Replicating Coffee ‘Cupping’ With Artificial Intelligence

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data cloud technology, agriculture and food tech start-up, Demetria is pioneering the automated analysis of coffee bean tasting.

Coffee tasting, or coffee ‘cupping’, is the process by which characteristics of a coffee bean are evaluated. Not dissimilar to conventional sensory panel, when cupping, experts check a particular bean’s fragrance, aroma, acidity, body, flavour, and finish.

According to Demetria, this manual method is expensive and time consuming, and is predominately carries out by industry experts outside the origin countries. This can mean roasters and traders have minimal visibility into the quality of the beans they purchase until they are exported.

The start-up has also raised concerns that cupping is inaccessible to a majority of coffee farmers, notably the 12.5 million smallholders who produce 60 percent of the world’s coffee beans. Consequently, growers are unable to determine or manage the quality of the crop.

“Farmers’ inability to guarantee a consistent level of quality of beans mean that a significant number of them receive just a base commodity price for their produce,” commented Demetria.

The food tech company says it has the answer.

Demetria is leveraging ear infra-red (NIR) sensors to analyse and fingerprint green coffee beans for biochemical markers. Its AI based platform, known as an e-Palate, then matches each bean profile according to the industry standard coffee flavour wheel. Quality and taste can now be assessed at any stage of the coffee production and distribution process.

“The ability to discover the quality of green coffee beans is a game changer for an entire industry that’s relied on a primitive supply chain and artisanal processes for 300 years,” noted Demetria co-founder and CEO Felipe Ayerbe.

“Our technology delivers vital intelligence to ensure crop consistency and quality control, resulting in readdressing the economics of the coffee value chain to benefit every key player.”

Demetria is currently focused on coffee, but said its technology can also be applied to other commodities such as cocoa and sugar cane.

The company has also forged a working relationship with the Columbian National Federation for Coffee Growers (FNC). Together, they are developing a series of smartphone apps designed to help farmers and their transaction points enhance traceability in the supply chain. Ultimately, the goal is to better control and track bean quality to ensure it is priced appropriately.

“Through the use and affordable democratisation of sensors, cloud computing and other technologies, coffee growers will be able to manage each stage of the production process in a simple, timely and accurate manner, and, more importantly, evaluate the quality of their own crop and gain a price that reflects this,” expressed FNC President Roberto Velez.

“Technologies like Demetria empower the FNC to achieve its goals and play a key role in the sustainability of our industry.”