Q Grader License Study Guide – 2023 Update

What are the Q Grader license tests and how do I prepare?

It’s a good question and one that takes some explanation. Some may prefer to attend a Q Grader certification course blind as a baseline assessment of their coffee cupping skill level. That’s admirable, but for most of us, the cost of $2,000 or more plus travel and a week away from work is an incentive to perform as best as we can and pass in one try. Use this Q Grader study guide to help you prepare. If successful, you can pass all the course’s 20+ exams and bring home a certificate in exchange for the investment.

Note that we say “certificate” here, and not “license.” While CQI promoted the Q training as licensing, it is more accurately described as a certificate program — cupping coffees without a Q Grader certificate is not illegal, as would be the case with a license.

Although Q courses are open to participants at any cupping skill level, it’s best suited to those with a year or more of coffee industry experience who evaluate coffee quality frequently. It is completely normal for experienced cuppers to fail some of the program’s exercises — don’t worry about this too much, as you’ll be given multiple attempts to retake failed exams during the class. For the best performance, begin preparing for the exams a few weeks or months in advance of a scheduled class.

For a small investment, take the online Q prep course offered by Boot Coffee to increase your familiarity and see what to expect. It will help you build confidence and confirm that the full in-person certification program is right for you.

Remember that while passing may be a short-term goal, it won’t necessarily help you to become a better coffee taster unless you continue to practice. Repeat the exercises routinely after becoming a Q Grader to maintain proficiency. Cup coffee daily to keep your skills sharp! This is not the finish line, it’s only the beginning.