A NEW AGE OF TASTING: Cupping with a Smart Phone

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App co-creator talks about bringing cupping to the smart phone
By Chris Ryan

At this year’s Roasters Guild Retreat, John Cunningham didn’t just show up with his suitcase and a readiness to roast. He also had a nifty piece of technology he helped create: a cupping app for the iPhone, which made its debut at the August event. Cunningham, who is the roastmaster and green coffee buyer for Tulsa, Okla.-based Topeca Coffee, created the app with his friend Dave Daniels.

It’s a fast-moving, shareable application that moves the standard SCAA cupping form into the electronic realm, giving roasters and other coffee evaluators a place to log their data. It’s one of several coffee-related apps that have hit the market lately, including Filter, a New York Times-run application that collects NYT-approved coffee spots in New York City. Cunningham talked to Fresh Cup about the app’s development, usability and impact.

NOTE: (The cupping app can be purchased for $2.99 through the iTunes App store—search for “coffee-cupping.”)

Q: What led to you creating the cupping app?
A: I do a lot of cupping in my job. I was an early adopter of the iPhone, and probably one of the first apps that I looked for in the App Store was a cupping app. I couldn’t find one, so I would just check back periodically. I was basically waiting around for somebody to make one. And then a computer programmer friend of mine named Dave Daniels took a course in making applications for the iPhone. He was telling me he wanted to make an app but didn’t have any ideas yet. And I said, “Well, I’ve got one.” I don’t know too much about computer programming, but I had my idea and he had the preliminary knowledge to make it. So he made it, and I beta tested it.

Q: How long did the process take once Dave was involved?
A: It was probably about two months. He made the first edition and sent it to me, and then I tried to break it. I would break it and tell him how I did it, and then he would go fix it. We kept doing that for a month or two, and we got most all of the bugs out in time to debut it at the Roasters Guild Retreat. And since then we’ve had one update to fix the remaining bugs.

Q: What did you want to accomplish with the app?
A: The main idea was to have an application that would be pretty robust. It would have all of the information that the paper SCAA cupping form has, with some improvements. For instance, on the paper form, there’s not a lot of room in the notes section. But with the text boxes on the app, there’s unlimited room for notes. I thought the format was just innately more conducive. And then we were also shooting for something that would be very fast, very intuitive and very shareable. So that’s why it has the email function, so you can email the raw data when you’re done cupping.

Q: Do you have a sense of whether roasters are using it?
A: The feedback has been fairly modest. When we rolled it out at Roasters Guild it did very well: I think most of the iPhone and iPad users in attendance ended up getting the app while they were there. I would say it’s made a fairly modest impact so fair, but I’m hoping it will continue to grow, because I do think it’s a good application.

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