Sun, 8 January 2017
"The more we understand, the more rational we are and the more courageous we can be."
In this conversation with Prof. Dr. Chahan Yeretzian, a Syrian born Armenian physical chemist based out Switzerland, we dive deep into where the arenas of science, academia, industry, culture, and coffee meet.
From the advice he gives his students to why undergrads can't make good enough coffee, to the religion of freshness, this is a fascinating dive into a different world.
The elements of quality, the translation between measurements and sensory experience, the way that coffee is a cross cultural experience; all these and more are part of Chahan's world.
What will you hear if you listen in? I'm going to try something new, and just include the notes I typed down while editing. Please comment if these are useful, or email me if you'd rather I do your thinking for you.
Notes from a convo with Chahan:
Plenty of mysteries to solve in coffee.
“At the base, good coffee is a sensory experience.”
Sensory profiling vs Q grading .
What he likes (intensity, strong body, aroma), very taken with smells.
“One element of quality is consistency.”
A big field is predicting specific sensory attributes based on objective measurements.
“Fresh had become a religion, but not an understanding.”
The problem is that a lot of people still serve horrible coffee in the industry.
Practical and hands on experience that comes from work in industry vs academia.
“You go into Origin countries and you’re learning cultures [based] around your product, coffee.
“Coffee is a peace building product, a trust building event.”
Soluble or instant coffee, Sudden Coffee.
Q grading coffee.
Q grader and co-worker Marco Wellinger.
Q grader Gloria Pedroza.
Coffee shows the connectivity of the world.
A very important quality of roasting is…consistency, that you’re able to reproduce what you’re doing.
“How does the mineral content of the water affect extraction or flavor profile? We’re still scratching on the surface [of coffee].”
We’re looking into how CO2 affects storage, freshness, formation of crema, flavor, acidity notes; it’s like taking one small molecule and trying to get a more rational understanding [of it’s impact.]
Creativity based in understanding. Knowledge is freedom and helps people explore new facets of coffee.
“Coffee is just as much art as science.”
Mold & mycotoxins in coffee?
The three ways Chahan makes coffee:
-high dollar semi-automatic coffee machines via coffee experts
-filter (hand brewed, freshly ground)
-Single serve capsule
“At home I do filter coffee. I had a professional machine, but it takes too much space.”
What I don’t do is French press. Sometimes I do soluble coffee, sometimes I mix it with Nespresso.
The research that we do is quite high level, so to do good research on coffee, you can not just rely on undergrads.
[The people who make most of the coffee I drink are] highly experienced scientists and also very good in coffee preparation besides being scientists.
“How do you roast to increase sweetness, or fruitiness, or a particular flavor note? We have some understanding, but it’s far too little to have any control over the roasting process.”
Advice to students: Looking over the borders of where we are.
Traveling is vital.
Moving between academia and industry and the importance of experiencing both worlds.
Academia needs people who have industry experience.
The path from Knowledge - Execution - Community
Armenian from Aleppo.
Armenians have a strong feeling of community and family, strong drive to perform, we are pushed to be the best.
A lot of unconditional love from parents.
The importance of being competent before you do benevolent work. If you don’t have the competence then you’re wasting your time being benevolent.
Further interests: indoor air quality, wine, oakwood aging, 2 kids who are 21 months old.
How complexity evolves in our world and how it’s related to self-organization, how life appeared on the planet.
Aspect of self organizing complex systems.
Tue, 26 May 2015
Greg Skomal is the classic adventurous scientist; driven to discover all he can about his subject and willing to go anywhere to slake his thirst for knowledge.
"Not all science is boring."
He is the Senior Scientist at the Massachusetts Shark Research Program and works closely with both the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and OCEARCH to study Great White Sharks. He literally wrote the book on sharks (The Shark Handbook) and is very enthusiastic about translating the science literature for the lay public to learn about and enjoy this fascinating family of animals.
“It’s one thing to really like sharks, it’s another thing to really study them. I think it’s great to love Shark Week, but that doesn’t make you a scientist.”
Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, an awful long time to perfect the glorious evolution evident in every sweep of their tail and gnash of teeth, and in this podcast Greg shares his fascination with this most amazing of creatures along with stories of his experiences diving with sharks in the Arctic, the Caribbean, and Pacific.
Studying sharks has shaped Greg's world, and he talks about how the science has shifted dramatically from only being able to access dead sharks to now being able to track in real time the peregrinations and through that the individual personalities of one of the most well traveled species on the planet, the Great White Shark.
“A good scientist needs commitment, curiosity, and passion for their subject."
Greg talks about the importance of shark scientists and shark aficionados, what it takes to make a difference, and how you can help sharks tremendously from either path. Enjoy!