Starbucks R&D Team Visits UC Davis Coffee Center

uc davis coffee center starbucks rd undergraduate lab
The Starbucks Global Ingredient and Processing Solution team sits in on a class in the undergraduate coffee lab during their visit to UC Davis on October 16. Photo: Noah Pflueger-Peters/UC Davis.

Three chemical engineers from Starbucks Coffee research and development visited the UC Davis Coffee Center for a tour led by Professor and Director William Ristenpart on Wednesday, October 16

The team toured the Coffee Center’s three facilities—the sensory lab at the Robert Mondavi Institute, the undergraduate coffee lab in Everson Hall and the Coffee Center building by Putah Creek—to learn about the center, its research and its vision for the future.

Visitors Kim Priest, Danielle Ayers and Kieran Murphy make up Starbucks’ Global Ingredient and Process Solutions team, a small but important branch of research and development that focuses on coffee processing and product development.

The team’s goals are to help manufacturers and baristas “unlock” complicated processes and methods to improve efficiency and sustainability, such as shortening the cold brewing process. The team also works closely with soluble coffee manufacturing plants.

The engineers started their tour at the sensory lab, where they talked with Ristenpart’s graduate student researchers about tasting panels and their research on soluble extraction and cold brew coffee.

“It’s so hard to find that data out there,” said Ayers, the team’s cold brew expert.

At the undergraduate coffee lab, the visitors sat in on a laboratory class and met Coffee Center co-director, Professor Tonya Kuhl.

“It’s so cool to see you all learning in a classroom what we basically had to teach ourselves,” Priest told the class. Ristenpart and Kuhl explained how the course worked and what the students were learning while showing off the Design of Coffee textbook the two co-wrote.

Finally, the team visited the Coffee Center building by the UC Davis arboretum. Though the building is still a work in progress, Ristenpart gave them some student-roasted coffee, led them on a tour of the facility and showed off each room while relaying his vision for a completed Coffee Center.

The Global Ingredient and Process Solution team is one of many visitors the Coffee Center gets on a near-weekly basis from across the coffee industry. The center hopes to use these visits to build momentum as it tries to do for coffee what UC Davis has already done for beer and wine.

uc davis coffee center starbucks rd visit
(Left to Right) Professor William Ristenpart of the UC Davis Coffee Center with Kim Priest, Kieran Murphy and Danielle Ayers in the Coffee Center’s pilot roastery. Photo: Noah Pflueger-Peters/UC Davis.