Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

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F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S BACK TO SCHOOL: HOW THE INDUSTRY IS HELPING UC DAVIS BUILD A LEADING ACADEMIC PROGRAM FOR COFFEE RABBIT HOLES ARE COMMONPLACE in our modern specialty-coffee industry—as we hunger for information about how things tick, many of us conduct experiments and delve head- fi rst into learning as much as we can about our product. This has happened in part because of the enterprising and curious people who work in coffee, but also because we've had to fi nd this information on our own: Very little academic re- search has been conducted on coffee, and so there have been few resources from which to draw. That may be about to change, however, thanks to the exponential development of the coffee program at the University of California at Davis. In just six years, UC Davis' coffee program has grown from a one-course offering to a series of classes and more than 40 faculty members with expertise ranging from fermentation microbiol- ogy to sensory and consumer science. Soon, with the support of several coffee industry companies, UC Davis will renovate a 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building to serve as the home of its Coffee Center. It happened quickly, but this institution has already become a hotbed for the coffee industry, with the potential to play a key role in how we interact with, consume, and under- stand the product well into the future. UC Davis' coffee program took root in 2012 with the introduction of its Design of Coffee course, developed by chemical engineering pro- fessors William Ristenpart and Tonya Kuhl. The undergraduate course, which covered the prin- ciples and practices of coffee brewing, became a hit: Students voted it the best course on campus in 2016, and it currently has the highest enroll- ment of any elective course at UC Davis. The university then launched a "coffee initiative," bringing together faculty interested in researching coffee via a variety of academic sectors. For UC Davis, conducting leading-edge research focused on a craft beverage was familiar territory: The university's Robert Mondavi Institute is a sought-after program for the study of wine and food science that also includes a beer brewery. "We already have world-class wine and beer programs at Davis," says Professor Ristenpart, who is now director of the UC Davis Cof- fee Center. "Independent companies [such as Anheuser-Busch and winemaker Robert Mondavi] donated to get them off the ground, and now they're providing high-quality academic education." As the coffee initiative grew, UC Davis faculty looked for a place to house the center. Around this time, the Advanced Materials Re- search Laboratory opened up, and the coffee program saw an oppor- tunity to build out facilities for its program in an existing space. "We got the green light from the administration to work with the coffee industry to raise funds to renovate the building into a dedicated cen- ter for coffee research and education," says Professor Ristenpart. That's right—just as it did with its wine and beer programs, UC Davis called on industry companies for support in bringing to life the facilities to house the academic programs, and those with substantial donations would have a room in the Coffee Center named in their honor. Professor Ristenpart says the industry response was almost immediate. "We didn't even have to call anyone," he says. "They came to us." First to step forward was Northern California native Peet's Coffee, which pledged $250,000 in September 2016 to fund renovation of the building devoted to post-harvest coffee research and education, to be named the Peet's Coffee Pilot Roastery. Doug Welsh, Peet's vice pres- Top photo: The UC Davis Undergraduate Coff ee Lab is a 1,200-square-foot laboratory where students can explore engineering principles through roasting and brewing coff ee. Below, the UC Davis Coff ee Center building will soon be under rennovation to accommodate the university's growing multidisciplinary coff ee- research program. PHOTO BY REETA ASMAI/UC DAVIS PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH HODGE/UC DAVIS 22 barista magazine

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