Broadway Roasting Company hosts “Cupping” events weekly

John Cates, co-owner of the Broadway Roasting Company, leads coffee cuppers in smelling multiple samples of Tanzanian and Costa Rican coffee blends.

Chloe' Robbins-Anderson

The Broadway Roasting Company, located at 40th and Washington, hosts free coffee tastings every Wednesday at noon. Coffee Cupping 101 shows coffee brewing as a scientific process for evaluating the quality of the bean.

“It’s meant to get people thinking about something they drink every day,” John Cates, co-owner, said.

The process of evaluating the quality of the bean is usually done by growers, importers, exporters and baristas, and the Broadway Roasting Company has been doing this in the back room since 1992. Last October, the company hired a new barista, Emily Norton, who had experience leading coffee tastings and offered to start up the service. In January, they were officially set up to allow consumers to learn behind-the-scene details about their daily cup of coffee.

Upon entering the tasting area, customers are presented with multiple cups of two different types of coffee grounds and are encouraged to smell each cup and observe aloud any differences they might notice. Once everyone has smelled, baristas pour hot water in all cups and let them brew for four minutes. It’s a full immersion method of brewing, similar to a French press, except the grounds are dissolved instead of pressed. This process allows for a fuller flavor, making it easier to taste all the subtle differences.

“Nobody really ‘cups’ coffee at home,” Cates said.

After the coffee has finished brewing, everyone smells each cup before “cracking the crust,” which involves holding the nose to the cup while dipping a spoon in three times, allowing for the grounds to be fully mixed. The first crack is when the fullest smell will be noticed. Once all cups are cracked, employees skim off the top before tasting begins.

Customers are shown how to absorb the full flavor all over the mouth and into the nose: get a spoonful and quickly slurp. Everyone is urged to try a slurp from every cup  to taste any differences. Professionals try three cups of each brew for possible defects.

Finally, baristas take the same types of coffee grounds, this time using a French Press as the brewing method. They are poured into snifters and customers smell and taste one of each.

“It’s really easy [to recognize the different flavors] even if you don’t know very much,” Norton said. “People who don’t know anything can still taste different flavor profiles.”

Cates said the word is spreading and cuppings have started to see regular customers on their lunch breaks. There are also new attendees every week. Because of the set-up, the Broadway Roasting Company sets a limit of six people per cupping session, and people can reserve a seat online at

The Broadway Roasting Company is located at 4012 Washington St., just down the street from the Broadway Café. There is also a smaller café inside the roasting building, with a reduced menu to enjoy while waiting for the cuppings to start.