What the F is the Q (and how did our Roastmaster pass it on his first try?)?

Ever since the "third wave" crashed on the shores of the coffee industry at the turn of the 21st century and specialty coffee roasters proliferated around the world, the "Q" has become a common term lobbed around in conversation among coffee experts. It's short for CQI Q Arabica Course & Examination, and those who pass it earn the most prestigious credential for coffee cuppers: the Q Grader license

Developed by the Coffee Quality Institute, the Q is an eight-section coffee-grading course that ends with a 22-test exam. It's an intense, arduous week of sensory exertion, only attempted by advanced coffee professionalsLike the bar or the Certified Sommelier exam, it often inspires existential dread and sickness-inducing anxiety.  Some people practice the sensory identification test with homemade solutions for weeks prior. Some will only eat plain foods the entire week of the Q to avoid polluting their palates. There are only roughly 4000 licensed Q Graders worldwide, and not only is it extremely difficult, it's extremely rare to pass after only taking the course once. 

Specialty coffee is a young industry, so the Q certification process is still somewhat shrouded in mystery and spoken about with an air of fear and respect. Since our very own roastmaster Clyde Miller recently passed the Q on his first try, we sat down and picked his brain about it.

First, could you just talk a little bit about how you became our roastmaster?

I didn’t know anything about roasting when I started working for the company. A job opened up at the Irving Farm café in town, so I was doing sandwiches, soups, stuff like that. Then I started working at the Roastery part-time, taking care of the lawn, and I quit my construction job. That progressed into also roasting part-time, and I learned more and eventually became the full-time roaster.

How did you get interested in the science and craft of roasting?

For the first five years of working for the company, I didn’t drink coffee. Right before Dan [Streetman, Irving Farm’s green coffee buyer] was hired, in 2010, we started doing small-batch roasting and more in-depth roast profiles. And then I quit smoking and started drinking coffee. At that time, I didn’t know what cupping was—I had none of that knowledge. My version of “cupping” was brewing a pot of the profile roast and comparing it against the two or three others that I had. Everything I did was trial and error. If it worked it worked, if it didn’t it didn’t.

So you were teaching yourself?

Basically yes. I didn’t have any classes. Just trial and error, and memory.

When and how did you actually become interested in testing to become a Q grader?

This year. I thought of it as just another notch. Once the Irving Farm lab was SCAA-certified, and I knew that the Q course was coming up, I asked Dan if there was anything I needed to do to prepare and he said to take the Taster’s Pathway. So I did that.

Could you explain how the Q works?

This Q course was for Arabica coffee; they have a separate course for Robusta. It’s a couple of days of classes, with general quizzes at the end of each day, and then an exam at the end of the course. If you pass the exam, you get your license to grade coffee. The exam goes through cuppings of washed-milds, naturals, etc. and it really attunes you to what can be found in the coffee: what to look for when you cup coffee, how to spot defects, and how to use your scoresheets without being biased to certain coffees. They also teach you how to grade a 350-gram sample of green beans and pull out the defects within a short timeframe.

Did you do anything to prepare before you take the course? 

The Taster’s Pathway really helped out because the knowledge was fresh from that course. But that was it really.

How did you feel during the Q? 

I felt okay. At one point, Candice [Madison, Q Instructor & Grader] told me to calm down, but that was during the general knowledge section. Everything else was fine. I cup more coffee doing quality control than I did at the Q.

To pass, do you have to have a perfect score?

No. I don’t know if anybody’s ever gotten one! Not everybody passes it in their first week either.

Most people don’t right?

90% of people don’t.

Now that you’re a Q grader, are there certain responsibilities?

I’m just licensed to grade coffee now. I have a three-year license, and then after three years I have to do a recall. It’s not as extreme as the actual test, it’s just to make sure your senses are still on point, basically.

Why was it important for you to take and pass the Q?

It helped me out with quality control, and it taught me how to look closely at the green bean. Now I’m able to spot more defects. You don’t need to have taken the Q to do a cupping and grade coffee, but it helps. It helped me.

Did you think you were going to pass in the first week?



Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Coffee experiments in farming & processing, such as the Don Pancho Varieties (featured in the Edible Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide), as well as advanced brewing equipment like the one-of-a-kind Acaia Pearl scale, designed specially for coffee enthusiasts
Give the gift of gear, like the Kalita Wave, for the coffee lover who's ready to take it to the next level—or advanced coffee brewing classes at our SCAA-certified lab in Manhattan
Our bestselling Rainbow Crow tank (10% of proceeds donated to Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in NYC), along with a selection of our brightest & most complex coffees
At just $14.99, the OXO Pour-Over Coffee Maker coordinates brew time and regulates water flow over coffee for optimal extraction. Our sleek yet tough BAGGU reusable crow tote is machine washable, made of 100% ripstop nylon, holds up 50 lbs, and is only $12.00
Freshly-roasted and hassle-free, an Irving Farm coffee subscription is a reminder of love & warmth with every cup. Our gift cards can be bought for use in one of our award-winning New York cafés or online!

Irving Farm's Tips for Brewing Great Coffee at Home

home brew coffee

1. Grind fresh!
As soon as coffee is ground it starts to lose its more delicate, memorable flavors. Ideally, it’s best to grind coffee right before you brew. If not, store your ground coffee in an airtight container to extend its life.

2. Get your water hot!
Many of the delicious components of coffee only dissolve and release at temperatures around 200F. Bring water to a boil, then let it cool about 20 seconds off the boil. We aim to add water to the coffee when it’s around 205F.

3. Contact time
This varies for each brew method. A general rule is the larger the grind, the longer it should be in contact with water, and vice versa for smaller grinds.

4. Coffee to water ratio
Coffee brewing is all about ratios. The ratio that many people find enjoyable is 1 part coffee to 16 parts water.

5. Great tasting water = Great tasting coffee
Around 98% of brewed coffee is actually pure water. Filtered water is ideal.

6. Coffee, like all agricultural products, is seasonal.
Coffee is only harvested once, sometimes twice, per year depending on where it’s grown. Though it can be stored in its raw, dried state for up to a year we find it most delicious when consumed under 9 months.

Joshua Littlefield, former Irving Farm Director of Education, founder of the Great American Coffee Tour 


Learn more about our coffee education program, aimed at seasoned professionals and curious coffee enthusiasts alike!

Gold Cup Technician Program at Irving Farm

Irving Farm is proud to be offering the Gold Cup Technician + Foundations Program on September 8, 9, and 10th at our SCAA Campus in NYC. This program offers lead baristas, retail managers, café owners, wholesale representatives, and service technicians the opportunity to learn both basic and intermediate tasting and brewing methods. The three-day program includes:

- CP151 & CP152 Brewing & Extraction Principles & Application (9/8)

- GE103 Orientation to SCAA Cupping (9/8)

- CP158 Gold Cup Brewing (9/9)

- CP225 Brewing Approaches & Variation (9/9)

- EXM_GP1 Gold Cup Technician Practical Exam (9/10)

Students can expect to learn the basics of cupping, including evaluating the flavor and aroma of different coffees, how to use a refractometer to measure coffee, and how to dial-in a batch brew that's in alignment with SCAA Gold Cup guidelines (and tastes delicious!). We will also be teaching intermediate brewing techniques, such as bypass brewing.

*All students must also finish CP103, CB100, and EXM_GW1 online through the SCAA in order to receive their certificate of completion.

Reserve your spot here!


Beat The Heat: Make An Iced Pour-Over

Home Iced Pour-Over Coffee

It’s summer in the city, which means there's a throng of tourists in a hot, smelly garbage cloud following you everywhere, your "cozy" fifth-floor walkup doesn’t feel like such a great deal anymore, and the office A/C just broke on the hottest day of the year. The last thing you need to worry about is getting extra-sweaty carrying your thermos of hot coffee around! If our team at Irving Farm HQ can do anything to help improve your summer (while you’re not at one of our cafés), it’s offering you our failproof iced pour-over coffee method.

While many cafés offer batch cold-brewed coffee, we find that the nuance and acidity that’s naturally within each coffee bean shines brighter in an iced pour-over. We do our large-batch and hand-brew methods over ice because they result in the most flavorful cup of coffee, but it’s also the most convenient method for the at-home barista! If you didn’t prepare a cold brew batch the required 12 hours ahead of time and you need your caffeine kick now, here’s how to make an iced pour-over coffee using a standard pour-over cone and decanter. 


(scroll down for the at-home version)

1. Place 200g ice in the decanter.

2. Add 30g coffee (ground slightly finer than for a hot pour-over) in the filter.

3. Pour 60-70g hot water onto the coffee and allow to bloom for 1 min. Then slowly pour the rest of the water—about 130-140g. Total amount of water should be 200g.

4. Total brew time should be about 3 min 30 sec.

5. Swirl and pour over a glass of ice.



If you don't intend to use a scale to calibrate your daily coffee in grams, these directions aren't as painstakingly exact—but they're close enough!:

1. Place 8 or 9 ice cubes in the decanter (hot tip: a pint-sized mason jar, Pyrex pitcher, or regular ceramic mug will also work—as long at it's a vessel that's meant to withstand boiling water).

2. Add about 1/3 US cup coffee (ground slightly finer than for a hot pour-over) in the filter.

3. Pour about 60-70ml (about 1/3 US cup) hot water onto the coffee and allow to bloom for 1 min. Then slowly pour the rest of the water—about 130-140ml. Total amount of water should be 200ml—a little less than 1 US cup.

4. Total brew time should be about 3 min 30 sec.

5. Swirl and pour over a glass of ice...and enjoy!

Higher Learning with Irving Farm & the SCAA

It's been almost a year since we opened our new education & training space in Manhattan, affectionately known as The Loft. Last autumn, we proudly became the first Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Certified Lab in New York City and began offering a range of SCAA certification courses that are among the most advanced in the nation. Our next workshop is the Barista Pathway Level 2 Workshop on March 25 & 26, and below you'll find a list of all our currently scheduled SCAA classes for 2016. Take a moment to learn more about SCAA curriculum and how it has an important impact on the life of anyone looking to build a career in the coffee industry.

Certificate Basics

The SCAA Certificate programs are divided into Pathways: Foundations of CoffeeBarista, Roaster, Coffee Taster and Coffee Buyer. There are also Stewardship Programs like Gold Cup Technician and SCAA Lead Instructor.

What makes SCAA workshops different from other Irving Farm classes and training opportunities?

SCAA coursework teaches industry best practices without bias to any coffee company, equipment manufacturer, or personal preference. The courses are geared toward setting the industry standard and applying different techniques within the standard. SCAA coursework lays the foundation for any company-specific training.

Irving Farm offers intensive training for our retail staff and wholesale partners, as well as a range of classes that are open to the public. These classes, like most coffee classes you’ll find, give specific information and standards tailored to our coffees, equipment and policies. What we teach in these classes is adapted from the SCAA best practices to meet our specific needs.

What does an SCAA certificate do for you?

SCAA Educational Pathway programs are internationally recognized and respected as the premier source of industry knowledge, and the foundation of any great coffee professional's craft. Many companies state that they seek out and show hiring preference to professionals who are Pathway graduates. If you’re serious about a career in coffee, SCAA Pathways can prepare you for success!

Hot Tips
Did you know that Certified Baristas:

- Make $4,620 more annually according to the SCAA Compensation Report, and they're more likely to be salaried rather than paid hourly

- Receive more tips (and are less likely to rely on tips for compensation)

- Are more likely to receive paid time off—and get more of it!

- Are more likely to receive benefits like health insurance and access to professional development & events

- Are more likely to be managers or supervisors



    Why does it cost so much?

    The classes are definitely an investment—one that will pay for itself in less than 1 year of compensation increase—so even if we can all agree that the classes are a good value, they still cost quite a bit upfront.

    Consider this—if you took the entire Foundations + Barista Level 1 Pathway at SCAA Expo, the cost would be $1830 for non-members (or $1035 for members), not including the $195 fee for your Expo badge.

    We are offering the same group of classes at a significant discount: $1050 for non-members and $950 for members. We also provide breakfast and lunch each day for our students. And... it's a good excuse to immerse yourself in the rich coffee culture of NYC (not to mention all that other cultural stuff the city has to offer).

    - Class size is limited to 6 students per instruction

    - Each class has dedicated hands-on time with the instructors

    - Students use a variety of equipment in an independent setting

    - Students receive individual feedback based on their skill level

    - Students receive access to class materials and handouts



    I’ve already taken some classes for this bundle? Can I still attend?

    Yes! Just email and tell us which classes you need to take. We’ll get back to you with an adjusted registration fee based on the number of classes you want to attend.

    Who created the classes?

    The class content for all the Pathways has been developed by Subject Matter Experts over many years. Each Pathway is managed by a committee of dedicated volunteers who are leaders in their field. These SMEs work for all different types of member companies all over the United States and across the globe. Their shared experience spans many lifetimes in the coffee industry, and their knowledge base is vast. Classes are developed over decades and kept up-to-date by the Pathways committees.

    Who teaches these classes?

    All classes are taught by SCAA Lead Instructors under the guidance of an SCAA Specialized Instructor. At Irving Farm we have two SCAA Specialized Instructors and three SCAA Lead Instructors on staff.

    Dan Streetman, SCAA Specialized Instructor and Irving Farm VP of Green Buying
    Dan Streetman is the Vice President and Green Coffee Buyer of Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. He is a certified barista, roaster, cupper and coffee educator. Dan sits on the SCAA Barista Pathways Committee, Coffee Tasters' Pathways Committee and WCE Advisory Board. Dan's favorite part of working in coffee is facilitating learning. For fun, he likes to taste things.

    Sarah Leslie, SCAA Specialized Instructor and Irving Farm Wholesale Educator
    Sarah has nearly a decade of coffee experience. She holds the SCAA Specialized Instructor and Lead Examiner credential. She is a Level 1 and Level 2 Certificate Barista and a Gold Cup Technician. In addition to leading SCAA classes at Irving Farm and events around the country, Sarah leads Irving Farm’s wholesale and public education program. She serves as Vice Chair of the Barista Pathway Committee and is a member of the BGA Executive Council.

    Teresa von Fuchs, SCAA Lead Instructor and Irving Farm Director of Wholesale
    Teresa started as a barista back in 1994 and has over 20 years experience in the food and beverage industry. Since 2008, she has been nose deep in Specialty Coffee—working with the SCAA and the BGA on curriculum development and their growing certification program. She's judged many Barista Competitions and worked with some of the best cafes and restaurants in NYC in helping them make coffee as beautiful as the rest of their food and beverage programs. She's BGA Level 1 and 2 Certified, a Certified World Barista and Brewers Cup Judge, and an SCAA Lead Instructor. What gets her out of bed and to work everyday is her confidence that there's always something new for her to learn and share with others.  

    Bill McAllister, SCAA Lead Instructor and Irving Farm Director of Service
    Bill McAllister started moonlighting as a barista in 2010 while going to school for electrical engineering. He is BGA Level 1 Certified and an SCAA Lead Instructor. At Irving Farm he runs the Service Department and also regularly leads cuppings and wholesale training sessions. Much of his free time is spent playing with microbes, working as an assistant fabricator at a metal shop, and riding his bike. He has a dog named Cheddar.

    To learn more about all of our class offerings, simply visit our Eventbrite page where you'll find dates, descriptions and more. Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook! We'll see you in class.

    The Los Niños Experiments

    Los Ninos Experiments

    Irving Farm’s relationship with El Salvador’s Finca Talnamica and the Ortiz Herrera family has developed into one of our most fruitful, beginning in 2012 when Nena Méndez walked into our 79th Street cafe and noticed a black-and-white mural on the back wall depicting Guadalupe, a coffee farm from her homeland. She inquired about the photographer—who happened to be our Green Coffee Buyer, Dan Streetman—and invited him to visit her family farm on his next trip to El Salvador.

    Nena’s mother, Bessita, came from a lineage of Salvadoran coffee farmers dating back to the 1880s, and her father, Alfredo Ortiz Mancia, purchased Talnamica in the 1950s. Today the farm is owned and operated by Nena and her three siblings along with her husband, Hermann, and farm manager Don Hector Vides.

    Los Ninos Irving Farm

    The Los Niños Experiments came about when Nena & Hermann’s daughter, Mayita—a talented photographer who began working for Irving Farm in 2013 as a barista at our 79th Street cafe before transitioning to our wholesale team—suggested that we explore coffee processing by taking one harvest through four unique processing methods, representing the four Ortiz Herrera siblings: Nena, Freddie, Cecil & Carlos.

    The coffee is 100% Bourbon variety, grown at an altitude between 1360–1400 meters, and handpicked by 150 workers on the same day from the same part of the farm. The ripe cherry is brought to Talnamica’s award-winning partners at the Cuatro M coffee mill and that is where the experiments begin...

    EXPERIMENT #1: Natural Process The harvested coffee is run through the first stage of the wet mill where it’s cleaned of all debris, and the floaters are separated from the sinkers. This fruit, fully encased in its skin, is then placed in a mechanical dryer at a very low temperature for 60–70 hours.

    EXPERIMENT #2: Honey Process The coffee is sorted and de-pulped, removing the skin but leaving some sweet, sticky mucilage on the seed. This coffee is then spread onto a patio and left to dry in the sun.

    EXPERIMENT #3: Wild Honey Process This is the wild card, so to speak, and a processing method that is new for us and Finca Talnamica. The coffee is de-pulped and placed into fermentation tanks without water until the pH reaches 4.5, which can take 12–16 hours. This allows the remaining mucilage to slowly break down. The coffee is then spread onto a patio to dry in the sun.

    EXPERIMENT #4: Washed Process The coffee is de-pulped and left in the fermentation tanks overnight without water. The next morning it’s sent through the mechanical washer to remove any remaining mucilage and then spread onto a patio to sun-dry. This is a standard processing method and one that we might expect with this particular coffee.

    The Los Ninos

    It’s a special privilege to work directly with farmers on innovative techniques from planting to harvesting to processing, and we’re very fortunate that the people behind Finca Talnamica (including Mayita, who’s now part of Talnamica’s fifth generation of coffee growers) are so passionate about exploring new ideas. Their collaborative spirit has even extended to the creation of a horchata chocolate bar with Brooklyn’s Raaka Chocolate, and the harvesting of cascara (coffee cherry) specifically for wastED, an experimental pop-up restaurant by Dan Barber at Blue Hill in Manhattan that addressed food waste by transforming scraps and compost into delectable meals.

    The Los Ninos Experiments

    Irving Farm's Dan Streetman and Mayita Mendez

    We look forward to sharing these experiments with you. Come visit us in one of our five cafes, sign up for an Intro to Cupping & Tasting class at our Loft, or purchase all four experiments and create your own tasting lab at home! Hopefully this will be a delicious and surprising journey for our customers as you brew beyond the lingo on a coffee label and develop firsthand knowledge of how process affects flavor.

    Introducing Irving Farm's New Training Space: The Loft

    We've been dreaming about the launch of our new training & education facility for months, and now you're invited! Located just west of Union Square where the Flatiron District meets Chelsea, the Irving Farm Coffee Roasters Loft is open for business with a range of weekly classes for coffee professionals and hobbyists alike. Come in for an hour and learn how to unpack the complexities in the cup with our Intro to Coffee Cupping & Tasting, or sign up for a four-hour Barista Fundamentals intensive where you'll dive into the science and technique of espresso. In no time we'll have you pulling juicy shots and steaming luscious ribbons of milk. Visit our website to see the calendar of upcoming classes or go directly to Eventbrite to sign up. And now, take a quick tour... The Loft - Irving Farm 

    Featuring an assortment of La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli espresso machines, we have two labs that can open into one larger space, accommodating up to 20 people per class. Explore various brewing methods and test different grinders before investing in one for your home or office.

    Irving Farm - The Loft

    Our Green Coffee Buyer, Dan Streetman, oversees the Cupping Lab where he reviews sample roasts and new coffees in between worldwide travels to farms and mills.

    The Loft

    Every week we gather as a team to cup incoming beans and discuss our taste impressions and scores. Sign up for our Intro to Coffee Cupping & Tasting to discover some of our latest and greatest coffees while learning how to evaluate coffee like an industry professional.


    Crow spoons!

    Under the leadership of Joshua Littlefield, our Director of Education (and occasional photographer), all Irving Farm baristas are trained here in the art and science of brewing to ensure the highest quality presentation in our cafes. We also provide classes for our wholesale partners so that you’re getting the best cup possible anywhere Irving Farm coffee is served. Look—you can write on the invisible walls!Irving Farm Training Space

    Josh was taking a picture of many tiny boxes filled with pretty things that will delight you and provide an educated buzz.[/caption] Our class offerings have included the aforementioned Intro to Coffee Cupping & Tasting and Barista Fundamentals, plus Coffee Brewing Science, Advanced Espresso, and Latte Art & Workflow. If you're an experienced barista looking to practice your craft in a controlled, customer-free environment, reserve an Open Barista Jam Session. If you have an idea for a special event (anything from private tastings to teambuilding, book clubs to bachelorette parties) or would like to come in for a one-on-one tutorial, let us know by emailing We're dedicated to connecting with the community and getting the most out of this beautiful new space. Finally, we like to party. Join us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to keep abreast of our latest happenings. It could involve coffee + chocolate, coffee + booze, or coffee + you!



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