. cuppings, in which three coffees are offered for blind tasting. The 30 or so science bloggers gathered were to describe fragrance of the ground coffee, aroma once hot water is added, break (new aromas that arise while stirring away the CO2 bubbles at the top of a cup with a spoon), brightness, flavor, body, and aftertaste.


Our fearless leaders: on the top, Tim, Director of Roasting; on the bottom, Mark, Director of Marketing

We undertook the cupping in their well-appointed kitchen areas, and were assisted in describing the coffees with a flavor wheel, as you'll see below. After writing our respective thoughts on individual cards, Tim gathered us together to shout out our thoughts on each coffee sample. Despite the inevitable differences in opinion, there was a lot of overlap with each other as well as with the correct attributes of the coffee that Tim revealed. If you're curious, he revealed these as the three coffees we tried: La Golondrina, grown in Popayan, Colombia; Humure, grown in Byumba, Rwanda; and Tegu, grown in the Nyeri region of Kenya. My favorite was the Rwandan coffee, but the majority of folks preferred the Kenyan brand.

The compiled list of adjectives we used to describe our samples. They ranged from the mundane (light, woodsy, rich) to the very creative (plum sauce on pork, sweet gorgonzola, stroganoff).


Beans ready for grinding


Coffee tasters' flavor wheel


Taking in the aroma of coffee samples


I'm pretty sure this espresso machine is worth more than my car. :)


Following the cupping, Tim and Mark led us on a tour of Counter Culture's warehouse, where beans they've selected from all over the world are stored (though not for very long), roasted, ground, and packed. Though an extremely clean environment, it was also filled with equipment and staff moving to and fro to keep the roasting fodder of the day moving through the production line. More photos:

Just delivered beans awaiting roasting. In this pile were beans from Mexico, Costa Rica, and Sumatra.


Sorted beans about to be roasted.


Tim operating the biggest of CCC's three roasting machines.


Post-roasting quality control. This Agtron tests the reflectivity of the beans to ensure they're roasted to the staff's desire.


A giant bin of roasted beans.


For Triangle locals, I emphasize that Counter Culture's weekly cuppings are open to anyone interested in the science and business sides of coffee, each Friday at 10:00 a.m. Check their website and click on the "Cupping" page for details.

The remainder of my liveblogs will be more live and a bit less hands-on, but I hope still stimulating. Stay tuned!


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