Texas A&M brewing up nation’s first academic coffee certificate program

The coursework grounds students in the techniques that blend together to give the perfect cup of joe its flavor.

By Shelly Brisbin & Adam RegaladoJune 24, 2024 10:53 am, ,

College and coffee – two things that often go hand in hand. Those caffeinated cups of joe help many students fuel those all-night study sessions or cram for big exams. We all know about that.

Now, for the first time in the U.S., students can get an academic coffee certificate.

Earlier this month, Texas A&M announced it will begin offering the coffee processing and quality certificate. It’s designed to prepare students to work in the rapidly expanding coffee industry.

Mian Riaz, director of the Extrusion Technology Program and associate head of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Texas A&M, joined the Standard to talk about the program. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

The “Extrusion Technology Program”… I had no idea such a program existed. What exactly do you do, by the way?

Mian Riaz: Well, in this program basically I teach students how to process different snack foods. Also, pet food and some other kinds of processing technology, in which we teach students how to process different kinds of food.

I understand that Texas A&M is the first U.S. university to offer an academic certificate in coffee. What prompted A&M to start this program?

Well, we have here at the Texas A&M Center for Coffee Research and Education where we’ve been helping a lot of coffee growers to improve their quality in the field. But then we realized that we also need to teach students about how to process different coffee, how to develop different flavors.

Therefore, we started a program here at the Department of Food Science that will offer this certificate, where students take some classes and then they’ll be an expert, kind of, in coffee so that when they go into the field, they can find better job opportunities for these guys. They will have some certificate and they have taken some classes.

Is there a prerequisite for this? Do you already have to have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree to get this certificate?

As long as you are a student of Texas A&M University, you can take this course.

There are requirement for 4 or 5 courses – total 15 credit hours there if you complete that one. Most of the full time students take most of the courses. Therefore, if they take all these courses, they will be getting a certificate which can help them to finding a job.

Now, I have to ask, what sort of coursework is involved in getting this certificate? What do you have to take?

Well basically, one will be a sensory evaluation where students will learn how to differently evaluate different kinds of food in the lab. We also have a course where we talk about coffee processing, where we talk about growing, harvesting, roasting, all different kinds of classes there.

We also have a course on food safety where students learn about the safety of the coffee during processing. And we also have a course which talks about health benefits and the different flavors – “How do you create different flavors?” and “what’s the health benefits of this coffee?”

Therefore all the courses are in order. They exist in the Department of Food Science as students just take these classes in sequence so that they can get a coffee certificate.

So, once you’re certified, does this mean that you are qualified to brew the perfect cup of joe? I mean, are you good to go?

Well, this is like any degree. Like, if you got a degree from food science or any other degree, this will be an additional credential. Like you have, you know, a certificate so that when you apply for a job somewhere students can say, “by the way, I do have a certificate in the coffee processing.”

And hopefully we’re not talking about more baristas. We’re talking about something more involved deeper into the chain.

That’s right. It’s like, all the coffee shops everywhere here, people can learn about different techniques, roasting and all that.

They basically enhance their resume and enhance their experience to find any job, not only in the coffee industry, but maybe coffee-related things that go to the other food industry, like where you use ice cream and you’re making some coffee-flavored ice cream or you’re making any other kinds of snacks where you’re adding some coffee into it.

Therefore, all that helps them to understand that coffee flavor – what does it take to coffee flavor to develop the taste – and so they’re developing different food products.

Well, would it be unfair for me to ask you what makes the perfect cup of coffee?

There’s a lot of different things.

First of all, you have to have good quality beans, of course. And then roasting is the most important, where you roast them different.

And then you blend different kinds of coffee, because blending is one of the techniques where people try to blend all different kinds of coffee to create a unique flavor. Therefore, this is the one that will make your best coffee when you have the best blend.

And then of course, the roasting – how you roast it and that creates different flavors. And that’s when you can say that is the best coffee you want.

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