Coffee Taster Pathway Level 1


From acids to extraction, the SCAA flavor wheel to triangulations, Coffee Taster Pathway Level 1 presents the tools required to dissect coffees for flavor and evaluate them in a nuanced, careful manner, ensuring the best product makes its way to the consumer. Building a vocabulary of taste descriptors and adhering to cupping protocols, students will quickly build world-class sensory skills alongside knowledgeable certified instructors. Coffee Tasters who currently have or are pursuing a Q-Grader certification may be eligible to receive credit for a portion of the Level 1 curriculum.

Level 1 graduates will be prepared to contribute to quality control departments and programs, working alongside roasters and green coffee buyers to evaluate and critique performance.

Duration: 30 hours (Q Graders: fewer than 10 hours)


Foundations of Coffee

Laying the groundwork for a life in coffee, Foundations of Coffee serves as the introduction to all of the Pathways and builds a vocabulary, both spoken and sensed, that will serve each subsequent class in any chosen course of study. Lectures touching on varied subjects that impact coffee such as agronomy, earth sciences, economics, and sociology will bring to life the seed to cup journey as students explore the many steps along the global supply chain.

Foundations of Coffee coursework will shift to a closer inspection of how the senses and chemistry collide, examining how coffees are evaluated through tasting exercises, cupping protocol, and a thorough introduction to flavor perception, as well as the theoretical and practical workings of brewing and extraction. By launching coffee careers with the right tools, Foundations of Coffee will prepare students for their chosen Pathway with a comprehensive overview in the macro and micro forces key to the craft and global industry.

View Requirements

Le Nez du Café Aroma of Coffee

This class provides experiences for participants to gain familiarity with the thirty-six (36) common aromas chosen for the standardized industry tool, the Le Nez du Café kit, which represent an array of scents found in coffee’s fragrance & aroma. Using the Le Nez Du Café aroma kit for coffee, students  self-asses their ability to recognize and categorize aromas found in coffee. This class is also recommended as a training class for coffee professionals interested in preparing for the SCAA/CQI Q-Grader Test.

Recommended Prerequisites: GE103, GE200

Sensory Skills Test Preparation

Discriminating the basic components of taste is the first step towards successful cupping. This series of tests evaluates a taster’s ability to identify and discern different taste thresholds. Students are presented with a set of aqueous solutions, each containing varying levels of salt, sweet and sour. The class is preparation for the Sensory Skills test of CQI Q-Grader. Results from this class do NOT count toward retakes of this portion of the Q-Exams without prior approval by CQI. Those who need the retake to count toward their Q-Grader Certification must confirm prior to attending class, whether or not prior approval has been met.

Recommended Prerequisites: GE103, GE200

Introduction to Sensory Analysis

Sensory Analysis is a field that traverses industries. Individuals in the field of coffee tasting or cupping must employ techniques of the field of sensory analysis by nature, since any coffee must first undergo sensory analysis to be defined as “specialty”. The quality of the sensory information can affect the quality of business decisions.  Understanding the broader scope of Sensory Analysis, learners will be challenged to develop widely used guidelines, prepare scientific tests, and approach analyzing coffee in commonly accepted formats. Being offered a window into the larger world of sensory analysis, some learners will be intrigued to go deeper in this tract toward further sensory analysis studies.    Individual differences and bias are touched on in this class, but covered more in depth in advanced grading and evaluation classes.

Recommended Prerequisites: CB100, CP151, CP152, GE103, GE201

SCAA Cupping Form & Peer Calibration

The SCAA Cupping Form was developed specifically to score quality coffees. This class demystifies this seemingly complex form and prepares students to embrace its regular use.  After an instructive lecture, students cup three coffees, score them, and calibrate to experienced instructors. Open discussion and active participation is the driving force as students align on the methods and concepts used to evaluate coffee. This class is recommended as a training class for coffee professionals interested in preparing for the SCAA/CQI Q-Grader Test.

Required Prerequisites: CB100, CP151, CP152, GE103

Organic Acids in Coffee

Organic Acids are some of the most important flavor compounds in coffee and this class introduces participants to four of the most prevalent organic acids found in coffee.  By deepening knowledge of chemistry behind taste, coffee professionals can increase their repertoire of terms and descriptions when evaluating coffee.  This skill will assist producers, mill staff, importers, roasters and baristas focus their own quality-producing efforts by making the connection between organic acids and their role in the chain of quality.

Recommended Prerequisites: GE200, GE154

Required Prerequisites: CB100, CP151, CP152, GE103

Triangulation Cupping

Triangulation is a specialized skill in cupping that sharpens a cupper’s ability to differentiate coffees blindly.  Triangulation is an essential skill for developing consistent and objective palate memory.  According to the SCAA and CQI protocol for triangulation, participants triangulate three flights of coffee, with discussion in between flights.  The correct answers are revealed at the conclusion of the class.  This class is also recommended as a training class for coffee professionals interested in preparing for the CQI Q-Grader Test.

Recommended Prerequisites: GE200

Required Prerequisites: GE103, GE201, GE202

Coffee Taster Level 1 Practical Exam

This Coffee Taster Level 1 Practical Exam tests the most critical and frequently-done practical skills of a coffee taster in terms of standard processes and protocols.  Candidates set up a cupping from start to finish.  They must also correctly perform the SCAA Cupping process on one table according to the protocol, and evaluate coffee to the level indicated throughout the course (GE201-GE205).

Required Prerequisites: Completion of all class requirements of Coffee Taster Level 1.

Coffee Taster Level 1 Written Exam

This written exam covers of knowledge aspects of the Coffee Taster Level 1 classes.

Required Prerequisites: Completion of all class requirements of Coffee Taster Level 1.

Coffee Taster Code of Conduct

Completion of the Coffee Taster Code of Conduct is a requirement for the Coffee Taster Pathway Level 1. Please submit your form here.

Classes marked with * are NOT required for Licensed Q-Graders. Q-Graders also earn credit for GE103: Orientation to SCAA Cupping in the Foundations of Coffee Pathway, but must complete all other classes.

If you are a licensed Q Grader and would like to receive SCAA credits based upon your Q Grader status please complete this form and submit the administrative processing fee of $95 (via the form). Status will be verified with the Coffee Quality Institute. Please allow 10 business days for processing. You will be notified by email when complete.