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, 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 skill is use both in quality control and purchasing.

To practice for the triangulation skills exam, select four similar coffees and have a friend setup a cupping table.  Use six sets of three cups following SCA cupping protocols, where two cups in each set use the same coffee. Where possible, the exercise 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. Use all of the skills that you learned from cupping.

When testing, try to identify all that 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 key.

For more information about how the triangulation skills exam is conducted, check out the online Q prep course from Boot Coffee.