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Building a better cup of coffee


The brave new world of coffee? Think genetics.

UC Davis geneticist Juan Medrano is known for his research on the genetics of milk (and the effect it has on humans), but recently has turned his research efforts towards coffee.

The goal is to understand the variability of coffee genes at the DNA level. This would allow Medrano and others to accurately identify genetic forces that contribute to certain flavors as well as the crucial factor of disease resistance.

The key is to identify the gene regulators that are related to flavor and other qualities, such as how coffee feels in the mouth. Gene regulators are involved in controlling the expression of other genes.

Other variables, like altitude, can be crucial in coffee growing. Coffee flavor and aromas change significantly with changes in altitude, as temperature and microclimates vary greatly. The higher-altitude coffees are generally of better cupping quality, Medrano explains.

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