UC Davis Will Offer Classes Dedicated To The Science Of Coffee

Our understanding of coffee can often lean more toward alchemy than, say, actual chemistry. But that might be changing.

UC Davis Will Offer Classes Dedicated To The Science Of Coffee
[Image: Flickr user porschelinn]

Coffee is the lifeblood that powers much of the modern workforce. It keeps our brains lubricated and is generally considered good for our health when consumed within reason.


And yet, we still understand relatively little about the science behind it–its chemical composition, how it metabolizes in the body, etc. It’s oftentimes why brewing itself can lean more toward alchemy than, say, actual chemistry. Coffee is “actually the number one tracked food item,” Jawbone’s Travis Bogard told Fast Company recently. “Clearly, it’s something a lot of people are tracking.”

Which makes our current dearth of coffee-related research somewhat puzzling. But thankfully, the knowledge gap appears to be narrowing. NPR reports the University of California, Davis, opened a new “Coffee Center,” and is hosting its first research conference this week. Its goal is to bring “scientific inquiry to the quality, health, and sustainability of coffee.” It will offer students courses–full degrees won’t be available (yet)–across a range of topics, like:

  • Coffee genetics
  • Natural fermentation of coffee berries
  • Analytics of coffee composition, structure, and function
  • Sensory aspects of coffee
  • Coffee as potential prebiotic
  • Metabolic aspects of coffee consumption
  • Coffee engineering: optimizing processing, value, and sustainability
  • Education for undergraduates, graduate students, and industry
  • Social and cultural life of coffee

The idea originally started as a small seminar called the “Design of Coffee,” put together by two professors in the chemical engineering department, before ballooning. UC Davis already has programs in place concerned with the study of beer and winemaking; as J. Bruce German, director of the Foods for Health Institute at UC Davis told NPR, “There aren’t a lot of things that so many people consume several times a day, every day.”

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more