Q Program

The Q Program identifies quality coffees and brings them to market through a credible and verifiable system. A common standard for both Q Arabica, (Specialty Grade) and Q Robusta (Fine Robusta Grade) coffee has resulted in a universally shared language and standard top scoring lots. The Q engages the industry at the producer level to identify lots for specialty, at the export/import level by certifying individuals to grade coffees, and at the buyer level to offer a consumer-facing product with the Q Certification Mark. This system’s infrastructure has resulted in greater opportunity for producers to access premium prices, increase competitiveness, and improve economic viability.

The Q Program is dependent on our In-Country Partners (ICP) to facilitate Q Evaluations around the world. For more information about our ICPs, click here. Green coffee samples are submitted to an ICP, who then issues it to the 3 local Q Graders who conduct the evaluation and create a report. Coffees that meet the standards for green, roasted, and cup quality are issued a Q Certificate. If a coffee does not meet Q standards, it receives a CQI Technical Report. More details about the program can be found on our FAQ page. In order to get your coffee Q Graded, you must first log-in to the database. To log-in or create a registration, please click here. Or check out our step-by-step tutorialOr to learn more about how to become a Q Grader, click here.

When CQI created the most renowned certification for coffee cuppers, Q Graders, it created a demanding professional certification that filled a vacuum in the market when it launched in 2003. It catapulted CQI into becoming a leading player in the world of coffee professional certifications. So it’s no surprise that in 2017, CQI launched another an innovative program that will surely fill another void in the market: coffee processing. There has been a major focus at the consuming level towards creating educational certifications for baristas and roasters and green buyers. However, there has been little focus at the mill level. CQI is proud to launch a new component to the Q Program, Q Processing, to certify competencies around coffee processing.

We employ a global perspective, grounded in technical understanding, while offering practical solutions to meet local challenges. Uniquely, we operate with strong ties to the coffee trade to emphasize market access as a vital part of long-term solutions. Our innovative approaches to quality development continue to meet the needs of a volatile coffee market. Thank you for support, and we look forward to working with you soon.

Find out where you can pick up your free pin if you are a current Q Arabica Grader, Q Robusta Grader, or Q Processing Professional. Pins are not for sale and cannot be distributed anywhere outside of the events posted on this map where you will get your pin directly from one of CQI’s staff members. Keep checking back as we will be adding updates on locations, dates and times periodically.

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Q Arabica/ Q Robusta
Q Program

Q Arabica was the first component CQI launched as part of the Q Program, over 15 years ago. The concept was simple: train everyone in the supply chain to speak a common language of quality, thus elevating arabica coffee worldwide, and ultimately rewarding producers for higher quality and opening new market opportunities. Based on arabica standards set forth by the Specialty Coffee Association, CQI provides rigorous and comprehensive training for all those in the supply chain looking to better understand and identify high quality arabica coffee.

For a breakdown of the Q Arabica Course, click here.

Q Robusta, also within the Q Program, was developed in cooperation with the Ugandan Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) in 2010, and launched by CQI globally to improve the quality of robusta, including training of coffee professionals in the standards for Fine Robusta.

In 2019, CQI recognized the ever-pressing need and value to publishing the updated standards and protocols developed for Fine Robusta. Here are the following resources available for Fine Robusta:

Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols

  • DIGITAL booklet is $20 USD. To purchase a digital copy now, Click Here
  • Q Instructors/Assistant Instructors receive a discount code for both digital and printed versions. Email kta@coffeeinstitute.org to obtain your discount code.
  • PRINT version of the Fine Robusta Standards and Protocols booklet is $25 USD and available through the CLI Library. To place an order, please send an email to Qinfo@coffeelab.com.
  • For Q Instructors, there will be a place on the Robusta Order Form to order the printed version.
  • Robusta Green Grading Handbook• Available in PRINT version only
    • Cost: $35 USD
    • Q Instructors receive a discounted price
    • For purchase through the CLI Library; please email: Qinfo@coffeelab.com

FineRobusta.coffee domain provided courtesy of Coffee Value Chain Consultants

Please consult with CQI about the availability of Q Robusta Evaluations, as they are not yet offered by each and every ICP.

For a breakdown of our Q Robusta Course, click here.

Q Processing
Q Program

At the Coffee Quality Institute, we strive to support coffee communities that know how to produce quality coffee, are linked to a market that recognizes quality, and values it accordingly. That is why CQI has launched the Q Processing Program, which certifies stages of competencies around coffee processing. Through this program, CQI will provide a highly scientific and technical approach to processing coffee that improves quality, standardizes procedures, increases competitiveness, reduces risk, and creates a system that can be trusted throughout the supply chain. At its core, this program works to lift the status of trained coffee processors who are able to add value through differentiating coffee through processing techniques. Adding a formal training and certification scheme to this important topic will contribute to and push the entire industry forward.

Program Goals

  1. Develop core competencies of coffee processing for different actors in the supply chain, including mill operators and managers.
  2. Provide a deeply scientific understanding of coffee processing to consistently improve quality and reduce risk.
  3. Encourage students to find the best practices for their conditions based on a quality control system.
  4. Supply knowledge and tools to improve daily work and increase competitiveness in the market.
  5. Support the industry by expanding upon our network of trusted, skilled professionals to become the standard for coffee processing.


Q Processing Course Levels

The Generalist (level 1) course of this program aims to empower the consuming side of the coffee value chain to understand the language of, the basic biological principles of, and the intricacies and challenges of safely and consistently processing quality coffee.

The Professional (Level 2) course of this program is aimed at individuals who have had significant hands-on coffee processing experience through multiple harvests. It will add focus and depth to scientifically founded best practices and enable students to build new value within their products.

The Expert (level 3) course will build a new category of coffee processing expert. The study to earn a level 3 certificate is planned to encompass an entire year and include both remote and in-field learning, instruction, group projects, experimentation, and testing.

For more information about the Q Processing Program, CLICK HERE.


Frequently Asked

  • Do I need a profile to be on the CQI website?

    To browse our site, you do not need to have a profile. If you’d like to enroll in a course, enroll for a retake test, submit a sample to be Q Evaluated, or contact users directly on our site, you need to first create a registration/profile on our database.

  • How do I create a profile on the database?

    To create a profile, you’ll see a button in the upper right titled “Create an Account”. Click the button and follow the instructions.

  • I forgot my username and password. How do I retrieve them?

    On the home page, in the upper right, you’ll notice the link “LOGIN TO YOUR ACCOUNT?” Click the appropriate FORGOT? and enter Email or Username and click REQUEST RESET. You will be sent a with a link to site to the email provided on your CQI profile, click on the link. This will redirect you to the CQI Database and you will need to reset password. If the email provided on your CQI profile requires update or you need further assistance, please email info@coffeeinstitute.org for information.

    Please do not create another account if you already have one.

  • How come my name isn’t on the Q Grader list?

    In order to see your name on this list, we’re asking that all Q Graders please create a registration on our new database. To create a registration, please go to here https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/.

  • I can't locate my gradebook, where is it?

    In order to locate your course gradebook please log into your account at https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/. Go to Profile tab and select View Profile, click on the Gradebook tab.

  • I can’t locate my Q Grader Certificate. Where is it?

    In order to locate your Q Grader certificate please log into your account at https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/. Go to Profile tab and select View Profile, click on the Certificate link selection available.

  • I need to print my Q Certificate. How do I do it?

    If you log into your profile, and if you pass all the required exams, your Q Grader certificate will be available on your profile. After logging in, go to Profile tab and select View Profile, click on the link Certificate selection available.

  • Why can't I upload a photo to my profile?

    Please keep in mind maximum file for image upload is 4mb please make sure it as a PNG, JPEG or GIF file.

  • What is a Q Robusta Grader?

    A Q Robusta Grader is a Licensed Robusta Grader, just like our Q Arabica Graders. Q Robusta Graders must pass 22 tests to become certified.

  • I am interested in becoming a Q Robusta Grader. What is the process?

    If you wish to become a Licensed Q Robusta Grader, you need to take a full Q Robusta Grader Exam. The course structure is the same as the Q Grader Exam, but with different characteristics and tests.

    For details about Robusta standards please visit http://www.coffeeinstitute.org/our-work/q-coffee-system/q-robusta-course/

    And for a breakdown of our Q Robusta course, click here.

  • Are there any pre-requisites required to sign up for a Q Grader Exam?

    Currently, there are no formal requirements to enroll. However, the Q Grader Exam is not a course for inexperienced or new cuppers; it is an advanced level course. It is highly recommended that you practice your skills by signing up for SCA Skill Building Workshops offered throughout the year, including SCA’s The Event. For more information, please refer to the SCA website.

    For details about Arabica standards please visit https://sca.coffee/research/coffee-standards/

    For a breakdown of our Q Arabica course, click here.

    For details about Robusta standards please visit http://www.coffeeinstitute.org/our-work/q-coffee-system/q-robusta-course/

    And for a breakdown of our Q Robusta course, click here.

  • Do I need to study with any particular material before a Q Grader Exam?

    There are several tools that could be helpful such as the SCA Cupping & Brewing Handbook, SCA Arabica Green Coffee Defect Handbook, SCA Green Coffee Classification Chart, SCA Cupping Protocol & Cupping Form, and Le Nez du Café Aroma Kit. All of these can be found at the SCA Resource Center and are available to purchase at SCA’s online store at: https://store.sca.coffee/.

  • When is the next Q Grader Course happening in my area?

    ALL upcoming courses are listed on the database. If you go to “All Things Q” (the box midway down the home page on the right), you will see the full course schedule. Each profile lists the instructor(s), location, date and cost. If you have any questions about the course, please contact the instructor directly. His/her email is located on the course profile.

  • How do I enroll for a course?

    To enroll, please go to the Upcoming Events list, open the course profile and click the “Enroll” button in the upper right. If you do not see this button, you must first log-in. Once signed in to CQI profile go to Courses Tab and choose Upcoming Courses. Scroll through courses and click on course you wish to register for. If you are a new student click on Enroll at the top right of page, if you are a retake student please click on Retake Test to enroll.

  • How do I enroll for a retake?

    To enroll for a retake, please go to the Upcoming Events list, open the course profile and click the “Retake Test” button in the upper right. If you do not see this button, you must first log-in.

  • How much does a Q Grader Exam cost?

    The amount charged to participate in a Q Grader Exam varies depending on course location and instructor. Please contact the instructor directly if you do not see a cost listed on the course profile.

  • I started a Q Grader Exam some time ago; do I need to retake the whole class or only individual tests?

    Once you start a Q Grader Exam, you have 18 months to complete it. If you took your initial exams more than 18 months ago, you need to take the full Q Grader Exam again. If it was less than 18 months ago, you can just re-take the individual tests you need.

  • I started a Q Grader exam; Is there a limit to how many times I can take the course?

    Once you start a Q Grader Exam, you can participate in a maximum of 3 courses, 1 initial course + 2 retake test maximum. If you do not pass all exams, you will need to retake a complete “Q Course” from the beginning.

  • Does the Q Grader Certificate have an expiration date?

    Yes, the Q Grader Certificate is valid for 3 years (36 months) from the original date you took a Q Grader Exam. After this you will need to pass a Calibration to stay active / current.

  • How do I become recertified?

    The Q Grader certificate is valid for three years. After that time, Q Grader who wish to recertify need to participate in the Q Grader calibration to maintain their status. A Q Grader calibration course must be completed from 6 months before until 6 months after the date of the Q certificate expiration. CQI offers Q calibration courses for all licensed Q Graders whose license has expired or will expire soon. To enroll, please go to the Upcoming Q Courses, open the Q Calibration course profile and click the “Enroll” button in the upper right. If you do not see this button, you must first log-in.

  • What is a calibration?

    Since your license expires after 3 years, you must be calibrated to maintain status as an active Licensed Q Grader. A CQI Calibration consists of three cuppings, and to renew your Q Grader License, you need to pass 2 out of the 3 cuppings. If you do not pass, you have one opportunity for a retake. If you fail the second time, you must take a Re-certification Course. Please scroll down for more information on calibrations.F

  • Am I eligible for a Q Grader Calibration extension?

    CQI has been offering Q Calibration Tests for all international licensed Q Graders whose licenses have expired or will expire soon. CQI has made repeated announcements on this program update. Unfortunately, we have ended the calibration extensions period for Q Graders in many countries dependent on regional course offerings. All Q Graders that have lapsed the Calibration course timeframe permitted and where regional calibration extensions are no longer offered but that wish to reestablish certification will be required to complete a Q Recertification course or Q Grader Combo testing and exam course. If you are interested in reestablishing your Q certification, please sign up for an upcoming Q Recertification course or Q Grader Combo testing and exam course in your area. All courses on our website are updated in real time, meaning as soon as we get the information from an instructor, it’s posted on our website. Please be sure to go to https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/and click on the Upcoming Courses tab to see all upcoming courses in real time. We hope you will find a location and time frame that is convenient for you. You may also continue checking our website, as new courses are posted in real-time every week.

  • Can I contact a private instructor to come teach classes at my lab / facilities?

    Yes! On the website, under “Q Coffee System”, you’ll find a tab called “Q Instructors”. This list contains all current CQI-sanctioned Q Instructors. To request information, simply click on his/her name and click the “message” button, located in the upper right portion of their CQI profile.

  • Do you offer Q Grader logos for use on business cards, websites, etc…?

    Yes. If you’re an active Q Grader, you can find these high-res logos by logging-in and going to “Files” in the right-side top header.

  • Do I need a profile on the CQI database to submit a coffee sample for Q Evaluation?

    Yes, in order to submit a sample to be Q Evaluated you need to first create a registration/profile on our database. Please be sure to select “owner” as user type.

  • How do I submit a sample to be evaluated?

    You must first select an In-Country Partner (ICP) from our list. Once you’ve selected an ICP, you’ll need to mail a 2 kg sample of green coffee to that ICP. REMEMBER: the sample must represent one lot of less. In addition, you’ll need to submit the evaluation form online by logging in and going to “Submit New Sample” at the top menu.

  • How much does it cost to get my coffee Q Graded?

    Fees range from $150 to $350 per sample, which includes the ICP administration fee, Q Grader fee and CQI fee ($90 administration fee). Please contact your ICP for fee information.

    Roughly, Q Grading amounts to less than a penny a pound per lot. This estimate includes a number of variables, such as in-country Q Grading costs, the number of bags/lot, etc.

  • I'm interested in becoming a Q Instructor, what is the process?

    Please note the process to become an Assistant Instructor includes being Q Grader for three years, assuring expertise in our system, and successfully passing a Q Grader Calibration in order to be eligible to become an Assistant Instructor. Then you must take the Assistant Instructor Course, offered once a year by CQI only and from there proceed with additional steps for becoming an Instructor.

    If you qualify to register as a Q Assistant Instructor please log in to your database profile and fill out the Assistant Instructor form: https://database.coffeeinstitute.org/asstInstructor/application. You must be logged in to the database and complete a brief questionnaire to determine eligibility in order to complete an application. This would be the initial step toward becoming a Q Instructor.

    You may also sign up as a Coffee Corps Volunteer to be considered for specific grant funded assignments that can help you move forward as instructor.

  • How does CQI define a lot of coffee?

    A lot of coffee is 320 bags or less (i.e. equivalent to the maximum load on a transportation vessel). If your lot is larger, it must be divided to meet this requirement.

  • How is the 2 kilogram sample divided?

    The sample is divided into three parts: 350 grams for green grading and roasting (one part), 250 grams for cupping only (two parts) and the remaining as a reference sample.

  • What if I cannot afford to have every lot Q graded?

    We encourage everyone to use a Licensed Q Grader to receive an evaluation from him/her first. If the coffee scores close to 80 or higher (and passes green defect test), then we recommend sending it through the official Q Grading System, although we cannot guarantee that it will meet the minimum standards for specialty. However, if it does meet specialty standards, your coffee will receive an official Q Certificate.

  • After my sample is graded and I receive a Q Certificate (i.e. the coffee has scored 80 points or higher), what value does it have?

    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 SCAA. The certificate provides feedback and cupper notes and information about specific attributes of the coffee. It also signifies an independent, third party evaluation of quality that clients can trust.

  • What is a Technical Report?

    If a coffee receives a Q Technical Report it has been evaluated by Q Graders and has not received an average score of 80 points or higher, OR it did not pass the green defect grading. For a coffee to be considered specialty, or Q, a minimum of 80 points must be earned and it must pass green defect grading. But don’t be discouraged! The technical report is very useful for the owner because it includes details of the coffee attributes and helps highlight where the coffee may improve.

  • How do I track my coffee sample as it is being evaluated and retrieve the potential coffee sample Q certification?

    Once your assigned ICP receives your sample, you can track its status online by logging into your account. You may track sample progress and will receive either a Q Certificate or a Technical Report, depending on the outcome.

  • Is there a coffee sample tutorial available?

    For an overview on submitting a coffee sample you can login to your profile on our database at http://database.coffeeinstitute.org/, go to COFFEES where you can also view a PDF that will provide you with step-by-step instructions on creating a coffee sample.

  • How can I purchase a Q Coffee™?

    You must first be logged into the database, then once you are viewing a Q Arabica or Q Robusta Certificate, you can click the “Email Owner” button and customize a message to send.

  • What is a licensing Partner?

    A Licensing Partner is a company that has agreed to use CQI’s Q Certification Marks on its labels and other marketing materials.

  • Why should I become a Licensing Partner?

    Licensing Partners have access to an independent, third party seal of quality that consumers can trust. It remains the sole mark for quality in the entire coffee industry.

  • I just purchased a Q Coffee™. Now what?

    If you’ve purchased Q Coffee and are interested in using CQI’s Q Certification Marks on your bag and/or other marketing materials, then you’ll have to first become a Licensing Partner. To do so, please register on our database (if you aren’t yet registered): http://database.coffeeinstitute.org/register

    Once registered, you’re able to fill out a Licensing Partner application:

    https://www.coffeeinstitute.org/the-q-coffee-system/become-a-licensing-partner. Please download the application, fill it out and scan it back to us.

  • Why is there a licensing fee?

    The licensing fee of $.01/lb is required in order to cover CQI’s administrative services and is based on the entire volume of Q Coffees™ purchased by the Licensee.

  • How do I obtain a SCA Premier Training Campus?

    1) Review the requirements for Premier Training Campus: Sensory and Green (Q): https://sca.coffee/education/campuses/
    2) Have a company membership with SCA
    3) Fill out this form.
    4) Enrollment and cost for the program certification: 1000 USD, inspection is 1500 USD; you can pay both at the same time for a savings of $200 USD, totaling $2300 USD paid to SCA.
    5) SCA staff will assist in making sure you are ready for the inspection
    6) Inspection is done by SCA staff or certified inspectors – depending on availability etc. Applicants are responsible and will be invoiced for the flight, meals, transportation, and lodging of inspectors. Inspection will not take more than 2 days and arrangements will be agreed upon by the Campus applicant and the inspector prior to the inspection date.
    7) An inspection report will be generated after the inspection and will be submitted to SCA for review within 2-4 weeks.

  • What are the advantages of having a SCA Premier Training Campus?

    The advantages of becoming a SCA Premier Training are: highest achievement for any business’s lab/training space. It is a formal and highly-regarded 4-year certification issued by SCA. We acknowledge the importance of this program and how it serves our community in a multitude of ways. Some major benefits to Campuses have been: dedicated space on our education website, targeted monthly education emails, social media post (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and having a fully dedicated staff person. Also, Premier Training Campuses (Sensory & Green) are recognized by CQI as eligible to run Q courses.

  • What is the difference between a SCA Premier Training Campus and a SCA Approved Training Venue?

    Approved Training Venues are spaces that meet core requirements at the time of training. This is not a certification. Trainers are expected to verify to SCA that the venue has met said requirements and to adhere to them every time any course is being instructed.

  • I now have a SCA Premier Training Campus – How do I plan a CQI Course?

    The Premier Training Campus Program is run and administered by SCA. The Q Program is managed exclusively by CQI. If you’d like to organize a Q Course, there are two ways:

    1. Contact a current Q Instructor directly – all Q Instructors are listed here.
    2. Contact CQI to request information / suggestions / quotes. Please email rdelrue@coffeeinstitute.orgfor more information.
  • My Lab has been an Approved Training Venue for different SCA Courses – does that mean it is approved for Q?

    No; unless the Lab is a Premier Training Campus (Sensory / Green), it does not automatically get approved for Q Courses.

  • My Lab has been inspected but does not yet appear on the SCA website – what can I do? Can I plan a Q Course even if it doesn’t appear yet?

    It generally takes 2-4 weeks for SCA to certify and list a Campus. If the Campus applicant has a Q planned within that time-frame, please contact SCA at education@sca.coffee for support.

    As indicated, CQI and SCA work closely together. If a Q Instructor / Campus operator contacts CQI to indicate that the inspection has taken place, CQI will confirm with SCA and will approve courses if the Lab has been approved but not yet published. The Lab Operator can also simply forward the approved inspection report to CQI as confirmation.

  • I have observed some CQI Q Courses hosted at venues different from SCA Premier Training Campuses – why is that?

    CQI and SCA have worked jointly for years on the subject of labs – the aim of both organizations is for the student’s experience to be the best possible and for them to learn as much as possible in an optimum environment.
    CQI has a secondary document called “CQI Cupping Lab Requirements”, used in discretionary circumstances, in countries where there are no Premier Training Campus, or for specific CQI Projects. In these rare occasions, CQI grants allowances for a once-off course to be taught outside of a Campus, in order to introduce Q and with the aim of a Lab Certification in the near future.

  • What are the requirements for Q Robusta Courses?

    If the Lab is a Premier Training Campus – it is approved for all Q Courses. For other venues, please contact CQI directly in regards to the Q Robusta Program.