By Bryan Hay

Students in Prof. Joe Woo’s popular course about coffee turned into baristas Dec. 2 during the first FYS143 Coffee Showcase, steeping, brewing, and serving a range of roasts and varieties for a campus-wide audience.

Sourcing and roasting their own green beans, students broke into six teams to develop their own flavor profiles and offer samples in a tasting room set up in an Acopian Engineering Center classroom. Fragrant aromas of freshly roasted and brewed coffee filled the hallways, attracting students and faculty from across campus.

Judging the brews were Jennifer Murray and Joe Langdon, co-owners of ThreeBirds Coffee House, 226 Bushkill St., Easton, and President Nicole Farmer Hurd.

Lafayette College President Nicole Farmer Hurd samples coffee

President Hurd samples one of the brews during the FYS143 Coffee Showcase

FYS143 delves not only into the history of coffee but how its stimulating sensory experiences grind together to involve chemistry, engineering, and economics.

“I decided to create a long-form project based on what the students learned about the fundamentals of coffee, the history, and the flavors that go around it,” said Woo, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “They selected their own beans and went through the entire design process from start to finish.

“It gave them a little bit of ownership over a given product and really got them into the brass tacks and how things work,” he added.

Students at each station described the country of origin for each bean and the roast style, any added flavorings, and provided detailed tasting notes and samples. 

“Prof. Woo is a really good teacher. He teaches us a lot about coffee, the history of coffee. It’s a solid class,” said Max Skinner ’25, part of the team that prepared a Brazilian coffee with a fruity, nutty, and chocolatey flavor profile.

By demonstrating all of the equipment that’s involved in creating a memorable, satisfying brew, Woo helps students advance their understanding and appreciation of chemical engineering, Skinner noted.

Woo designed the showcase to be more collaborative than competitive, offering his students a complete coffee experience that capped off FYS143 like a dollop of frothy milk on a cappuccino.

President Nicole Farmer Hurd and Prof. Joe Woo, whose popular FYS about coffee inspired the FYS143 Coffee Showcase

President Nicole Farmer Hurd and Prof. Joe Woo, whose popular FYS about coffee inspired the FYS143 Coffee Showcase

Noting that it’s challenging to assess the characteristics of coffee because each one is so distinct, Langdon indicated his affinity for a light to medium roast served black. President Hurd described her enjoyment of a peppermint-flavored coffee and how it reminded her of the holiday season.

The student team that prepared a nonacidic Brazilian-Bali cold brew, with sweet chocolatey notes, topped with foamy oat milk took first place.

Categorized in: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Class of 2025, Faculty and Staff, Featured News, First-Year Seminar, News and Features
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