Q Grader Exam Summary

Participants must pass all of the following Q Grader Exams in order to receive certification:

General Coffee Knowledge (1 test) – A true / false exam of 100 questions pertaining to coffee cupping and grading, roasting, brewing, cultivation, harvesting and processing.

Sensory Skills Test (3 tests) – Test subjects must identify three (3) intensities of salt, sour and sweet odorless solutions individually and when combined in mixtures.

  • Part I: Reference – Participants are provided three samples (low, medium, high) of each taste group (salt, sour, sweet) which must be ranked by intensity.
  • Part II: Blind Identification – All nine (9) sample solutions are provided blind and must be identified by group and intensity.
  • Part III: Mixture Set – Subjects are provided with eight (8) mixtures of samples containing either two (2) or three (3) base solutions. Students must correctly identify the number, type and intensity of base solutions in each mixture.

Cupping Skills Tests (4 tests) – Subjects will cup and score four (4) flights of six (6) samples, including tables of washed Central American milds, East African, Indonesian / Asia Pacific and natural processed coffees. Cupping scoresheets are evaluated based on accuracy and consistency of scoring and descriptions.

Olfactory Skills Tests (4 tests in 2 parts) – The objective of this test is to evaluate an individual’s ability to recognize thirty six (36) common aromatic scents often found in the fragrance and aroma or nose (le nez) of coffee. Subjects must first match six (6) among nine (9) blind pairs, then identify three (3) specified vials of scents for each of four (4) groups:

  • Enzymatic: scents originating from cultivation and processing
  • Sugar browning: scents originating from earlier stages of roasting
  • Dry distillation: scents originating from later stages of roasting
  • Aromatic taints: scents resulting mainly from storage, handling and processing errors

Triangulation Skills Tests (4 tests) – Triangulation tests are used to measure the ability to differentiate coffees by flavor unique attributes associated with each region. Test subjects must taste and identify the one (1) different cup in each set of three (3) for six (6) sets in each test.

Organic Acids Matching Pairs (1 test) – Test subjects are evaluated on their ability to identify four (4) of the more common acids found in coffee: acetic acid, malic acid, phosphoric acid and citric acid. Eight (8) sets of four (4) cups of brewed coffee are placed on a table; participants must identify which two coffees have been fortified with one of the common acids in each set and which ones are plain, as well as name the acid.

Arabica Green Coffee Grading (1 test) – Participants are provided with three (3) 350g green arabica coffee sample and must grade each pursuant to the Specialty Coffee Association of America Q4.0 Green Roasted Grading Form protocols, correctly identifying each defect, tabulating the total defect count and identifying the grade of green coffee.

Arabica Roasted Coffee Grading (1 test) – Participants must correctly identify the number of roast defects found in one (1) 100g roasted coffee sample and correctly identify that sample as commercial, premium or specialty. (see green coffee grading link above for form)

Roasted Sample Identification (1 test) – The objective of the test is to measure the individual’s knowledge of the SCAA cupping protocol roasting instructions. Test subjects are given four trays of coffee; one of the trays meets SCAA Cupping Protocol specifications and the other three are either unacceptable as, a) Under-roasted, b) Baked or c) Over-roasted. Participants must correctly identify each sample and explain how he or she reached a conclusion.

By successfully completing all of these Q Grader exams, a participant will be eligible to become a certified Q Grader.