Wilbur Curtis Invests in Coffee’s Future With UC Davis Coffee Center Partnership

The company’s $250,000 gift will help fund the renovation of the UC Davis Coffee Center and create an outdoor event space at the facility.


Photos courtesy of UC Davis

Coffee-brewing equipment maker Wilbur Curtis Co. made a significant contribution to institutional learning about coffee this week when it pledged $250,000 to the University of California, Davis to help support the expansion of Davis’ Coffee Center.

Wilbur Curtis announced that it will invest $250,000 to expand the UC Davis Coffee Center.

UC Davis has been a pioneering institution in coffee education, complementing the university’s wine and beer academic programs. In 2014, Davis launched a “coffee initiative” pooling the expertise of its faculty interested in coffee, and launched an undergraduate course titled “The Design of Coffee” that covers the principles and practice of coffee brewing.

Now with its Coffee Center, UC Davis will offer “the first multidisciplinary university research center in the world devoted to post-harvest research of coffee,” according to a press release published this week on Curtis’ website. UC Davis’ goal will be elevating the coffee industry through the application of an academic framework studying coffee science. “They’ve done so much for other craft beverages—wine with the Mondavi Institute, and craft beer,” says Brant Curtis, Wilbur Curtis Co.’s director of communication and innovation. “It made complete sense to us that coffee would and should be next, and we wanted to help that happen.”

UC Davis plans to offer more courses geared at applying an academic lens to the study of coffee and the professionalization of the specialty-coffee industry.

All this will take place at the Coffee Center Building. Originally constructed in 2006, the 6,000-square-foot building—which has also been supported by Peet’s Coffee—will be renovated to include a pilot roastery, an experimental green bean storage facility, advanced analytical laboratories, a sensory analysis lab, and classrooms and office space.

This pledge follows other large donations from other coffee giants like Peet’s to expand the current Coffee Center’s facilities and resources.

Brant Curtis says the expanded facility will offer untold possibilities to learn more about coffee. “After my brother [Patrick Curtis] and I toured the campus at UC Davis with Dr. [William] Ristenpart [director of the UC Davis Coffee Center] and team, we realized that if the Coffee Center becomes fully funded, it has the possibility to dive deeper into the science of post- harvest coffee than we’ve ever been able to before. We’re super excited for the possibilities.”

The creation of the Coffee Center, which follows a craft beer and wine program at UC Davis, will include a test roastery and a sensory analysis lab.

Wilbur Curtis Co. has been supporting the growth of the coffee industry since its founding in 1941, and the company sees the $250,000 gift as both an important contribution to coffee’s future and a continuation of the company’s legacy. Brant Curtis says that the June 2016 passing of his grandfather—who worked at Curtis for more than 55 years—spurred the company to think harder about how it gives back to the industry. “We wanted to continue his legacy of giving back to his community and the industry with this gift,” Brant says. “Although we have been continuous supporters of various nonprofits and academic institutions (Grounds for Health and World Coffee Research), we felt as though this was a perfect opportunity to truly advance the academic and scientific aspects of coffee.”

Wilbur Curtis Co.’s support of the UC Davis Coffee Center is the company’s first-ever donation to a major academic institution.

Curtis’ contribution will also lead to the creation of an outdoor patio space that will be named in the company’s honor. “The generous donation from Curtis will help us construct an outdoor patio that will open up to the sensory analysis lab, allowing us to host cuppings and other social events for students and visitors from the coffee industry,” says William Ristenpart, director of the UC Davis Coffee Center. “We are extremely grateful to Curtis for their vision in supporting the future of coffee science and education.”

Brant Curtis says Wilbur Curtis Co. is proud to support the Davis renovation, and hopes that other companies in the industry will also back the institution’s coffee endeavorIt’s important for companies like ours that have the means of giving back to the industry—which has given so much to us—to do so,” he says, “to help make sure it’s successful in the coming decades.”

To learn more about the UC Davis Coffee Center, visit the university’s website here.

About Chris Ryan 261 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.