Lab Results

May 2019 View more

NCC senior Mackenzie Yates

The Boilerhouse café in Lawrence Activity Center has always been a great place to study and buy snacks and dorm essentials, but now it sells a fundamental product created by students: coffee. A ribbon cutting this month will celebrate North Central College’s 450-square-foot Coffee Lab, which was 14 years in the making.

Accounting professor Gerald Thalmann organized a trip in 2005 after students in the school’s Enactus entrepreneurial group wanted to make sure the claims made by indigenous growers of the Guatemalan coffee they were importing were accurate. Thalmann asked Matt Krystal, an associate professor of anthropology who did his dissertation field work in the country, to come along as a guide and interpreter.

The professors soon realized a connection with the growers was the perfect opportunity to provide students with interdisciplinary, experiential learning experiences. “As we moved along in this,” says Krystal, “we went from importing coffee to importing beans, and now we’re roasting coffee.”

Utilized by professors and students in a variety of disciplines—including engineering, chemistry, marketing, and sales—the Coffee Lab was made possible in part by manufacturers who donated lab equipment and supplies. “The roaster has the capacity to be linked to a laptop,” says Krystal. “Our students are doing really interesting things with the roast profile.”

The revenue generated by the whole-bean and ground coffee will fund future Enactus projects, furthering the group’s goal for students to create their own socially conscious businesses.

“For me,” says Krystal, “it’s a chance to do the main purpose of our field—enhance cross-cultural connections. Coffee gives us a way to study all kinds of stuff to make that field research productive as a community.”—MD

Photo courtesy North Central College