Emerging Trends in Coffee Processing


David Roche, Coffee Quality Institute Executive Director, will present Emerging Trends in Coffee Processing during the NCA 2018 Convention in New Orleans, March 15-17. (See the full list of educational breakout sessions.)

Here, he explains why the CQI’s work with coffee quality is increasingly relevant today, and what “Q Processing” means. 

There are many industry trends that are rapidly changing the quality of coffee, including new origins, genetics, sensory science, and especially coffee processing.

Coffee processing innovations have changed rapidly in recent years, and many “myths” are being broken. Advances in washed, naturals, honey, and other methods have contributed to a diversity of products and an opportunity for the producer to differentiate their coffee quality.

In fact, processing has the single most impact on quality differentiation and many origins have been experimenting commercially with these methods and applying science.

Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) is best known for providing technical expertise to coffee-producing countries, and for its flagship Q Coffee System, which has become the tool of the trade, allowing buyers and sellers to better articulate their needs and providing producers with a tool to increase competitiveness. There are over 5,000 Q graders worldwide. CQI’s programs train people in specialized skills, so they can influence and distinguish coffee cup attributes according to global standards. Independent of geographic, linguistic, or cultural barriers, buyers and sellers benefit from a shared understanding of product value linked to quality, allowing for more effective negotiations.

processing methods

As the coffee industry progresses, the role of processing in the creation of flavor and quality is increasingly being recognized and encouraged. CQI’s new Q Processing Program, launched 2017, is a progressive extension to the Q Grader Program.

The two programs are structured similarly: Q Processing certifies individuals in the critical stages of, and decisions that effect, post-harvest processing of coffee. The original Q Program address cupping and green grading skills to identity quality and communicate value.

Students of this program study and experiment on the variables connecting processing, flavor and quality. They learn skills to process coffee and deliberately influence the factors that determine value. There are three levels in the Q Processing Program:

  • Q Processing Generalist: Level 1 (two-day course) General lectures, group activities, and cuppings designed for coffee professionals who have little to no direct experience with processing (roasters, retailers, baristas).
  • Q Processing Professional: Level 2 (six-day course) Lectures, teamwork, and hands-on practice at an origin country during harvest season. Designed for coffee professionals who work regularly with post-harvest processing in order to deepen their theoretical knowledge, learn best practices, and gain hands-on experience with a quality control system.
  • Q Processing Expert: Level 3 (approximately one year) A curated literature review on processing; a six-day camp where students discuss processing topics in-depth, learn about experimental methods and how cupping can direct process-optimization, take tests, and design a harvest season project; a project in which the students aim to impact the cup flavor in a deliberate way, experimenting with processing protocols.

CQI is aligned with organizations such as NCA, SCA, AFCA, GCP, private companies, and in-country partners in coffee producing countries. We believe that is important for all players to align on unified technical knowledge and clear messages to help all links in the supply chain thrive.

Please visit the Coffee Quality Institute for more information, or check out the CQI’s breakout session “Emerging Trends in Coffee Processing” at the NCA 2018 Convention.

Photo credit: CQI

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