Mastering Le Nez du Cafe

The olfactory skills test given as apart of the Q-grader exam challenges students to properly match (not so much as to accurately identify) the aromatic samples from a collection known as Le Nez du Cafe.

The olfactory skills exam requires a passing score of 75% with 9 out of 12 correct, given across 4 tests, allocating 30 minutes to complete each one.  Tests are given and represented by each of the categories identified on the SCA Art of Aroma poster set, which are designed with quite a bit of science and logic, which I will not be getting into here.  On the other hand, you can find out more here (explains the SCAA Coffee Taster’s Wheel),  here (explains some science behind volatile aromatic compounds), and here (explains the Q-grading specifics to the testing).

You will need to spend roughly $600 to purchase two identical Le Nez du Cafe kits to conduct the tests in the fashion required by the Q-grading process.  Alternatively, you might be able to find one at your local specialty coffee roasting facility and ask to practice with one of their sets.  If you do, tackling all 36 aromatic vials at the same time can be daunting.  With that, I’ve come up with a strategy to help break down each group in manageable chunks, which allow you to organize and recall aromas in smaller sets.

These worksheets should be used as placemat settings, with each aroma vial positioned over the number which correlates to the vial number. It is highly recommended to either paint or cover each vial with black electrical tape to hide the number identification provided. (Don’t forget to mark the number on the bottom).  This will make the identification harder, as memorizing numbers and the color of the vial is much easier than identification of aromatics. But to start, I recommend using it as shown below, placing 3 vials on each test, for each placemat.  This requires 3 sheets to work through one category of aromatics.


Feel Free to Copy.

Le Nez Master Key

For the practice test sheets below, I suggest to continually mix up the order on these sheets, and have fun. 

Aromatic Taints

Sugar Browning

Dry Distillation



The World of Ratios: Coffee to Water

If you haven’t noticed yet, your standard coffee pot at home has a bunch of irrelevant numbers on the side of the glass carafe, claiming they represent “cups” of coffee in which the vessel holds.  With a quick Google search, you will find a wide variety of equations to help you figure out which measuring system they decided to use to sell the brewer to you.   Most often, they are not actually 8 ounces, which is a standard cup in the U.S.A.  Normally it’s actually somewhere between 4-6oz and they claim its a European thing. I don’t know.. I do know that the metric system is amazingly simple, based on the weight and volume of pure distilled water, and can easily be used when formulating a brew ratio. So yet another reason to ditch the standard system of measurement used by us Americans. It just doesn’t make sense. With that said, I’ve attached a PDF of a brewing chart that might help guide you in brewing up some coffee.  I’ve also considered brew strengths and preferences, along with a few comments about how brewing weaker coffee is better for the restaurant’s bottom line, and brewing thicker coffee is better for the roaster’s financials. In the end, a well balanced and brewed cup is probably better for everyone financially, in the long run. But we have a hard time thinking long term, as far as quality goes.  Anyhow, give the chart a look and tell me what you think. Thanks!

Brewing Chart 2019

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