The Science of Beer Brewing






B.R.E.W.E.R.S. = Brief Review and Experience With Engineering, Research, and Science.

The following articles were written as capstone research projects in BREWERS, a course built around researching, analyzing, designing, and implementing brewing methods with coffee and beer. The course was taught by MD/PhD student Orion Kiefer.

More specifically, the students researched and developed expertise in the chemistry, neuroscience, biology, physics, and mathematics of both coffee and beer.  These two drinks were selected by their exemplar status of integration of techniques, ideas, and technology across fields as diverse as, but not limited to, ergonomics, economics, neuroscience, chemistry, physics, and engineering.  The course was group driven, in a combined problem-based learning and engineering design environment.


Effect of Changes in Temperature and the Handling of Beer on Amount of Carbon Dioxide Released When Poured

How Does UV Exposure Affect Beer Taste?*

*Participants in the UV study were all members of the B.R.E.W.E.R.S. class and were of legal drinking age. The study was designed as a class activity and consequently is tremendously under-powered limiting its generalizability. The results are presented solely for a discussion of the chemistry behind UV light’s effect on beer as well as the classes’ observations on the effect on taste and smell. We consulted the Emory IRB and determined the study did not require formal approval to proceed.  


About Orion Kiefer

orion_newIt turns out that I hate “jumping hurdles”, “putting checks in the box”, and “playing the game”. Perhaps then it is no surprise that over the many, many years of undergraduate, then graduate, then medical, then graduate, and then medical education there have been times of absolute exasperation.  However, in retrospect all of that aggravation was a lot of wasted energy. As it turns out trying to change things by complaining about them gets you nowhere – everyone acknowledges the problem and, if pressed, agrees that it is a problem but little else will happen. In the arena of education, I often felt this way about coursework. It would appear my opinion is shared by many students and professors. It is not rare for students at all levels to just “get through” classes and “move on” with all the knowledge they gained drifting away over two or three weeks. Conversely, professors are often frustrated with the lackluster work of their students wondering “how they made it this far in life”.  As of late, it appears that decades of this attitude is finally striking home (perhaps powerpoint presentations were the last straw). Educators, academics, and private companies are driving a whole field involving “flipped classrooms”, “problem based learning” and “engaged learning”. Within this context, I decided to stop complaining and do something. I thought it would be interesting to develop a class solely around everyday features of our life.  The crux would be how these items could represent the intersection of science, engineering, and liberal arts.  With this idea in hand, I developed a course on coffee and beer brewing and consumption as part of the HHMI/STEP curriculum development workshop, which would culminate in a cross listed special topics course taught to 21 juniors and seniors.  Over the course of the class the students and I learned about everything from growing to cupping coffee. The first half of the semester culminated with the construction of custom coffee makers based on the science and engineering principles we learned (thanks to the Center for Faculty Development and their generous support). From there we moved onto grain and hop growing to get the ingredients for brewing different beer styles. The capstone for the course was an independent research project focused on some aspect of beer. The two papers included in this edition of EURJ, represent questions raised by the students of the class and the experiments they designed and conducted to draw conclusions. Whether this new class was successful is certainly a matter of opinion. I for one am proud of the work of the students and the work they produced.

Orion Keifer completed three Bachelor’s degrees with highest honors (Applied Biology, Applied Psychology, and Biomedical Engineering) at Georgia Institute of Technology. He then went on to study brain and cognitive science, earning a thesis Masters at Georgia Institute of Technology under the direction of Dr. Paul Corballis. From there he was accepted into the Emory MD/PhD program to study medicine and neuroscience. He is currently in his candidate year for earning his PhD in neuroscience studying under Dr. Kerry Ressler. Over his course of medical and graduate study he has both taught and served as a teaching assistant for numerous courses, advocated for graduate teaching through TATOO and ETTR, written numerous problems based learning cases and earned multiple teaching fellowships. He is a long time coffee aficionado and an avid home brewer.




1 comment

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve
    truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

    Feel free to surf to my blog post – seo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.