Q Grader Stories : James Craig

James Craig is from Australia and has been a Q Grader since 2012 and is currently a brand ambassador for Zest Specialty Coffee.


"I earned my Q Licence in 2012 at Apfels Academy, in L.A. with Rocky Rhodes. Last year I recalibrated with Craig Holt, here in Sydney at Single Origin Roasters.

In 2014 I won the Australian Roasting championships and then again in 2015.

For me the Q system is all about confidence. Rocky loved pointing out that roasters often do quite well as Q graders because it’s roasters that need to know all they can about every origin to successfully create the flavours they're looking for from the coffees that are available to them.

What the Q System does is give some structure and discipline to a very subjective and artistic endeavour. It's very hard to argue with someone who's proven their sensory ability in the Q environment, artistically and commercially.

I have found myself in a unique position being a Q grader and 2 time Australian roasting champ. This has opened many doors in the industry for me in Australia. Currently I'm quality assurance and brand ambassador for Zest Specialty Coffee, honestly on the highest salary I've ever earned.

My Q grading has taken me to Gayo region in Aceh, Nth Sumatra, where I teach the farmers, collectors and co-op workers how to sample roast properly and how to have a controlled cupping system to assess their work. I have been up there four times now and each time more and more people attend and the energy for better, cleaner coffee has infected the whole area. Other trips include Ethiopia, Java, Sulawesi and all over Sumatra.

I would implore anyone thinking about taking the Q journey to just bite the bullet and jump in. It was one of the greatest learning curves of my coffee life and the confidence I take with me into every cupping and every green bean assessment is invaluable."

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