Cupping Skills Exam

Cupping skills test setup

Time: 4 Tests, 60 Minutes each

Passing Score: 80% (86 Points)

The core of the Q Grader course is its four cupping flights. Each flight includes six coffee samples and one reference set for discussion and calibration before exam time begins. These include tables of:

  • Central American coffees
  • Asia/Pacific & Indonesian flight
  • East African and one of
  • all dry natural processed coffees.

The origins shown above are in no particular order. Courses conducted in coffee-growing countries substitute one of the standard flights for a domestic flight.

To prepare:

  1. Be familiar with SCA’s cupping protocols.
  2. Before taking your Q course exam, have some experience cupping coffees from all major world origin groups.
  3. Be able to identify and grade cup characteristics and record your findings correctly on the SCA Cupping form.

Team up with other experienced cuppers and hold tastings regularly — if this is not already a part of your daily job or routine. The goal is to become familiar with the various characteristics of different origins. This is particularly important for cuppers who work in a coffee-growing region. Those living in coffee-growing areas rarely can taste coffee from elsewhere.

At the end of each flight, scoresheets are entered into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet applies proprietary mathematical formulas to calculate your performance. Coffee sensory characteristics are graded on a scale of 6-10 for each attribute (fragrance/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, etc.) in quarter-point increments, leading to a unique total point score.

Although one coffee sample may be evaluated as having all characteristics graded at the same, e.g., “7.0” score, it is not frequent. Cuppers who rate all characteristics as being equal are generally unsure of their performance or otherwise aim for the statistical middle in a group of cuppers. Cuppers scoring coffees this way will fail and be asked to retake the exam. The same is true of those who cannot correctly complete a scoresheet and those who fall too far out of calibration.

Calibrate with fellow cuppers and instructors and avoid lazy or safe harbor cupping. Experienced cuppers with exposure to many coffee origins and familiar with the SCA form should pass with ease.

Take this online Q practice course from Boot Coffee to learn more about the exam and see how it is organized.