Startup's mission to make the best coffee in space

Posted Jan 27, 2019 by Tim Sandle
What is the perfect cup of coffee? There will be different views in beans and water temperature. How about beans held microgravity and then roasted on orbital re-entry? This is what one intrepid startup is planning.
A cup of coffee at a cafe.
A cup of coffee at a cafe.
Making coffee is similar to rocket science, according to the ambitions of a new startup. This needs good beans, a rocket, microgravity and a lot of heat. To achieve microgravity (the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless) requires being in orbit around the Earth. Does this hold the clue to the perfect cup of coffee? This us something that Anders Cavallini and Harem Alkhafaji have been working on — constructing a rocket to host a a space capsule purely for the purpose of making perfect coffee.
The concept involves launching the rocket, detaching the capsule at around 200 kilometers above the Earth and then using the heat generated during re-entry to roast the coffee beans as the beans float inside a pressurized tank. So focused is the task that the space capsule has been named the Coffee Roasting capsule, as The Guardian has reported. As things stand, the rocket housing the capsule is on course to be launched in 2020.
The two developers, who have formed a startup appropriately named Space Roasters, are sure this process will deliver the perfect roast. They have outlined the process in a journal called Room ("Coffee roasting in space").
Their reasoning for the project is that, despite best efforts, most coffee beans are scorched on contact with hot surfaces, as inevitably occurs using conventional coffee bean roasting techniques. Their alternative concept is that the tumbling of coffee beans onto a heated surface will be avoided in a near zero gravity environment, where the beans are free floating. Moreover, the additional heat applied, at 360 degrees Celsius to the outside of the capsule (and a controlled 200 degrees Celsius inside), will be evenly distributed meaning each bean will be subjected to the same level of heat.
To realize the project, the two developers are in discussion with companies like Rocket Lab and Blue Origin. If the project is successful, the beans will no doubt sell for a premium (Cavallini and Alkhafaji have a retail space based in Dubai). The actual cost per cup has not yet been determined.
With the forthcoming trial, the aim is for the space capsule to carry some 309 kilograms of coffee beans, taking the art of making the perfect cup of coffee to new heights. However, this won't be the first space coffee. A Lavazza espresso machine (ISSpresso) was installed on the International Space Station in 2015. The first espresso coffee was drunk in space by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.