There’s an App for That: Angels’ Cup, Coffee Tasting for All

Angel's Cup offers and interactive, layered, "click-through" coffee tasting experience.
Angel’s Cup offers an interactive, layered, “click-through” coffee tasting experience.

It takes many long, grueling hours to become a Q Grader, the technical name for a “coffee sommelier,” or professional coffee taster. Earning the title, which only a few hundred people in the world hold, involves sniffing vials of concentrated scents, blindly slurping thousands of coffee samples, and memorizing a vocabulary of hundreds of terms for aroma, fragrance, flavor, mouthfeel, body, acidity, and aftertaste, and applying it all during a three day exam.

SCAA Aroma/Fragrance wheel
SCAA Taste/Aroma wheel
SCAA Flavor Wheel
SCAA Defect Wheel

Out here in the real world, ain’t nobody got time for that. We all just want our coffee, but we wouldn’t mind learning more about how to taste it better, without having to beg entry to the velvet-roped world of Q Grading. We’re in luck: there’s an everyman coffee tasting app for that.

Jeff Borack launched Angels’ Cup (tasting.angelscup.com) with the goal of using smartphones to open the world of coffee tasting to drinkers everywhere in a fun, accessible, and shareable format. Jeff worked for 7 years at a hedge fund, and–because nothing pairs with finance like a quality glass of whiskey–learned about the art of tasting whiskey and realized that there actually are layers of flavor in every sip.

In the process of distilling whiskey (or fermenting wine) a percentage is always lost due to evaporation, known to distillers and vintners as the “Devil’s Take,” or, more optimistically, the “Angels’ Take.” Since coffee is all about halos of optimism, Jeff decided to launch Angel’s Cup, a step-by-step guided coffee tasting platform that will eventually pair with a subscription service that ships monthly flights of one ounce samples. Subscribers will then be able to taste the samples, record their observations via the platform (full web format or app form), and see what other subscribers thought.

“Once the subscription service is up and running, we’ll have a message board to compare people’s results. There will be a store to buy whole bags [of the sample coffees] from. Angel’s Cup will also use past tasting data/notes to predict how a user would score a coffee he or she hasn’t tasted yet,” said Jeff.

All that will happen once Angels’ Cup has launched and completed their Kickstarter campaign, on deck for later this fall. For now, the Angel’s Cup website is up and running and free for all, inviting all coffee drinkers to try their hand at becoming coffee tasters, and then share their results on social media.

I’m pretty old school and tend not to be particularly app-savvy, but I gave Angels’ Cup a try, using the guided tasting platform to deconstruct coffee from my friends at La Potenciana in Costa Rica. See the screen shots (reverse chronological order) in the gallery below.

The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) official “wheels” for tasting and smelling coffee are pretty daunting, so it’s exciting that Angel’s Cup is using mobile and web technology to help break down the enigmatic coffee tasting process and bring a tasting platform right to your pocket, offering a plethora of vocabulary to help you discover the wealth of flavor and taste that is already nestled in your divine cup.

This weekend, kick back with your favorite coffee and see what you can take from the Angels’ Cup.

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3 Comments

  1. Pretty cool application. But I wonder how well it correlates to a Q-cupper’s results? What was your opinion of how well the app identified the characteristics of the coffee your tested (thanks for the plug!)? Without trying the app, seems like it may be fun to play around with, but the decision matrix has to represent somebody’s palate and we would be required to trust it. As usual Rachel, you are on the leading edge of all things coffee!

    1. The app is essentially a digital platform for recording cupping notes, so the tool/technology is as objective as the “cupper” tasting the coffee. The app itself doesn’t identify any characteristics, it just affords the taster an interactive way to record his/her opinions in a format instantly shareable across social media. The decision matrix represents as many palates as elect to record their notes on a given coffee. Rather than designed to be authoritative, it’s designed to pull back the mysterious curtain that often shrouds the enigmatic cupping/sensory evaluation process and put the basic cupping framework and vocabulary in the hands of any coffee drinker with a smartphone. The summary of notes is shareable, but it doesn’t have to be. The app can be used to privately flesh out what an individual responds positively to in general–a sort of “coffee Spotify,” or it can be used to celebrate the discovery of a taste gem, like Potenciana Cafe!

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