A Q Grader, or quality grader, is a person who masters the ins and outs of everything coffee. They have a sharp understanding of how to differentiate coffees as well as identify a brew when it is placed in front of them.
Q Graders provide professional perception of the coffee according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). The SCAA consists of a scoring system that allows the grader to comply with the Coffee Quality Institute’s (CQI) regulations. The scoring system includes every-day like language to explain the differences between the coffees so both consumers and producers have an understanding of the different sections.
With much experience, a Q Grader is able to know all of the main points that have to do with a single cup of joe. Being able to alleviate any concerns of the customers, the Q Grader is able to asses their coffee needs in the best way possible.
Essentially, the Q Grader “grades” the coffee based on sweetness and aroma to equal a score out of 100. The higher the number, the more aromatic the brew is. During the CQI course, the grader learns sensory and olfactory analysis, identification of sensory roasts, and certain protocols that are specific to the act of cupping.
HOW TO BECOME A Q GRADER?
Feel like you’re an expert on coffee and can answer anything that is thrown at you? Maybe becoming a licensed Q Grader is in your future!
In order to become a Q Grader, one must first pass advanced level training courses (Pre Q) consisting of cupping samples of coffee and identifying them based on the SCAA score. Both sensory and physical criteria is an essential part of the Pre Q courses. Once completing training, the individual is able to become a Q Grader, given that s/he passes the required tests necessary. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll even become a Q Instructor!
Since there are two main beans that are associated with coffee, Arabica and Robusta, there are two different forms of Q Graders as well. Both of which are specialized to follow the standards of the coffee beans that were developed by the SCAA.
Before becoming a Q Arabica Grader, there is a course that must be met that prepares individuals for the 22 upcoming tests regarding Arabica Coffee. The tests mimic the person’s capabilities in accurately grading the coffee based on the SCAA score system. After passing all 22 tests, a Q Grader License is given. Similar to the Q Arabica Grader, a Q Robusta Grader also must pass 22 tests before receiving their license. There is an advanced level course preparing the individual that must be completed before the tests as well. For both Arabica and Robusta Grader Licenses, the license must be renewed every 3 years.
Head to the Specialty Coffee Association of America page for more information on courses and tests if you are eager enough to master coffee grading and get licensed! Brag to your friends that you know more about coffee than they do on your next coffee shop outing.
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