This gives new meaning to the term training lab.
Beginning this winter semester, the UC Davis Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science is offering a general education course called “ECM 1: The Design of Coffee,” created as “a non-mathematical introduction to how engineers approach and solve problems, as illustrated by the process of roasting and brewing coffee.”
The course, which grew out of a seminar that focused on the workings of a Mr. Coffee automatic drip brewer, will be run by Professors William Ristenpart and Tonya Kuhl, who will begin each class with a 50-minute lecture on a chemical engineering principle related to coffee. Students will be led through lab work involving only water and green coffee beans that test the effects of design choices on the sensory experience of coffees.
For the final project, students will be asked to roast and brew to create the best-tasting cup of black coffee possible — without the use of creams, sweeteners, etc. — and they will also keep track of the Joules of electrical energy used in the process. As judged by coffee experts, the best cup using the least amount of energy will win a grand prize in an Iron Chef-style throwdown.
The best part about this course? It comes from the course FAQ: The “Q” is “What if I don’t like coffee, do I have to drink it?” The answer is no, however, “One of the things you will learn in this class is that properly prepared, fresh roasted coffee can taste nothing like the bitter stuff you might have tasted before.”
For those students who are still not sold, here’s a promotional video: