A little about my experience with Q grader certification

coffee cupping

(Just for the further notice, the cupping that is demonstrated on the photo is not done according to the Q grader standarts. To begin with, it has to have at least 5 cups for each coffee. This cupping is done for the inner purposes, for the evaluation of the roast profile)

So this one will be a philosophical one.

I have just finished cupping – it was an afternoon session of 4 different roasts of the same coffee, this time honey processed Honduran. Being honest, these production cuppings, when you are looking for the best profile, constantly improving, are my favourite ones.

You have no way out. I mean – you HAVE to concentrate. You HAVE to use a cupping form. You HAVE to put your phone in the airplane mode.

The coffees are so similar, and yet you know there are those small differences, not always in the tasting notes (although sometimes they change as well), but mostly in your perception of body and acidity, of the overall complexity of the drink – so you have to concentrate. You cannot just say “Yum, this coffee is cherry and chocolate, give me 2!” – cause they are all cherry and chocolate and yummy.

So these production cuppings are anti-laziness cuppings.

Which made me think, once again. In the end of April – beginning of May I had an amazing opportunity to go through the Q grader training and exam (and actually managed to be one of those ones who passed it, yay!). A marvelous experience, amazing people, lots of knowledge soaked in in such a little time. Absolutely loved it. And crazy difficult of course, everybody knows it is, you go there knowing it’s gonna be your sensory hell. And paradise, of course, at the same time, if it is possible.

Q grader training and exam is basically 6 days of sensory training. 3 days of training for the 20 exams, and 3 days of passing these exams.  And among many of them, such as organic acids, aromatics, triangualtions, etc (you can read more about the Q Grader here) there are 4 cuppings.

And those 4 cupping are the hardest thing. Mild Washed, Naturals, African and Indonesian.

You have 4 minutes to evaluate 6 coffees, 5 cups each, according to the SCA form. Filling the form accordingly, EVERY SINGLE FIELD, cause for not filling the form you are losing points. And being precise in your evaluations. No safe cupping (losing points for that as well, for example when you are just giving one coffee 7,5 in all the parameters, you gonna be punished losing the point or being suspended).  You cannot deviate in your evaluations from the group, and from the trainer, for each significant deviation in ach parameter – yes, you gonna be losing points.

So why I mentioned meditation in the headline.

I was lucky to had been practicing it for about 6 months, daily, at the moment when I entered the Q.

What is meditation. To make it short, it is basically sitting still and not thinking. Yes, so simple and yet so hard. Cause when you try to sit and not think – yes, you gonna be thinking. All the rubbish from your head will be attacking you, all the thoughts are gonna be screaming “You have to think about it NOW”, you gonna be drifting away with your thoughts. And your only goal in meditation will be noticing these moments, when you are thinking – and putting yourself back into your body. Sitting, breathing, feeling your hands and feet.

Meditation. Being 100% concentrated on what you are feeling, instead of what you are thinking.

Isn’t it what you actually need when you are cupping and scoring coffees?

Hell it is.

Those 4 cuppings depend completely on your ability to calm down your mind and stay concentrated throughout those 40 minutes. If you manage to do it – you won. Got distracted – you lost. Cause these is no time to lose, and distracting for 1-2-3 minutes can cost you everything.

Since then I consciously treat cupping as a for of meditation, if I want to be efficient and precise, and actually get the answers about the coffees.

And I guess it’s the best advice I can give – if you want to improve your cupping skills, try meditation. It will help you to stay concentrated for these 20-30-40 minutes, and get consistent results.

Cause cupping is nothing more than a game that you are playing with your mind.

If you stay on top of it – you win.

If you let your mind wander – you lose.

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