Engineering

Peet’s Coffee Pledges $250,000 to Advance Coffee Research

Gift Will Fund Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery in First-of-its-Kind Coffee Center

  • First university research center in the world to focus on post-harvest coffee
  • New Coffee Center will carry out research and teaching, collaborate with industry
  • Grew from popular engineering class, ‘Design of Coffee’

Peet’s Coffee announced a pledge of $250,000 to UC Davis on September 7, 2016, to fund the Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery, which will be located in a first-of-its-kind Coffee Center. The pioneering UC Davis center and pilot roastery will be devoted to post-harvest coffee research and engineering, an underrepresented field, and aims to be the leader in coffee science.

Associate professor William Ristenpart talks with UC Davis students Sabrina Perell and Kyle Phan about the taste of their brew during a “Design of Coffee” class in 2015. Photo credit: Gregory Urquiaga

Associate professor William Ristenpart talks with UC Davis students Sabrina Perell and Kyle Phan about the taste of their brew during a “Design of Coffee” class in 2015. Photo credit: Gregory Urquiaga

“With this gift, we are firmly following in Alfred Peet’s footsteps and maintaining his belief in mentorship,” said Doug Welsh, vice president for coffee, Peet’s Coffee. “By joining forces with UC Davis on the innovative Coffee Center and Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery, Peet’s and other partners will foster the next generation of coffee experts, encouraging unique research paths and roasting approaches that will have market-ready application and industrywide influence.”

Peet’s Coffee and UC Davis launch new era of coffee research

As the vanguard of the craft coffee movement, Peet’s has put “Coffee First” for 50 years by sourcing the world’s best beans, hand-roasting them in small batches, and creating distinct, handcrafted beverages.

Supporting UC Davis in establishing the Coffee Center and Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery is in keeping with the legacy of the original craft coffee company. The founding gift will enable UC Davis to establish the roastery — an important element within this innovative academic center.

“The Coffee Center will generate unparalleled teaching, research and collaborative opportunities for our students, scientists and engineers, as well as for industry partners and visitors from around the world,” said Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are proud that Peet’s Coffee is one of our founding partners in this bold initiative. We fully expect the center will do for coffee what the renowned UC Davis wine and brewing programs have accomplished on behalf of those industries.”

UC Davis coffee curriculum: Today and tomorrow

Bill Ristenpart, professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis, will direct the Coffee Center and Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery, sharing duties with two colleagues — Tonya Kuhl, professor of chemical engineering, and Jean-Xavier Guinard, professor and sensory scientist in the Department of Food Science and Technology.

The Coffee Center builds upon “Design of Coffee,” a popular course developed by Ristenpart and Kuhl in 2012 to better engage a diverse population of students and stoke excitement around coffee and engineering. The undergraduate class, now offered every quarter, enrolled more than 1,500 students during the 2015-16 academic school year. “Design of Coffee” was also voted the best course on campus in 2015 and has the highest enrollment of any elective course offered at UC Davis.

“We are extremely grateful to Peet’s Coffee for the company’s vision in supporting the Pilot Roastery,” said Ristenpart. “UC Davis already has tremendous expertise in a variety of disciplines that pertain to coffee, and now the Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery will provide a physical infrastructure to help focus that expertise on cutting-edge coffee science and education.”

Students in the UC Davis class, "Design of Coffee"

Students in the UC Davis class, “Design of Coffee”

As the Coffee Center will be the first multidisciplinary university research center in the nation and the world devoted to post-harvest studies of coffee, UC Davis expects to host large numbers of both undergraduate and graduate students eager to learn more about the art and science of coffee. The Coffee Center will also collaborate closely with the Specialty Coffee Association of America to support graduate research fellowships and to offer technical short courses aimed at people in the coffee industry.

In addition to offering opportunities for privately funded company research, public research released by the UC Davis Coffee Center will range from the microbiology of green coffee fermentation, to the chemistry of roasting and brewing, to sensory and consumer science. The center is the first step in establishing a Global Coffee Institute at UC Davis.

“This is an invitation to the entire coffee industry,” said Welsh. “It is about opening the door, but also about setting the bar for all of us to learn more together and advance the industry. Given how fundamental it is to our lives, we should invest in an understanding of coffee as profound as our enjoyment.”

Groundbreaking Coffee Center and Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery

The founding gift from Peet’s Coffee will enable UC Davis to help renovate a 6,000-square-foot building for the new Coffee Center. The one-story center will be located on the north side of the UC Davis Arboretum, in close proximity to the campus winery, pilot brewery and food-processing facilities at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

The former Advanced Materials Research Laboratory will be renovated into the Coffee Center at UC Davis.

The former Advanced Materials Research Laboratory will be renovated into the Coffee Center at UC Davis.

When fully equipped, the center will include the Peet’s Coffee Pilot Roastery, an experimental green-coffee storage facility, a sensory analysis laboratory, advanced analytical labs, as well as meeting and office space.

–Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service

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