ECH 1, The Design of Coffee


The Design of Coffee: An Engineering Approach  by W.D. Ristenpart and T.L. Kuhl (2015).

Learn the principles and practice of brewing a truly excellent cup of coffee, while earning course credit and also getting an introduction to chemical engineering: UCD undergraduates can do all this by enrolling in ECH 1 “The Design of Coffee”!

The Design of Coffee (ECH 1) provides a non-mathematical introduction to chemical engineering, as illustrated by the roasting and brewing of coffee. Hands-on coffee coffeeexperiments demonstrate key engineering principles, including material balances, chemical kinetics, mass transfer, fluid mechanics, conservation of energy, and colloidal phenomena. The experiments lead to an engineering design competition where contestants strive to make the best tasting coffee using the least amount of energy – a classic engineering optimization problem, but one that is both fun and tasty!

We first taught ECH 1 as a freshmen seminar in spring of 2013 to 18 students. The Design of Coffee is now the most popular non-required elective course on campus: we taught over 1,500 students during the 2015-2016 academic year.  (For comparison, U.C. Davis enrolls about 6000 freshmen every year.)  In spring 2016 the students voted The Design of Coffee as the best general education class on campus.

Each week begins with a 50 minute instructor-led discussion about a different chemical engineering principle, with a focus on how that principle is manifested in the production of coffee. We then go into the laboratory to perform experiments to test those engineering principles – and of course to taste the resulting coffee!  The core component of this class is in fact the weekly 2-hour lab session, where you will do experiments involving coffee.  (Note you can still take the class if your choice is decaf or if you don’t drink any sort of coffee).

What others are saying about ECH 1

The Specialty Coffee Chronicle: University of California Davis Coffee Lab Grand Opening (October 31, 2015)

ABC 10 Reports on Grand Re-Opening of Coffee Lab (October 23, 2015)

Good Day Sacramento: Major in Coffee (video part 1) (February 5, 2015)

and Studying the World of Java (video part 2)

UC Davis will offer classes dedicated to the science of coffee (March 14, 2014)

KRCA: Designer coffee at UC Davis has students buzzing (February 27, 2014)

The Sacramento Bee: UC Davis lures students to engineering with unusual draw: coffee (February 12, 2014)

Davis Enterprise: Students learning engineering through coffee (February 11, 2014)

CBS Sacramento: UC Davis Coffee Course Brewing Up Interest With Students, Faculty (February 4, 2014)

PE Magazine: Engineering the Perfect Cup (January/February 2014)

UC Davis News: Students learn engineering through coffee (January 30, 2014)

UC Davis College of Engineering: Coffee-brewing class teaches engineering skills (January 2014) Coffee is a good way to get students interested in engineering (December 22, 2013)

Daily Coffee News: College Students, You Should Probably Transfer to UC Davis Now (November 25, 2013)

Coffee Kind: UC Davis to Offer Coffee Brewing Class for College Credit (November 22, 2013)

The California Aggie: Coffee Brewing Class Offered Winter 2014 (November 21, 2013)