Triangulation Skills Exam
Time: 4 Tests, 45 Minutes each
Passing Score: 83% (5/6 triads correct)
Triangulation tests increase your sensitivity to minimally detectable differences in coffee characteristics. They also teach you a method of comparing cups for quality control.
Some students complain that triangulation is an arbitrary method that exists only in a teaching lab, but in defense, they disagree. When cupping samples, you must triangulate tastes regularly. In a five-sample cupping, it’s common to come across single off-cups. Being able to identify the offender is a valuable skill. Triangulation skills are used both in quality control and purchasing.
Select four similar coffees to practice for the triangulation skills exam and have a friend set up a cupping table. Use six sets of three cups following SCA cupping protocols, where two cups in each set use the same coffee. The exercise should be conducted in a dark room or under red lights where possible. The lack of light eliminates any visible differences between the coffee samples.
Increase the degree of difficulty by advancing to multiple coffee samples from one origin or different lots from one estate. During the exercise, don’t focus on any one sensory characteristic. Clues exist in fragrance/aroma, flavor, acidity, body, or aftertaste that will identify your odd cup out. Use all of the skills that you learned from cupping.
When testing, identify all you can from dry fragrance alone, then confirm with the aroma and taste. Remember, coffee characteristics change as the sample cools.
Don’t panic if you do not immediately recognize the correct answer. Keeping a cool head is vital.
For more information about how the triangulation skills exam is conducted, check out the online Q prep course from Boot Coffee.