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Blue Bottle Coffee Company founder and owner James Freeman cups for quality control.

Think wine experts are the only ones who sniff and sip? Well, slurp this.

Cupping is the equivalent of wine tasting in the coffee world. According to "The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting and Drinking, with Recipes" (Ten Speed, 229 pages, $24.99), roasters spend a lot of time practicing this evaluative exercise as well.

They sniff, sip and slurp -- yes, with no shame -- to assess and select coffees from samples they receive from brokers and growers. In fact, co-author and Blue Bottle founder James Freeman says after you've been cupping for a while, you develop a sensitivity to the tiniest differences between samples of coffee, even between batches of the same coffee roasted the same way on different days or by different people. Was it particularly humid that day? Did the coffee bags sit on the landing dock too long? All of this can affect flavor and aroma.

The language they use is similar to wine or chocolate descriptors, and fall into general categories, like trees (cedar, pine, holly), flowers (rose, lilac, jasmine), spices (ginger, coriander, vanilla), and nuts (almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts). Here are Freeman's tips for cupping at home.

  • When you smell dry coffee, take a whiff with your mouth open. This helps bring more aromas to the palate.

  • After adding water, try to note the differences and similarities. Have the aromas of the dry coffee changed in any way? It's easier to compare and contrast than to come up with arcane observations, like "I smell olives."

  • After the coffee has brewed for up to five minutes, break through the layer of coffee grounds that has formed on top using a spoon, releasing as much trapped gas as possible. As you break this crust, inhale deeply, again with your nose to the bowl.

  • After removing the crust and putting it in a dish, take a spoonful of coffee in your mouth and slurp sharply. This aspirates coffee over your palate, helping bring in all of the flavors and aromas.

  • Pay attention, compare and contrast. Repeat the process and watch as you notice new flavor and aroma profiles each time.