Coffee Roasters Guild Sensory Summit

Coffee Roasters Guild Sensory Summit

We recently returned from our second trip to the Coffee Roasters Guild Sensory Summit held at UC Davis. Each year the Specialty Coffee Association, the Coffee Roasters Guild, and UC Davis partner to create this excellent event that is focused on exploring topics throughout the sensory sciences. While many disciplines were covered in depth, there were four topics that had the largest impact on us.

Variety Trial

Hanna Neuschwander from World Coffee Research provided an in-depth update on the WCR’s International Multilocation Variety Trial. The ultimate goal of this trial is to provide each coffee-producing country the information necessary to select the ideal varieties for their individual conditions. WCR has planted 31 varieties on test farms in 23 countries. Each country has at least one experimental facility, with many having up to three sites. The seeds have been distributed from cloned plants to ensure that all the trees have the exact same genetic makeup. Throughout the experiment, data is collected on the site's environment, climate, agronomic performance, production, and quality. We were shown how the early growth of a variety developed for Eastern Africa had significantly faster early growth in its native environment compared to a Central American test site. Early growth is an indicator of the likely end-production of a variety. It is exciting to see the first fruits of the work WCR has been developing over the past few years come out as useable data. The most eye-opening quote of the week was Hanna’s statement that it is very likely that no coffee production country is currently growing their ideal variety. Coffee was distributed as a commodity crop and producers used what they were given. The goal of this study is to lead to better production and crop resilience, leading to a more sustainable future for the coffee industry worldwide, focused primarily at the farm level.

Hanna Neuschwander, Director of Communications, World Coffee Research
Hanna Neuschwander, Director of Communications, World Coffee Research


Fabiana Carvalho from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, presented on Multisensory Flavor Perception. She has taken her years of studying multisensory perception and recently began focusing on its effect on coffee. Her presentation covered the many ways our other senses affect the flavor experience. From her personal studies with trained coffee tasters, she shared how the color or shape of a cup changed the way professional coffee tasters scored the same coffee. We were able to experience this ourselves through sound. Although we knew we were scoring the same coffee, hearing different audio tracks caused us to perceive significant differences in multiple flavor categories.

Extraction - Divisions and New Chart

William Ristenpart, Director of the UC Davis Coffee Center, and his students have been extensively studying multiple factors of coffee extraction. The research they are doing is opening up new ways of thinking around the narrow rules the coffee world has handled extraction. He pointed out that the extraction chart used today by most coffee professionals was developed prior to the creation of modern drip brewers, raising the question of why we still use that chart today. The future direction of his research is opening many fascinating doors.

Other Industries' Parallel Skills

Some of my personal favorite experiences, at the two Sensory Summits we have attended, are the opportunities to hear from professionals in other food and beverage industries. This year Barbara Lindblom, a consulting winemaker, presented on blending wines. Creating an individual wine blend and being able to taste other expressions of the same elements was a great opening to the weekend. While Karen Cogan, from Dandelion Chocolate, created handmade bars for us to experience the effect of roast profiling on chocolate. It was also enlightening to see the effect of roast on Cacao beans, even though that industry approaches it in a very different manner.

Thank you to everyone involved in creating this wonderful event. We look forward to returning and seeing this event continue to grow.