Q Grader Course Exams

Participants must pass the following Q Grader Exams to receive certification:

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

Sensory Skills Test (3 tests).  Subjects must identify three (3) intensities of salt, sour and sweet odorless solutions. This is first done individually, then  when combined in mixtures.

  • Part I: Reference.  Participants taste three samples (low, medium and high intensity) of each base solution. Solutions are presorted by taste group.  Subjects must rank each by intensity.
  • Part II: Blind Identification.  All nine (9) base solutions return unlabeled and must be identified by both  group and intensity.
  • Part III: Mixture Set. – Subjects are provided eight (8) mixtures of samples.  Each mixture contains either two (2) or three (3) base solutions. Students must correctly identify the components of each mixture.  This includes the number of components, types and intensity of base solutions in each mixture.  Each mode (salt, sour and sweet) will appear only once per mixture.  For example, one mixture will not include both Sweet 1 and Sweet 2.

Cupping Skills Tests (4 tests).  Subjects cup and score four (4) flights of six (6) samples.  The flights are:

  1. wet processed Central American mild coffees
  2. East African coffees
  3. Indonesian / Asia Pacific coffees, and
  4. dry natural processed coffees but not necessarily in that order.

Instructors grade cupping scoresheets 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 from storage, handling and processing errors

Triangulation Skills Tests (4 tests).  Triangulation tests measure the ability to differentiate coffees by flavor unique attributes associated with each region. 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).  – 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.  You must also identify the acid by name.

Arabica Green Coffee Grading (1 test).  Participants grade three (3) 350g green Arabica coffee samples pursuant to 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.  Subjects must also label the sample as “commercial,” “premium” or “specialty”. (see green coffee grading link above for form)

Roasted Sample Identification (1 test).  The goal of the test is to measure an individual’s knowledge of the SCAA cupping protocol roasting instructions.

Subjects are provided four brewed samples of coffee under red light.  One of the samples meets SCAA Cupping Protocol specifications and three others do not.  Possible incorrect samples are: a) Under-roasted, b) Baked, c) Over-roasted or d) Under-developed.  Participants must identify each sample by taste 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.  If failing to pass any exam in a first course, the subject may “retake” the exam within 18 months in any approved class.

Q Grader Certificates are valid for 36 months from the first course attempt.  After, certificate holders must pass a Calibration Course once every 36 months to maintain active status.