Innovating for our future

From our morning cups of coffee to our essential health care routines, the daily aspects of our lives are being studied — and improved — by UC Davis graduate students.

These scholars are committed to taking the extra step in education and discovery, all while assisting their professors and teaching undergraduates.

With a boost from the funds provided by philanthropy, graduate students have even more opportunities to answer knotty questions, explore new avenues of research and make important contributions to their fields. Here is one such story:

Filling an essential knowledge gap of the coffee industry

Coffee roasting is a crucial step in manufacturing and selling coffee. However, the exact chemical and kinetic changes that occur to coffee beans during the process are still relatively unclear.

Anokye-Bempah uses a 5-kilo PROBAT Roaster to roast coffee beans.
Anokye-Bempah uses a 5-kilo PROBAT Roaster to roast coffee beans.

That’s why Laudia Anokye-Bempah, M.S. ’22, Ph.D. ’26 in biological systems engineering is working with experts at the UC Davis Coffee Center to create the industry’s first standardized coffee roasting chart.

“This work can be groundbreaking for the coffee industry,” said Anokye-Bempah. “Coffee roasting has been around for centuries, but it’s still not a clearly defined process. If we can provide this information to roasters it will make their work much simpler.”

There is currently no fixed roasting chart that companies can use to control the roasting process. The experiment, funded by PROBAT, Inc., will provide a standardized roasting chart that outlines the physical and chemical changes in the coffee beans throughout a roast process.

Anokye-Bempah is analyzing parameters like moisture content, color, titratable acidity and other chemical measurements to determine how coffee beans change throughout every step of roasting.

“If we understand what is happening during a roast, we will be able to control the process and outcomes,” she said. “We are working on a solution so that roasters obtain the coffee they desire.”

The Coffee Center at the College of Engineering is a donor-supported multidisciplinary research center to address the challenges and needs of the coffee industry and brings in scientists from around the world — including Anokye-Bempah, who came to study at UC Davis from her home country Ghana.

“It feels great to be a part of the team. We get invited to many conferences and people always recognize UC Davis and the work we do at the Coffee Center,” she said.

This article was originally featured in the fall 2022 issue of In Greater Focus, the magazine of the Expect Greater campaign published by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at UC Davis. 

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