giovedì 15 febbraio 2024

How to Become a Coffee Taster?

coffee taster


author: Editorial Staff

The article explains the path to becoming a coffee taster. It describes the basic steps, including training, practice and certification. It presents in detail the licence course in collaboration with I.I.A.C. It also provides information on how to taste coffee and explains how coffee tasting is carried out using a precise scientific approach.

How to become a coffee taster?

To become a coffee taster, you need to follow some key steps. Here are some guidelines for becoming a coffee taster:

1. Education and Training: Start by gaining in-depth knowledge about coffee. Attend specific training courses offered by specialized institutions or industry associations. These courses usually cover topics such as cultivation, processing, roasting, and coffee tasting.

2. Constant Practice: Hone your tasting skills by practicing regularly. Participate in guided tasting sessions, try coffee from different varieties and regions worldwide. Experience is crucial to developing the palate and the ability to detect the aromatic nuances of a true coffee taster.

3. Certifications: Obtaining recognized certifications in the coffee industry can be an added advantage. For example, certifications provided by I.I.A.C are widely respected and can open doors in the industry.

4. Industry Involvement: Attend events, coffee fairs, and conferences. Network with industry professionals, producers, and other coffee tasters. This will keep you updated on the latest trends and developments in the industry.

Learn about the International Coffee Tasting competition, read our dedicated article.

How to become a coffee taster? Here are the key steps to follow

General Information
The path to obtaining the license, in collaboration with I.I.A.C., offers the opportunity to become expert coffee tasters, exploring the evaluations of one of the world’s most beloved beverages. The course is structured into two distinctive parts: a theoretical and a practical tasting section, with a total duration of 8 hours. The course concludes with an exam for those aspiring to become qualified tasters.

Theoretical Section Espresso analysis:
objectives, environmental and psychophysical conditions for coffee tasters, and the use of necessary tools. The structure and variety of the grinder and espresso machine are addressed, with a focus on constitution, types, selection, use, and maintenance to achieve consistently impeccable espresso. Rules and methods are explained to ensure the constant pursuit of excellent coffee quality.

Sensory judgment is thoroughly covered, including appearance, aromatic profile, and taste, all essential elements for a detailed analysis by a coffee taster. The use of the tasting sheet is examined, and the geography of production and consumption, cultivation, processing methods, roasting, and chemical and organoleptic influences are explored.

Packaging systems and their impact on aroma preservation, along with the type of blend and its correlation with cup quality, are analyzed.

Practical Section:
Tasting This phase focuses on applying the tasting method to a series of espresso coffees. The selection includes 3 quality models, pure Arabica and Robusta varieties, samples with evident abnormalities in the green coffee production cycle, roasting and/or storage process, and resulting from non-optimal preparation (grinding and extraction errors).

Educational and Professional Materials
Some high-quality educational supports include the IIAC’s "Espresso Italiano Tasting" manual, the sensory analysis magazine “L’Assaggio”, tasting sheet pads, and note-taking materials provided by the association itself.

Final Exam
At the end of the course, you can take the exam to obtain the coffee taster license. This includes a theoretical test, consisting of a written exam on the topics covered during the course, and a sensory test. For all information on becoming a coffee taster, we invite you to visit the official website following this link.

What is the name of a coffee taster?

A coffee taster is often called a "caffelier", a term derived from "coffee" and "sommelier", or even, with a more professional connotation, a "Q grader". Coffee tasters are experts who assess coffee through a structured and analytical tasting process to evaluate its sensory quality.

Let’s specifically explore what a Q Grader is.
Certified Q Graders are experts in sensory evaluation of green coffee and are employed in various parts of the industry. Through Q Arabica and Q Robusta, the Q Program has become a fundamental tool, providing specialized skills to coffee professionals worldwide.

The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), by establishing global expectations, contributes to benefiting both buyers and sellers through a shared understanding of quality coffee. Being a certified Q Grader is crucial in the industry. The ability to evaluate coffee is an essential skill in multiple professional fields. In many workplaces, quality control staff, roasters, green coffee buyers, and exporters are required to be Q Graders.

Certified Q Graders use a common language of quality, facilitating communication and market access for both producers and buyers. After obtaining the Q Grader certification, opportunities in the coffee industry open up, as the Q Program is globally recognized by industry professionals.

Employers are aware of the rigorous tests that students must pass to obtain certification and understand that they can leverage the skills of these graders to ensure product quality, analyze aromatic profiles, and ensure consistency through evaluations.

In fact, the main reference associations for coffee tasting are primarily three: IIAC, SCA, and CQI. We will address and delve into these three institutions in one of the upcoming articles, dedicating a specific portion of our knowledge to these pillars of the coffee world.

Stay tuned to our Blog for many more insights into the coffee world!

How to taste coffee? Tips for enthusiasts

Tasting coffee is a process that involves multiple senses and requires careful evaluation of the beverage’s sensory characteristics. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to taste coffee:

1. Visual Observation:
• Start by examining the coffee in the cup. Evaluate the color and consistency of the crema on the surface. A dense and persistent crema may suggest good quality.

2. Olfactory Evaluation:
• Bring your nose to the cup’s edge and inhale slowly like a true coffee taster. Try to identify the present aromas, which can range from fruity and floral to more roasted and chocolate notes.

3. Tasting:
• Take a small sip and distribute the coffee in your mouth. Try to perceive the complexity of flavors. Evaluate the acidity, bitterness, body, and taste notes like a true coffee taster.

4. Aftertaste:
• After drinking the coffee, observe the sensations that linger in your mouth. A good coffee will have a pleasant and persistent aftertaste.

5. Overall Evaluation:
• Consider the overall experience, balancing positive and negative aspects. A balanced evaluation takes into account all elements, from preparation to tasting.

A scientific approach to coffee tasting

As in all competitions, in the case of the International Coffee Tasting, a candidacy phase is scheduled, during which different coffee producers send samples of their product and compete for the prestigious gold medal.

During the tasting, products, divided into various categories, are prepared by professional baristas and subjected to evaluations by coffee taster panels. Calibration, a first round of tastings aiming to verify the alignment of the panel’s evaluations and assess each coffee taster’s reliability, takes place. Sensory analysis is considered a scientific system where objective parameters are taken into account.

Therefore, maintaining the evaluation as rigorous as possible is crucial. Every coffee taster is not only chosen from those who have completed a specific training course and have already collaborated with the Institute but is also evaluated during the tasting based on characteristics such as the ability to discriminate between different samples, alignment with other judges, and consistency in the correct use of the evaluation scale.

To make the results even more objective, a significant innovation has been introduced this year. "Hedonic descriptors," pleasure-related judgments, are no longer considered along with objective parameters.

This reflects the intention to prioritize, concerning taste evaluations, the preferences of the end consumer for whom the product is intended. Among the evaluated descriptors are elements that can be uniquely assessed, such as the color and consistency of the crema (smooth, rough), olfactory intensity, body, acidity, and bitterness. Each descriptor is assigned a multiplier; each element contributes more or less significantly to the final tasting score.

Only the best products, those scoring above 85/100, finally receive the prestigious gold medal, a certification of high sensory quality based on extremely objective criteria.

An example is the Caffe Roen Extra Bar Blend, winner of the Gold Medal at the International Coffee Tasting 2023.

How much does a coffee taster earn?

The salary of a coffee taster in Europe can vary significantly based on various factors, reflecting economic and cultural differences between countries. Some key factors influencing the salary include:

1. Experience:
• Coffee tasters with extensive experience tend to have a higher salary. Experience can be gained through years of practice in the industry, participation in tasting competitions, or holding specialized certifications.

2. Geographical Region:
• Economic differences between European countries can influence the salary of coffee tasters. For example, countries with a higher cost of living may offer higher salaries compared to those with a lower cost of living.

3. Employment Sector:
• Coffee tasters can be employed in various areas, such as roasting companies, coffee producers, industry research institutes, or as independent consultants. The employment sector can impact the remuneration, with some specialized positions offering higher compensation.

4. Participation in Competitions:
• Coffee tasters who participate in and excel in coffee tasting competitions may enjoy a higher reputation, potentially translating into more lucrative job offers. Considering these factors, the salaries of coffee tasters in Europe can vary significantly.

In general, the salary range could be between €25,000 and €60,000 per year. However, it is essential to note that these are approximate figures, and actual numbers may vary based on individual circumstances.

Passion and dedication in the industry continue to be crucial elements in the long-term success and recognition of a coffee taster’s career.

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