This week's episode was suggested by another trainer and it's a behavior that I've also seen people try that I think needs to be discouraged. The double break refers to going through the mechanics of a cupping session but after breaking the crust and before skimming the surface, going back to do another break. This usually indicates that the first break was rushed and aroma observations were not properly recorded. Often this second break is not done with every cup in a single sample, much less performed consistently on every cup of every sample. Why does that matter?
People often draw a distinction between cupping and tasting, where tasting is done with coffee brewed through some other method, but I think it's important to remember that cupping does still involve a kind of coffee brewing and many of the variables that impact brewing can be manipulated in cupping. Ideally, these are controlled to produce consistent results appropriate for the purpose of the cupping session, but if people are not mindful of what these variables are, they may not appreciate that something they're doing is spoiling the consistency and utility of their observations.
Double breaking is one such practice, impacting agitation. Normally during a cupping session the grounds are being stirred at two points. First, when water is poured over the dry grounds there's quite a bit of motion. Some of these coffee grounds will sink to the bottom of the cup but many will float to the top of the cup and form a crust. That crust is broken while making aroma observations and this also involves considerable agitation. More of the coffee will sink at this point, and further motions should be performed in a way that minimizes further disruption of the sunk grounds. Without a filter to remove those sunk grounds from the liquid coffee, the coffee will continue to extract, but at a relatively slow rate due to the reduced temperature and because many of the grounds are buried under other coffee grounds. Further agitation with a double break does two things. It mixes more grounds into the liquid which will take time to settle until cuppers are no longer risking getting a mouth full of grounds, and it speeds up this ongoing extraction, leading to reduced uniformity among cups and increased potency of the undesirable flavor characteristics commonly associated with over-extraction.
It's best to avoid the double break entirely. Take your time when making aroma observations, record those observations immediately, and do this right the first time so you won't feel the need to go back for a second break. If you must go back for a second break, limit it to at most one cup in a sample and then immediately pull that cup out so that it will not be considered for flavor observations. Don't rearrange the other cups as that also is likely to add further unwanted agitation.
There's a mention at the start of the video of sample roasting classes that I've taught. If anybody following this series is planning on attending Roasters Guild Retreat in August, I'm the lead instructor for the Thursday sample roasting class. The roasting tent has air conditioning this year.