FAQs

Questions? Not sure where to start or how to get something done? Our Frequently Asked Questions are a great place to start. Find more about flavor training and calibration here.

Top frequently asked questions

What is the value of a Q coffee Certificate?

The Q Certificate signifies that this coffee is among some of the best in the world and can be deemed “specialty” following the standards of SCA. The certificate provides feedback, such as cupper notes and information about specific attributes of the coffee. It also signifies an independent, third party evaluation of quality that clients can trust.

How do I renew my Q Grader certificate?

Q Arabica and Robusta certificates expire after three (3) years. In order to maintain your certificate and your Q Grader status, before three (3) years you will need to take and pass a Q Calibration Course. Calibration exams are required for all Q Graders whose certificates are about to expire or have recently expired. To maintain your certificate, you must pass the calibration course starting six (6) months prior to your certificate expiration or have already expired (within six (6) months).

How do I have a coffee sample evaluated?

In the CQI DATABASE, log in and select the Q COFFEE SYSTEM tab. Here, you can choose the In-Country Partner (ICP) you will send your coffee sample to. Next, select the COFFEE tab, and at the top right corner of this window you’ll select SUBMIT COFFEE SAMPLE. Complete the evaluation form and submit it. Finally, you will mail a 2kg sample of green coffee to your chosen ICP.

CQI encourages everyone to first utilize a Q Grader to receive an (informal) evaluation of the coffee. If the coffee scores close to 80 or higher (and passes the green defect test), then CQI recommends continuing to pursue a Q Certificate by sending it through the official Q Grading System. Your coffee will receive an official Q Certificate if it meets the standards for specialty.  CQI cannot guarantee your sample will meet the minimum standards for specialty coffee even if you’ve had it tested privately first.

For more information and an overview of submitting a coffee sample please refer to Process for Evaluating Coffees in the Q Coffee System.

Are there any pre-requisites for a Q Grader course?

There are no pre-requisites to enroll in a Q Arabica or Q Robusta Course.  However, the individual must be very experienced in sensory analysis and use of the standards and cupping forms. Suggested coursework prior to enrolling in a Q Grader Exam would include, but not be limited to, the Q Cupping Essentials Certificate Course or other Quality Evaluation Classes.

The minimum age to register for all CQI certificate courses is sixteen (16) years old; unless local, country or federal labor or employment laws supersede in which case those laws will determine the minimum age of registration.

What is a Q Venue?

The Q Venue Program creates a global, verified network of quality facilities for cupping, sensory and processing education designed to meet the specific instructional needs of all CQI courses. CQI Q Venues can be used in many ways; from instructors hosting courses, to development project trainings, and as a lab for coffee quality assessment. CQI will work with you to assess which Q Venue certification is the right fit for your needs.

CQI provides three types of certification for Q Venues: Q Venue, Q Venue Processing and Q Venue Professional.

Where can I find my courses, certificates, and grades?

All of your information at CQI is held in your DATABASE PROFILE. In your profile, you can view all of your enrolled and completed courses, your grades, and your non-expired certificates.

To access and view your PROFILE, log into the DATABASE, go to your PROFILE tab.

  • To see courses you are enrolled in, or have completed, scroll to the bottom of your profile.
  • To view your grades, click on the GRADEBOOKS tab. There, you will find your grades from all completed courses.
  • To view, download, and print your earned and non-expired CQI certificates, scroll down until you can see and click on the certificate links. You can download or print your certificates from here if they have not expired. If the certificates have expired they will not appear.

How much does a Q Grader course cost?

The amount varies depending on course location and instructor. Please contact the instructor of the course you are interested in directly if you do not see a cost listed.

Do Q Grader Certificates Expire?

Yes, Q Arabica and Robusta certificates are valid for 3 years from the date you finished your original Q course.  The certificates will no longer be available under your profile once they are expired, even if you still have 6 months to calibrate.  Once you calibrate and pass, the certificate will be available again on your profile.

CQI Website and Database

How do I retrieve my CQI username and/or password?

If you have forgotten your password, you will need to reset it. Start by clicking the FORGOT? button on the DATABASE login screen. You will receive an email with instructions to reset your password. The reset instructions will go to the email address you provided when you set up your account profile. If you have forgotten your username, please DO NOT create another profile.  Just email us for assistance at info@coffeeinstitute.org and we will help you get logged in.

How do I sign up for a course?

Click on the Course ID # to view the course details. Once you find your desired course, select it and at the top right select either ENROLL or RETAKE TEST and follow the instructions. The Instructor will confirm your enrollment.

How do I create a profile on the CQI Database?

To create a profile first select the DATABASE button at the top right corner of the CQI homepage - https://www.coffeeinstitute.org. Then select CREATE AN ACCOUNT and follow the instructions.

How do I access the CQI web site?

Everyone is welcome to visit CQI’s website!  If you’d like to enroll in a course, retake a test, or submit a sample to be Q evaluated, you’ll need to register and create a profile on CQI’s DATABASE. Click on Sign In in the upper right corner of the site.

Where can I find my courses, certificates, and grades?

All of your information at CQI is held in your DATABASE PROFILE. In your profile, you can view all of your enrolled and completed courses, your grades, and your non-expired certificates.

To access and view your PROFILE, log into the DATABASE, go to your PROFILE tab.

  • To see courses you are enrolled in, or have completed, scroll to the bottom of your profile.
  • To view your grades, click on the GRADEBOOKS tab. There, you will find your grades from all completed courses.
  • To view, download, and print your earned and non-expired CQI certificates, scroll down until you can see and click on the certificate links. You can download or print your certificates from here if they have not expired. If the certificates have expired they will not appear.

How do I find a course to sign up for? How do I find and view upcoming courses?

All upcoming courses are listed on the CQI DATABASE in real time. To view upcoming courses, log into the DATABASE, and select UPCOMING COURSES. Each course lists the instructor(s), location and details. If you have questions, please contact the instructor directly.

Quality Evaluation Program

How do I renew my Q Grader certificate?

Q Arabica and Robusta certificates expire after three (3) years. In order to maintain your certificate and your Q Grader status, before three (3) years you will need to take and pass a Q Calibration Course. Calibration exams are required for all Q Graders whose certificates are about to expire or have recently expired. To maintain your certificate, you must pass the calibration course starting six (6) months prior to your certificate expiration or have already expired (within six (6) months).

How long do I have to complete all of my retakes?

Once you start a Q Grader Course, you have eighteen (18) months to complete all retakes of written or practical exams. There are some exams that may be retaken within the same Q Course. Other exams will require visiting another Q Grader Course to be retaken. If you took your initial exams less than 18 months ago, you are still allowed to retake the individual tests you need. For more information and details regarding retakes, please refer to the document titled, “Q Program Guidebook” located in the FILES section of the database at https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/files.

Am I eligible for a Q Grader calibration or retake exam extension?

Anyone concerned over the status of their certificate should log into the CQI database, where they can check certificate expiration dates or the date of the original Q Combo course (for retakes).

If you are needing an extension due to COVID19, CQI’s education team is providing a final extension date of June 30th, 2022, to present calibration or retake exams. This means individuals who were unable to present their exams in 2020 and 2021 should enroll in a course and complete their exam as soon as possible. No further action is needed for this extension. If you have already enrolled in a course, do plan to attend that course.

Search for upcoming courses by visiting this link:  https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/courses/upcoming

If you are unsure that you have met the criteria for an extension, please contact us at info@coffeeinstitute.org

How many chances (retakes) do I have to pass all Q Grader exams?

Once you start a Q Grader Course, you typically have chances to re-take some exams within the same course, pending time and instructor discretion. Certain exams may be retaken up to twice in your original course. Factors that can reduce the number of retakes offered are the availability of sufficient time, materials and facilities.

After your initial course, you may participate in a maximum of two (2) additional Q Grader courses or retake courses in order to complete your retake exam(s). You may begin organizing your retakes as soon as you would like after your initial course. ALL retake exams must be completed within eighteen (18) months of the original course date. Students who have not successfully passed all exams within that time period must retake the entire course at a future date.

Are there any pre-requisites for a Q Grader course?

There are no pre-requisites to enroll in a Q Arabica or Q Robusta Course.  However, the individual must be very experienced in sensory analysis and use of the standards and cupping forms. Suggested coursework prior to enrolling in a Q Grader Exam would include, but not be limited to, the Q Cupping Essentials Certificate Course or other Quality Evaluation Classes.

The minimum age to register for all CQI certificate courses is sixteen (16) years old; unless local, country or federal labor or employment laws supersede in which case those laws will determine the minimum age of registration.

How do I become a Q Instructor?

Becoming a CQI Q Instructor is a multi-step process which often extends over years of commitment. First, you must be a Q Grader for three (3) years and successfully pass a Q Grader Calibration. After this you will be eligible to apply for and take the Assistant Instructor (AI) Course. This course is only offered once a year and is administered exclusively by CQI. If you pass the AI course, there are a series of final steps you must take to practice and prove your abilities to teach before you finally become an Q Instructor. Please email Todd Arnette at tarnette@coffeeinstitute.org if you are interested in learning more about this process.

How many calibration retakes am I eligible for?

Q Graders who fail a calibration exam may retake a calibration exam one (1) time in order to renew their Q Grader certificate. For that retake, they must join another Calibration Course within six (6) months and successfully pass. If a Q Grader lets their certificate expire without calibrating or fails all calibration attempts, they have five (5) years from their last certificate expiry date to attend a Q Recertification Course. After this period, the Q Grader must take a full Q Course again and is no longer eligible for the Q Recertification Course.

How much does a Q Grader course cost?

The amount varies depending on course location and instructor. Please contact the instructor of the course you are interested in directly if you do not see a cost listed.

Do Q Grader Certificates Expire?

Yes, Q Arabica and Robusta certificates are valid for 3 years from the date you finished your original Q course.  The certificates will no longer be available under your profile once they are expired, even if you still have 6 months to calibrate.  Once you calibrate and pass, the certificate will be available again on your profile.

Post-Harvesting Processing

How is QP1 Online different than QP1?

  • You will not be in a physical classroom space with your instructor and fellow students.
  • Instead of the course being a very concentrated 2 days, each course will be spread out over a manageable number (no more than 15) days in order to accommodate student schedules and enable a good online learning experience.
  • You may have to set up and complete cuppings yourself. Depending on your course, you will either attend a group cupping at a local facility or will prepare and cup the coffees themselves at home.
  • You will take an online test.
  • You will fill out an online course evaluation instead of a paper course evaluation.

Is QP 1 a pre-recorded or “blended” class?

No, QP1 Online is a LIVE course, and all lessons will be administered synchronously.

How do I renew my Q Processing certificate?

CQI is committed to educational excellence while making sure all our certificate holders stay sharp and at the forefront of coffee processing knowledge. Due to the pandemic, CQI has had to re-assess our goals and needs for safe and timely renewal courses. This year, CQI will launch both QP1 and QP2 Renewal Courses. These will be online courses administered and run in-house by CQI. We anticipate releasing these courses on July 1, 2021.

We will be giving all QP certificate holders until October 1, 2021 to take and pass their renewal course.

What is Q Processing Generalist (QP1) Online?

QP1 Online is our normal Q Processing Generalist course, administered completely online. It is the same content, coffee tastings, and testing as the in-person QP1 course.

QP1 is for any coffee professional (namely roasters, retailers, baristas) willing to learn about the main processing methods, how they are carried out, and how they impact coffee chemistry and coffee flavor. This course is ideal for those who enjoy learning online.

Are there any pre-requisites to Q Processing courses?

t depends on the level. There is no pre-requisite for the Level 1 (Generalist) course. For Level 2 (Professional), QP1 is pre-requisite for QP2 for all students who do not work on coffee processing at a farm annually. Level 3 (Expert) is by invitation only.

The minimum age to register for all CQI certification courses is 16 years old; unless local, country or federal labor or employment laws supersede in which case those laws will determine the minimum age of registration.

How do I become a Q Processing Instructor?

The basic pre-requisites include that an individual must be certified in at least 1 level above the level applying. For example: to apply for Q Processing Level 1 Instructor path, at minimum, the individual must have both level 1 and level 2 active Q Processing certificates. For more specific information, please refer to the Q Processing Guidebook.

If you are interested in pursuing the Q Processing Instructor path email Emma Sage at  esage@coffeeinstitute.org.

What is the difference between Q Processing Level 1 and Level 2?

Level 1 (Generalist) is a general, 2-day course for any coffee professional (namely roasters, retailers, barista) willing to learn about the main processing methods, how they are carried out, and how they impact coffee chemistry and coffee flavor. The training involves lectures and cupping of processing methods. To earn a certificate, attendees must pass a multiple-choice exam at the end of the course.

Level 2 (Professional) is 6-day field course for coffee professionals working regularly with post-harvest processing. Students should be willing to deepen their theoretical knowledge about the main processing methods and technology, learn good practices, and a quality control system for post-harvest processing. The course takes place in an origin country, during the harvest season, and involves lectures, teamwork, and hands-on practice of all main processing methods. To earn a certificate, attendees must pass 16 theoretical and practical tests.

How can I take Q Processing Level 3 (Expert)?

The Level 3 (Expert) course is offered once a year by invitation only. Pre-requisites include being a current Level 2 (Professional) certificate holder. If you are interested in attending the Level 3 (Expert) course, please email Emma Sage esage@coffeeinstitute.org.

What is the Processing Essentials class?

Processing Essentials is an exclusive CQI offering designed for corporate or group training. It is a completely online, custom, non-certificate class that provides information on coffee processing via an online platform. The class provides an introduction to the main coffee processing methods and the common language of coffee processors. It is friendly to any level of employee, from staff who answers phones to client-facing account representatives and gives them the tools they need to better communicate and effectively interact with the industry. The class is ideal for groups, companies, or organizations interested in hosting an exclusive CQI class all about processing.

If you are interested in engaging with CQI to bring this class to your company, organization or group, please email Emma Sage at esage@coffeeinstitute.org.

What is the allowed timeframe to finish retakes for Q Processing courses?

Level 1 (Generalist) students have 2 opportunities within 18 months to retake their exam. Retake exams must be completed at a scheduled Level 1 course.

Level 2 (Professional) students have 2 opportunities within 24 months to retake their exams. Retake exams must be completed at a scheduled Level 2 course.

Students who fail their retake or have used all their opportunities must proceed to retake the entire course.

What is the Introduction to Post-Harvest Processing class?

Intro to Post-Harvest Processing is a 5-hour online class geared towards coffee people who want to better understand the basic processing methods. The class covers a brief history of coffee processing, coffee harvesting methods, pre-cleaning measures, and the standard post-harvest processing methods: natural, honey, mechanically demucilaged, fully washed, and wet hulled. This non-certificate class is ideal for coffee people who are interested in learning the basics of processing.

Q Venues

What is a Q Venue?

The Q Venue Program creates a global, verified network of quality facilities for cupping, sensory and processing education designed to meet the specific instructional needs of all CQI courses. CQI Q Venues can be used in many ways; from instructors hosting courses, to development project trainings, and as a lab for coffee quality assessment. CQI will work with you to assess which Q Venue certification is the right fit for your needs.

CQI provides three types of certification for Q Venues: Q Venue, Q Venue Processing and Q Venue Professional.

Can I host a course in a SCA Campus?

Only SCA Labs that are certified for sensory and green grading can host CQI Certificate Courses. The Instructor will need to verify that the sensory and green grading lab has the sufficient materials to host the desired course. The instructor will have to verify the SCA credentials to CQI prior to publishing a course in this location.

In-Country Partners (ICPs)

What privileges does an ICP have?

ICPs support the infrastructure of CQI’s Q Coffee System, being the hub to evaluate coffee quality using industry standards for both Specialty Arabica and fine Robusta. The integrity of the Q Coffee System is supported by ICPs through their adherence to strict protocols. ICPs also support regional initiatives to improve the quality of coffee by hosting and promoting courses.

What is a CQI In-Country Partner (ICP)?

ICPs are ambassadors for CQI and our programs. In-Country Partners are valued partners for CQI in supporting our mission to improve coffee quality and the lives of those who produce it.

To learn more about an ICPs role in the Q Coffee System, please view the ICP one-pager HERE.

Grading and Certifying Q Coffees

What is the value of a Q coffee Certificate?

The Q Certificate signifies that this coffee is among some of the best in the world and can be deemed “specialty” following the standards of SCA. The certificate provides feedback, such as cupper notes and information about specific attributes of the coffee. It also signifies an independent, third party evaluation of quality that clients can trust.

How do I request a sample of a coffee evaluated through the Q Coffee System?

Completed evaluations can be found here.  If the owner has samples available, you can request them by clicking on the sample ID and then choosing REQUEST A SAMPLE to send a message to the owner through the CQI DATABASE.

How do I have a coffee sample evaluated?

In the CQI DATABASE, log in and select the Q COFFEE SYSTEM tab. Here, you can choose the In-Country Partner (ICP) you will send your coffee sample to. Next, select the COFFEE tab, and at the top right corner of this window you’ll select SUBMIT COFFEE SAMPLE. Complete the evaluation form and submit it. Finally, you will mail a 2kg sample of green coffee to your chosen ICP.

CQI encourages everyone to first utilize a Q Grader to receive an (informal) evaluation of the coffee. If the coffee scores close to 80 or higher (and passes the green defect test), then CQI recommends continuing to pursue a Q Certificate by sending it through the official Q Grading System. Your coffee will receive an official Q Certificate if it meets the standards for specialty.  CQI cannot guarantee your sample will meet the minimum standards for specialty coffee even if you’ve had it tested privately first.

For more information and an overview of submitting a coffee sample please refer to Process for Evaluating Coffees in the Q Coffee System.

How much does it cost to have a coffee sample evaluated?

Fees are set by the ICP and typically range from $150 to $500 per sample. Payment is made directly to the selected ICP.  Please contact the ICP directly should you have any other questions regarding costs or payment.

Where can I view samples that have been evaluated through the Q Coffee System?

Coffees that have been evaluated through the Q Coffee System receive either a Q Certificate for specialty or a CQI Technical Report and are valid for a period of one-year.

Evaluations for Arabica and Robusta samples can be found here.

FlavorActiV

Why are we making these changes?

Over the years, CQI has heard from the coffee industry and from Q graders about concerns with global inconsistencies in practice and in coffee grades.  To address these inconsistencies in training, grading results and skill-based practices, CQI has evolved the Q System to include a Calibration.

What are the benefits?

The Q Grader Certification has been a trusted system  the industry for some time but has also received some valid criticisms. Many professional certifications and licenses used in the workplace require annual continuing education. The industry benefits from a scientifically based flavor calibration that can be applied consistently at the global scale, and the Q certificate holder is recognized and rewarded in the industry as having achieved a significant professional certificate one vital to the industry as a whole.

What is a Flavor Calibration?

This year, CQI is launching a new tool-flavor standards- that will enable our Q Graders to not only train and calibrate on a coffees score, but build a global language of flavors. In this way, all Q Graders will understand and agree on 14 key coffee flavors that influence quality.

In a flavor calibration, all Q graders will be tested on a random 6 of the 14 CQI Flavor standards. They will be asked to identify 4 of the 6 flavors correctly to pass their flavor calibration.

How do I stay in calibration?

Every three years, Q Graders will need to attend an in-person Coffee Calibration Course - this is what currently exists – that will now include flavor calibration.

How do I learn the flavors if I did not take Q 5.0?

To prepare for the Flavor Calibration, you can train independently or choose to take a preparatory class to gain familiarity with the CQI Flavor Standards. CQI has already released classes which utilize and train on these flavor standards.

What if I am dual-certified in Robusta and Arabica?

Flavor Calibration is not species specific; you will only calibrate once.

I have special circumstances, what can I do?

As is always true, CQI will work with our community on a case-by-case basis. Please contact Education Coordinator Laura Ruleman at info@coffeeinstitute.org for further information.

Do you have information on how to complete a flavor calibration?

Where can I find more information about Flavor Calibration supplies?

Links to products and instructions on how to open an account are below.