Wednesday, April 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Students learn engineering through coffee

Coffee1W

UC Davis students enjoy the hands-on nature of the "Design of Coffee" lab course. UC Davis/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | January 31, 2014 | Leave Comment

From a latte with friends to an all-night study session, students likely drink as much coffee as anyone. But this winter, UC Davis students are getting a new insight into their favorite hot drink through two new courses that use the roasting, processing and brewing of coffee to teach the principles of chemical engineering.

“From green bean to cup, the process of making coffee is all engineering,” said Tonya Kuhl, professor of chemical engineering and materials science and of biomedical engineering, who is co-organizing the course with professor Bill Ristenpart of the department of chemical engineering and materials science.

On a recent morning, the lab class air was rich with freshly roasted beans as students made careful measurements of the roasting and brewing process.

“All the operations that chemical engineers learn about are in the coffee process,” Ristenpart said. “Fluidized beds, mass transfer, vapor/liquid equilibrium, thermodynamics.”

Kuhl and Ristenpart hope the classes will engage students, teach them some basic principles of engineering, and give them a clearer idea of the problems engineers work on and the techniques that they use to solve them.

“A lot of people don’t really know what engineers do. But brewing coffee is tangible to everyone,” Kuhl said.

At the start of winter quarter, “Design of Coffee,” a general education course open to all students, had a full enrollment of 300 students with more on the waiting list. A second course, aimed at undergraduates majoring in chemical engineering and materials science, had enrolled another 170 students. Both courses are heavily oriented around lab classes.

For an English major like Inez Kaminsky, “Design of Coffee” is a way to fulfill general education requirements in science.

“It teaches a way of thinking, rather than a profession,” she said.

“I need the engineering and science credit, and I really like coffee,” said Ilse Atkinson, a first-year student majoring in political science. “After two lectures, I feel like I’m getting a new appreciation of it. The entire process is much more complex than I realized.”

The coffee courses grew out of hallway conversations about a need for more engineering lab classes earlier in the curriculum, Kuhl said. Typically, engineering majors get lectures on engineering topics, but up until senior year their practical classes are in subjects like physics and chemistry. More specialized engineering labs do not begin until senior year.

“The problem was, how to have a hands-on lab experience in engineering that does not take much time?” Ristenpart said.

Kuhl and Ristenpart started with a first-year seminar in spring quarter 2013. First-year seminars are small-group courses, specifically for freshman students, intended to introduce them to a wide range of topics. After the success of that course, Ristenpart and Kuhl went ahead with planning a full undergraduate program.

Students begin their lab studies by dismantling a coffeemaker to figure out how it works, then experiment with different techniques in roasting and brewing, measuring the chemical and physical changes involved. The course will end with a tasting competition: the object being to make the best-tasting cup of coffee from the same basic ingredients while using the least energy.

“We don’t want it to be a, ‘this is the way you do it’ class,” Kuhl said. “We want them to try different things, different methods and have an experimental design experience.”

Setup for the course included renovating and refitting lab space, and was made possible by support from several donors, including Chevron Inc., Melita and Boyd’s Coffee, as well as individual donors. These include John Wasson, a 1984 UCD alumnus and current president and chief operating officer of ICF International.

— UC Davis News

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    ‘Eco-Heroes’ help get us from here to there

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

     
     
    Home building up in March after frigid winter

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Davis elder-abuse case wraps up

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Alleged serial killings highlight GPS limits

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    CHP seeks owner of lost cash

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Family fiction in miniature showcased at bookstore event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Local professor subdues unruly man on flight

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

    Rotarians, students, teachers, parents collaborate on planter boxes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Yolo Crisis Nursery is in crisis; please help

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Seniors can get tips for getting around town

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    School has garden plots for rent

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Sugar overload, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Check out the night sky

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Hop to it: Easter Bunny meets Davis history tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Garden doctor: Veggie gardening available year-round

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Animal expert explains dogs’ thinking

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
     
    .

    Forum

    Still supporting this guy

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Urban forest under siege

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 5 Comments

    Drought care for our trees

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    UCD staff allows 19 hits in Causeway rout

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS softball struggles in nonleague outing

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils open Boras Classic by splitting games

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
     
    JV/frosh roundup: DHS sweeps a trio of baseball games

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: River Cats get by Grizzlies at Raley

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Giants beat L.A. in 12

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Sports briefs: Stanford sends Aggies home with a lacrosse loss

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

     
    .

    Arts

    Red Union Blue inks record deal

    By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Craft Center exhibit explores ‘Possibilities’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    RootStock to host wine themed plein aire exhibit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    The California Honeydrops to bring danceable groove to The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    See Flower Power exhibit at Gallery 625

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6