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The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) designed the Q Grader program to create a skilled and credible body of specialty Robusta coffee cuppers. The role of these
cuppers is to consistently and accurately assess coffee quality, both cup and grade, as a part of its Q Coffee System. Today, that program is the only internationally

recognized certificate system for Robusta coffee cuppers.


Q Graders are recognized as cuppers as skilled to:

  • Objectively assess coffee quality

  • Identify, quantify and articulate coffee characteristics

  • Detect coffee defects

  • Communicate coffee characteristics using common industry terminology


Upon successful completion of the Q Grader program, certified Q Graders are permitted to evaluate Robusta coffees for CQI or a CQI In-country Partner. A Q
Grader certificate is valid for three (3) years and is renewable upon completion of an accredited calibration offered by an authorized instructor.


A Q Grader Course is a six (6) day series of calibration exercises and exams consisting of twenty (20) individual tests that must be passed in order to qualify for
certification. Candidates that do not pass all sections during the five day course period may retake those tests during the course period or anytime after within
eighteen (18) months.


1. General Knowledge (1 test, no retake)

  • Time: 60 Minutes

  • Passing Score: 75% (75 correct)

  • The Q grader General Coffee Knowledge exam is the only completely written test in Q certification exam exercises.  It consists of 100 multiple choice questions about:

    • Coffee cultivation,

    • Harvesting,

    • Processing,

    • Cupping,

    • Grading,

    • Roasting, and

    • Brewing.


2. Sensory Skill Test (3 test)

  • 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 taste group (salt, sour, sweet, bitter). Solutions are presorted by taste group. Subjects must rank each by intensity.

  • Part II: Blind Identification. All twelve (12) base solutions return unlabeled and must be identified by both group and intensity.

  • Part III: Mixture Set. – Subjects are provided nine (9) mixtures of samples. Eachmixture contains either two (2) base solutions. Students must correctly identify type and intensity 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.


3. Cupping Skills Tests (4 tests)

  • Subjects cup and score five (4) flights of six (6) sample, including but not limited to:

    • Brazil Robusta

    • East African / Uganda Robusta

    • Indian Robusta

    • Indonesian/ Asian Robusta

    • West African Robusta coffees (Subject to location and availblity)

  • Instructors grade cupping scoresheets based on accuracy and consistency of scoring and descriptions.

4. Olfactory Skills Tests (4 tests in 2 parts)

  • The objective of this test is to evaluate an individual’s ability to recognize common aromatic scents often found in the fragrance and aroma or nose of Robusta coffee. Note that the Robusta version of the Q Grader exam uses scents found in the Le Nez du Vin (wine) set plus the Le Nez du Café series. 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

5. 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.

6. Organic Acids Matching Pairs (1 test)

  • Subjects are evaluated on their ability to identify six (6) of the more common acids found in Robusta coffee: acetic acid,
    malic acid, phosphoric acid and citric acid, lactic acid and quinic 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.

7. Robusta Green Coffee Grading (1 test)

  • Participants grade three (3) 350g green Robusta coffee samples pursuant to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) green grading protocols, correctly identifying each defect, tabulating the total defect count and identifying the grade of green coffee.

8. Robusta Roasted Coffee Grading (1 test)

  • Participants must correctly identify the number of roast defects found in one (1) 100g roasted Robusta coffee sample. Subjects must also label the sample as “commercial,” “premium” or “specialty”.

9. Roasted Sample Identification (1 test)

  • The goal of the test is to measure an individual’s knowledge of UCDA robusta cupping protocol roasting instructions. Subjects are provided four brewed samples of coffee under red light. One of the samples meets Robusta 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.

After Class

After you finish the class, you will be awarded:

D'codeS Attendance Certificate

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