Coffee Quality Institute is dedicated to using the best resources and techniques to maintain consistency in coffee quality evaluation.

Flavor training

Coffee Quality Institute uses flavors to enhance their sensory training and calibration

Using the best tools to support cupper training and calibration maintains Q Grader accuracy

The characteristics of a cup is the basis of quality evaluation and is the ecosystem in which the common language is shared, and the consistency and dependability of CQI Q Graders is what makes them recognized leaders in the coffee industry. To that end CQI uses flavor training and calibration to ensure that those who hold a Q Grader certificate are encountering coffees in the same way and communicating qualities in a consistent manner.

Flavor Calibration is for Q Graders and Q Instructors

  • Every third year Q Graders participate in an in-person calibration that provides news and explores up-to-date topics that evaluators might be encountering in their work. Flavor Calibration is an ungraded part of that event.
  • Q Instructors and Assistant Instructors will Flavor Calibrate annually.

CQI worked with FlavorActiVTM to develop the right flavor kits for your needs. You can find FAQs about Flavor Calibration here.

Flavor training

Sensory training adds depth and precision

From basic techniques to identifying specific defects and attributes, training kits help

There are three CQI-specific kits to support training. You must have an account to view individual products.

  • The CQI Essential Training Kit contains five capsules each of seven flavors, and five capsules each of seven defects, and a a detailed instruction insert.
  • The CQI Coffee Defects Kit gives coffee people tools to identify the root of issues with coffee flavor. he kit includes six off flavors: Phenol, Under-ripe, Musty, Potato Defect, Sour, and Papery.
  • The CQI Coffee Attributes Kit offers six core flavors to help professionals identify aspects that impact coffee quality: Molasses, Floral, Fruity, Vanilla, Almond, Warming Spices.
See kits in store
Flavor Calibration

Flavor Calibration reinforces global alignment in coffee evaluation

Calibration kits are available in several configurations.

  • The CQI Calibration Kit 1 provides the flavors required for a single Q Grader calibration: Apple, Floral, Fruity, Molasses, Vanilla,  Almond, Warming Spices, Bitter, Phenol Defect, Under-Ripe, Musty,  Papery, Potato Defect, and Sour
  • For a larger group, select the CQI Calibration Kit 2, which provides flavors for 6-12.
  • Those who need resources for up to twenty-four calibrations should purchase the CQI Calibration Kit 3.
See kits in store
Working with FlavorActiVTM

When Coffee Quality Institute identified flavors as a necessary tool, we found a great partner in FlavorActiV

CQI Q Graders work globally, as do our instructors, and it was important for us to find a company that was used to fulfilling sensory training demands around the world. FlavorActiV is the sensory choice of many well-known brands, and they have a track record of working to develop custom flavor solutions.

FlavorActiV manufactures to pharmaceutical good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards and the compounds within their capsules impart the aroma, taste and mouthfeel of a specific defect or positive flavor into a beverage for taster training, calibration and quality control.

  • More than twenty-five years of experience
  • Flexible purchase options
  • Global fulfillment
Meet FlavorActiV

To order FlavorActiV products you must open an account

Select the link below and fill out the form at Make sure you include "CQI" followed by your CQI reference number in the company field. The CQI user registration password is "Calibration."

FlavorActiV fulfils orders directly, and inquiries about orders can be directed to‍

Create your account

FAQ: Q Grader Flavor Training and Calibrations

Why are we making changes to the Q Grader and Calibration Courses?

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 the Flavor Standard Exam and 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 coffee's 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. Q Graders will encounter these standards in two ways.

When you take the Q Grader Course -Q 5.0- it will include flavor standard instruction, testing and then retakes if necessary. This portion of the course is known as the Flavor Standard Exam. When it is complete you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between sensory analysis references and standards
  • Categorize CQI Flavor Standards into positive attributes and off-flavors
  • Identify CQI Flavor Standards in blind aqueous solutions by name

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. FLAVOR EDUCATION IS A PART OF THE CALIBRATION COURSE, BUT IS NOT GRADED AT THIS TIME.

How do I stay in calibration?

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

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

Currently licensed Q Graders will participate in flavor calibrations in their every three-year Q Calibration, but on a practice basis. To further 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 activites are not species specific.

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 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.

Open a FlavorActiV account.

Select the link below and fill out the form at Make sure you include "CQI" followed by your CQI reference number in the company field. FlavorActiV fulfils orders directly, and inquiries about orders can be directed to

Connect to FlavorActiV