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Testing coffee beans and brews

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At the Coffee Quality Institute in Long Beach, coffee professonals from around the world are tested to obtain the “Q grader” certification. Here, Seu Pil Hoon, 32, of South Korea, participates in the sensory testing. Worldwide, there are 395 Q graders, 11 of them in Los Angeles. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) expects those it has certified to grade coffee consistently and objectively using its 100-point scale. Applicants must pass 22 sensory tests rating coffees by taste and smell. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
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Ted Lingle, executive director of the institute, says, “Individuals who cup and grade coffee in large measure determine the prices paid for the coffees they evaluate.” (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
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For the CQI exam, candidates assemble in a testing room for a battery of tests, including olfactory tests using the standard 36 vials of aromas. Test takers are asked to match like aromas, drawn from four aroma groups. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
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From left, Seu Pil Hoon, 32, of South Korea, Stephanie Backus, 31, of Portland and Mike Strumpf, 27, of Colorado put samples to the sniff test during the Q grader certification process. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
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Mike Strump sips a sample. In the section of the test called “cupping,” candidates simultaneously grade blind samples of five brewed coffees using the 100-point scale.

John Gozbekian of LA Mill in Alhambra, who has passed the test, says of the certification, “It doesn’t change the way we purchase, roast or blend coffee, but it validates our ability to taste coffee or buy it.” (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)
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