Our Angels’ Cup Review is based entirely on our personal experience using Angels’ Cup over a few months. We paid for all the coffee beans and drank all the coffee (except for maybe half of
1 or 2 cups). We choose not to pose as professionals and cup the coffee but to drink these in the morning to get the day going.
Our experience with Angels’ Cup has been fantastic. If you are just getting into drinking specialty coffee, trying out many different types of coffee in small quantities will quickly help you find out what types of coffee you enjoy. Overall the coffees have been great, the tasting app is fun and we have developed a much better understanding of the range of flavors that you can expect in a cup of coffee.
Jeff Borack, the founder of Angels’ Cup, personally emailed both of us a number of times with questions or asking for suggestions and has been very responsive.
How does it work?
We opted to purchase the smaller 1 ounce (about 28g) sample packs at $8.99 for four coffees. This was perfect for two smallish (7oz) cups of coffee, one for each of us. The other option they offer is $21.99 for 2.75oz (about 78g) of each coffee. This is equivalent to just a little less than one 12oz bag of coffee.
The coffee was mailed from New York, generally on Saturday, and we would receive it Tuesday to Thursday in Maryland. Outside of the first batch of coffee never making it here (this was promptly resolved by contacting Angels’ Cup), all the deliveries arrived as expected.
Before trying out Angels’ Cup, it is helpful to try making and drinking a few practice batches of coffee using the amount you expect to use. You only get one or two chances to make a good cup of coffee given the packet size, so you don’t want to mess it up! Using an AeroPress (or the Clever brewer or Bonavita immersion brewer) would probably be one of the easiest ways to get a consistent method going. Using a scale and a timer are highly recommended.
We made the first dozen or so coffees using the Kalita Wave 185 to make ~28 gram pour-overs. We used a Hario scale, Bonavita gooseneck variable temperature kettle set at 206-207F and the Baratza Forte-BG grinder. After a dozen or so coffees, we switched over to making coffee using the Hario V60 coffee maker with the EK43 grinder. Our method is listed in our V60 recipe guide.
There are differences in roast (though nearly everything has been city roast in our experience) and the brew time varied a moderate amount switching between all these bean origins, but overall the differences in the coffees were much more apparent than any variation in our brewing.
The Angels’ Cup app
The tasting app is well-designed and easy to use, aside from a few minor quirks*. This does make drinking coffee a little bit like playing a game. There are two tasting options: beginner and advanced. It is all very easy to use and when you have completed a tasting you can compare your ratings and tasting notes to the roaster or to the Angels’ cup community that has also tasted the same coffee.
Record the brew method if you want – haven’t done this yet (as we keep track elsewhere).
The beginner tasting involves rating the bean color, taste profile, aroma & flavor, enjoyment and a final spot for notes (i.e., “like a tropical cocktail trapped in a cup of coffee” or “my kid spilled a gallon of milk and the brew time was a minute longer than planned”). Overall, quite straightforward although it took probably a dozen coffees to really get into tasting and identifying different flavors. To help us on that front, we used a placemat (thanks Shutterfly!) that we made from the Counter Culture Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel so we could see all of the flavors at a glance. You can add your own flavors in addition to using Angel’s Cup cool clickable, expanding flavor wheel.
Advanced options – The advanced option allows you to enter in aromas, body and acidity. Here are a few screen grabs from the advanced options for setting the roast color (almost always city), rating the taste profile, and rating the aroma. It took us about two dozen tastings before we ventured into the advanced tasting. The aroma and flavor wheel are separate. There are two additional spots for rating acidity and body. To be honest, these are still a struggle even after rating 50 coffees. We think we understand the intensity and weight but have trouble with the quality aspect. There is also a tasting wheel for taints or faults but with high quality coffees we have nearly always skipped this option.
One of our most favorite parts of the app is the final comment section. While the ease and speed of use of the app are part of its appeal, we wish that more people wrote a final comment, as this is one of the most interesting things to see after completing a tasting and gives insight into the subjective aspects of coffee-tasting! The clickable aroma and taste wheel is also very elegant and helps you conceptualize the categories and nuances of coffee and how the pros think about it.
One of our least favorite parts of the app is the final score generated out of 100. This appears to come from the taste screen (maybe?), rather than the enjoyment screen. While it’s a good idea to generate a comprehensive data point like this, and interesting to see that number compared to the roaster and the Angels’ Cup community on the final screen, it often doesn’t line up with what we actually think of the coffee as the sweetness in the natural and honey processed coffees push them towards a higher score. Likely with more tasting experience this number would become more helpful but so far it has been difficult to understand. Overall minor complaints.
*The small quirks in the app:
- not being able to scroll down when the phone keyboard is in use (problematic especially on the comment screen)
- inadvertently hitting the phone’s ‘back’ button (or hitting twice from a flavor wheel) requires restarting the tasting (you can get it back from the main menu, but it’s a convoluted process and it reveals the name and origin of the coffee in the process)
Where was the coffee from?
We were sent 52 coffees from 12 different countries with nearly half coming from Ethiopia. Coffee is a seasonal product and trying Angel’s Cup at a different time of year would likely get you coffees from a different range of countries (# of coffees tasted).
Bali (1), Burundi (1), Columbia (2), Costa Rica (6), Ethiopia (20), Guatemala (3), Honduras (4), Indonesia (2), Kenya (8), Mexico (1), Nicaragua (2), Tanzania (2).
These coffees came from 26 different coffee roasters across the US.
Augie’s Coffee (2), Borealis Coffee (2), Brandywine Coffee (4), Brick and Morter Coffee (2), CommonPlace Coffee (2), CommonWealth Coffee (3), Dapper and Wise Coffee (2), Gimme! Coffee (2), Goshen Coffee (2), Kickapoo Coffee (2), La Colombe Coffee (2), Noble Coffee (2), Parliament Coffee (1), Quills Coffee (1), ReAnimator Coffee (1), Red Rooster Coffee (2), Reve Coffee (2), Revelator Coffee (2), Roast House Coffee (2), Spotted Cow Coffee (2), Square One Coffee (2), Steadfast Coffee (2), Tinker Coffee (3), Verve Coffee (2), Wild Gift Coffee (2), Yellow Brick Coffee (1).
What did we learn?
Lena on average enjoyed coffee a little more than David based on the enjoyment score (6.8 vs 6.2). Both of us really prefer washed coffee to natural or honey processed coffees. A few were fantastic but generally the taste can be quite polarizing. With natural coffees it is worth trying a handful to find where your preference lies. The natural and honey processed coffees became a bit of a drag on the desire to blindly taste more coffees after a while because over 40% of the coffees we received were either natural or honey processed.
We both had about a half point spread on average between the Ethiopian washed and natural coffees.
On average, we both rated African coffees higher then Central or the few South American, or Indonesian coffees. Interestingly Counter Culture Coffee rated their African Coffees much higher than coffees from other parts of the world. If we look at our enjoyment scores for just the washed coffees the difference in our enjoyment scores between the African and Central American coffees decreased a bit.
|Country||Number of Coffees||Lena enjoyment rating||David enjoyment rating|
Interestingly, our highest rated coffees from these 52 coffees include a natural processed and 2 Central American coffees.
Lena (4 coffees with a score of 9)
- Organic Ethiopian Worka Special Prep from Ethiopia (Kickapoo Coffee) $17.75 for 12 oz bag
- Sierra Sur from Mexico (La Colombe) $15.00 for 12 oz bag
- Karani from Kenya (Wild Gift) – no longer available
- Beriti Natural from Ethiopia (CommonPlace) – no loner available
David (2 coffees with a score of 9)
- Leon Cortes – La Trinidad from Costa Rica (Brick and Morter) – no longer available
- Karani from Kenya (Wild Gift) – no longer available
Absolutely give it a try if you are interested in tasting a wide variety of coffees. We purchased a shipment a week for 3+ months. We have given a gift subscription and we are currently subscribed but have since cut back on the frequency. There are just so many great coffees to try. Having access to so many coffees helped us learn a great deal about coffee taste and aroma profiles as well as our own preferences. Why?
- The small amounts made it possible to taste many coffees (without becoming too overcaffeinated!).
- The blind tasting aspect went a long way in forcing us to try to describe what we were encountering; the app created a consistent way to track this and we quickly learned about patterns and profiles.
- The “curated” coffees ensure that you are receiving something high quality to add to your data. (Though there’s nothing wrong with applying the tasting approach to non-specialty coffee!)
- As working parents, we were able to complete the tastings by taking 5-10 quiet minutes after the big kids went to school.
All in all, we learned so much from Angels’ Cup and recommend giving it a try if you want to branch out!
If you have any questions about our experience feel free to send us an email or add a comment.