Cold brew coffee equipment company Alto Cold Brew has introduced a cupping system designed to streamline quality control for coffee shops, roasters and other users of the brand’s filters and brewing systems. The company has also launched an associated kit of cupping tools.
Alto Co-Founder Matt Bushman told Daily Coffee News the cupping system draws from the Southern California-based company’s in-house cupping protocols and equipment setup for evaluating cold brew.
“We have always strived to bring the attention to detail and care for the final product that we saw in specialty coffee to cold brew,” Bushman said. “Our team drew inspiration from [our commercial cafe customers] and our own experiences, but also published SCA cupping standards, competition scorecards and industry workshops.”
Each $60 kit includes a pack of 35 of Alto’s small home filters, a physical copy of Alto’s cupping guide, a branded cupping spoon, a 32-page book of score sheets and a set of four 1-quart cold cupping vessels. The company also separately sells its own branded refractometer and TDS meter, which it recommends for use along with the cupping kit.
“The kit and these TDS meters are not high-markup money-makers for us at all,” said Bushman. “We offer them essentially at cost as a service to shops who just want a complete kit that is ready to use without having to do a ton of research or piece together all of the individual parts.”
Alto’s score sheets provide space for tasters to rate coffees on a five-point scale in 10 areas of evaluation including aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, bitterness, sweetness, body, texture, cup clarity, and balance. Space is also provided to note the brew duration, grind setting, brew ratio and TDS of each sample.
Despite the meteoric rise of cold brew popularity over the past decade, standards and practices for brewing and evaluation have not been broadly adopted and refined as they have been for green coffee or hot coffee.
Prominent commercial and consumer cold-brewing systems maker Toddy last year unveiled a cupping kit and protocol, which represented the industry’s first major attempt at standardized commercial cold brew evaluation.
The Toddy cold brew cupping form was informed by the Specialty Coffee Association Arabica Cupping Form, although the SCA presently has no published protocols for cold brew cupping. More recently, Toddy and the SCA-supported Coffee Science Foundation have launched a two-year research project on cold brew.
Bushman said that Alto was publishing its cold brew cupping practices in advance of the first Coffee Fest-led United States Cold Brew Championships scheduled for 2020. While those events were unfortunately put on hold due to the pandemic, Bushman said he welcomes increased participation and industry-driven collaboration in cold brew standards development.
“Like many other small businesses in the coffee industry, COVID-19 hit us hard. We had worries about declining demand, supply chain stability, shipping reliability and changing customer habits, among a hundred other things,” said Bushman. “Our entire focus was on serving existing customers and checking in with them regularly to see if there was anything we could do to help. Sometimes we were able to share a learned experience from one customer with another in the hopes that building up our collective resilience would help us all pull through.”