Triangulation Skills Exam

Time: 4 Tests, 45 Minutes each
Passing Score: 83% (5/6 triads correct)

Triangulation tests increase your sensitivity to tiny differences in coffee characteristics. They also teach you a method of comparing cups for quality control.

Some students complain that triangulations are arbitrary and exist only in a teaching lab but in defense, disagree. When cupping samples, you must triangulate tastes regularly.

In a five sample cupping, it’s common to come across single off-cups, so building the skill of being able to identify the offender is a valuable one.   The skill is use both in quality control and purchasing.

To practice triangulation, select four similar coffees and have a friend setup a cupping table.  Use six sets of three cups following SCAA cupping protocols, where two cups in each set use the same coffee. Try to replicate test room environment conditions for your practice.  The means the triangulation should be conducted in a dark room or under red lights.  The lack of light eliminates any visible differences between the coffee samples.

Increase the degree of difficulty by advancing to multiple coffees 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.

When testing, try to identify all that you can on 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 key.