"The next time you buy a coffee mug, make sure to consider its color..."

Mike led two public cuppings at our Crossroads cafe on September 1st with a trick up his sleeve.

First, he covered some coffee roasting basics and explained the profile roasting process, which involves roasting a new arrival in several different ways to determine the best expression of its inherent characteristics. Printouts of roast curves from two development roasts of Colombia El Chaferote Pink Bourbon (exclusive to Roaster's Choice subscribers and the pour over menu at our cafes!) helped illustrate the process.

Then he guided guests through cupping the two bowls of Pink Bourbon that were waiting in front of them: dry fragrance, aroma after filling each bowl with water, breaking the crust at 4 minutes, and beginning to slurp at 12 minutes.

General consensus was that the coffee in the white bowl was a bit thinner and sharper, though with a more intricate aroma. The coffee in the black bowl was described as being more round and sweet, and was the preferred bowl for most attendees.

The big reveal? Both bowls contained the exact same coffee!

Visual cues as simple as the color of the vessel we're drinking out of subconsciously affect our perception of flavor.

When cupping for quality control at our warehouse, the best way to circumvent this quirk of psychology is to replace the lightbulbs in the cupping room with red lightbulbs. Red light prevents us from seeing the true color of the coffee in each bowl, or the contrast among coffee grounds in a given bowl, so that visual cues cannot lead our taste buds astray.

Try it at home: the next time you brew a pot of coffee, taste it out of two mugs that are different colors and see if you note any changes in flavor. The effect will not be as drastic this way, since you already know that both mugs contain the same beverage, but the results might still surprise you!

Comments 2

Jim Cleaves on

Another possible reveal may be that participants expected sensory differences between the two different color vessels, so they experienced that. Also possible: not wanting to be perceived as insensitive to sensory differences. If there were a hundred or more participants and none knew what the others reporting results were the exercise would be more valid imo.

Robert McAnulty on

When you do a cupping, is it always pour-over?

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