Co-op student brews success in coffee and beer chemistry

Science, Co-op

- Julian Sketchley

UVic chemistry student Hannah Charnock experimenting with bean roasting at Smoke and Mirrors. Photo: Julian Sketchley.

Hot coffee and cool science make the perfect pair for fifth-year chemistry student Hannah Charnock. As the co-owner of local coffee roaster Smoke & Mirrors, she’s applying knowledge gained through co-op work terms in the beer and wine industries to create the perfect cup of coffee.

Charnock made her foray into the coffee business after gaining beer and wine chemistry experiences through co-op. She spent her first work term at Three Sisters Winery in the Okanagan as a viticulturist—cultivating grapes and assisting with quality-control testing in the lab. Her second work term was with local craft brewery Phillips as a beer chemistry researcher.

Inspired by the chemical side of the brewing process, Charnock pursued a directed studies course on an accelerated whiskey-aging technique, in collaboration with researchers at Phillips as well as UVic chemist Fraser Hof and Camosun College chemist Blair Surridge.

When Euan Thomson from Phillips suggested that he and Charnock apply these research principles to coffee, it led them to co-found Smoke & Mirrors Coffee Co.

Coffee chemistry, says Charnock, is all about extracting the best flavours from the beans and developing naturally sweeter coffee. “The quicker you cool the beans after roasting, the higher the sugar content and the sweeter the result. We’re developing a method for measuring this process right now.”

Fifth-year chemistry student Hannah Charnock describes her collaborative research on flavour optimization in coffee and beer.

Through Smoke & Mirrors, Charnock and Thompson want to do more than make an amazing cup of coffee.

“We’re doing this for the sake of science and having great coffee, but not necessarily to build the next Starbucks,” says Charnock. “We wanted to give back, so we’re donating half of our net profits to four local non-profit organizations.”

For Charnock, chemistry is about working with others to bring new and exciting ideas to life, so it’s no surprise that she founded UVic Women in Science, a networking community to connect women in STEM fields. Looking forward, she plans to build on her co-op experiences with a career in wine chemistry.

Chemistry is a challenging field but there's a whole network of amazing scientists willing to collaborate. It's like we're in this big symbiotic research world, and that's exciting.
Chemistry student Hannah Charnock



In this story

Keywords: student life, co-op, chemistry, business

People: Hannah Charnock

Publication: The Ring

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