The rating system I started with and still stick to today is a straight forward and super simple four-point scale:
4 – Organize your life around this coffee. Drop everything, re-schedule your appointments or plan a trip if necessary.
3 – Good coffee. A small detour will be well-rewarded.
2 – It’s coffee. It’s caffeinated. It’ll do.
1 – Danger, Will Robinson!
The only additional bit of complexity you should know about are pluses and minuses that I may (or may not) append to each number as needed.
Overall, I like my system quite a bit. It quickly signals to the reader whether a coffee or cafe is thumbs up (3 or 4) or thumbs down (1 or 2) and reflects a more nuanced system most of us are familiar with – a grade point average system (A/4, B/3, C/2, D/1). My system falls short of the complexity and nuance offered by the 100-point system used by those in the coffee industry. But then again, while that system may work well for a single cup of coffee, it can’t tell you much about an entire cafe.
That said, my rating system isn’t perfect for a cafe either. After all, what if the drip is good, but the espresso bad? What if the cafe offers a fantastic space, with only mediocre coffee? What about consumer choice and quality of service? My feeling is that these factors are where good old-fashioned words become important. As a qualitative researcher, I try to capture these elements in writing. If you’re in doubt, let me know in the comments. In the mean time, I’ll try to establish a more well-defined set of measures I tend to look for and how they factor into my overall decision.