Brewed to Perfection
The most popular course at UC Davis teaches engineering students the scientific art of making coffee
It's a scorching summer morning at UC Davis, but inside a laboratory at Everson Hall, about 20 students are busy brewing hot cups of joe. Dozens of coffee makers are lined up close to each other on the counters, along with bags of whole coffee beans. The students carefully measure the ratio of roasted grounds to water, then start to brew, the tantalizing aroma of coffee filling the air. They sniff and sip their creations in tiny clear glass cups, some wincing if the taste is bitter while others nodding their approval. They've just completed a competition to brew the perfect cup of coffee — and earned college credits at the same time.
Coffee is a $225 billion industry in the U.S., providing 1.6 million jobs. According to the National Coffee Association, 64 percent of Americans drink coffee every day and average three cups a day. But are we growing, roasting and making the best cup possible for the estimated 1 billion coffee drinkers worldwide? That's what an innovative program at the UC Davis School of Chemical Engineering has been working on for the past 10 years.
When UC Davis started "The Design of Coffee" course in 2013, it was the first university in the U.S. offering such an elective. Now others are offering it, seeing and sharing the success of UCD.
"The Coffee Center is poised to do for coffee what UC Davis did for wine and beer; to become the leading source of scientific expertise in the study of coffee," says Professor William Ristenpart, director of the UC Davis Coffee Center.