Okay, But How Do Astronauts Drink Coffee in Space?

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Coffee is no longer confined to our cozy cafes on Earth. Now, astronauts get their caffeine fix in the boundless void of space. In this definitive guide, we’ll dive deep into the universe of space coffee: from innovative brewing methods to astronauts’ favorites.

πŸš€ Key Takeaways

  • Brewing in microgravity is a unique challenge.
  • Astronauts rely on cutting-edge tech, like the ISSpresso machine and zero-g cups, for their morning brew.
  • On the International Space Station (ISS), coffee plays a pivotal role in crew morale.
  • The daily space coffee intake? About 2 cups per astronaut.

Brewing Coffee in Space

In the weightlessness of space, your average kitchen coffee maker just won’t cut it. Enter the ISSpresso machine, a space-worthy espresso maker designed specifically for those zero-gravity mornings.

The machine works by forcing high pressure water through coffee, similar to a standard espresso machine used on Earth. However, it has been modified to be able to handle the unique conditions of zero gravity and the vacuum of space.

Isspresso Machine
ISSpresso machine | By NASA – Source

The ISSpresso was designed to not only make coffee, but also tea, broth, and other hot beverages.

There’s also been some cosmic experimentation with pour-over brews using a syringe and a grounds pod. However, astronauts often gravitate (pun intended) towards instant freeze-dried coffee: just add hot water, and voilΓ !

πŸ›°οΈ Alternative Brewing Techniques

The astronauts on the ISS have been creative in finding alternative ways to get their caffeine fix while in microgravity. In addition to the ISSpresso machine, instant freeze-dried coffee, and pour-over brewing with a syringe and a grounds pod,1 there are several alternative methods:

  • Beer in Space: Using a vacuum-esque process, astronauts have brewed beer, achieving that sought-after carbonation.
  • Espresso Cake: A delightful treat baked using the same high-pressure system as the ISSpresso.
  • Cold Brew Concentrate: Coffee grounds sit in a unique device, slowly seeping flavors over hours2.
  • Low Oxygen Brewing (LODO): The Astrobrulosophy project ventured into LODO3 brewing.
  • Space-friendly French Press: A modified press with the aid of bungees and mini vacuums.

Drinking Coffee in Space

Thanks to zero-g cups, astronauts can savor the rich aroma of coffee. Pre-zero-g cups, it was all straws and bags, lacking any olfactory experience.

Zero-g cups, specially designed, allow astronauts to enjoy coffee’s aroma by directing the liquid via capillary flow. Before these cups’ invention, astronauts had limited options, drinking from straws in bags that lacked both smell and temperature control.

Zero-G Cup Designed By Donald Pettit
Zero-G cup designed by Donald Pettit

These cups, by harnessing capillary action, effectively deal with the tendency of liquids in microgravity to stick to surfaces. The absence of gravity tweaks the coffee’s profile. But according to the Italian Space Agency, the ISSpresso’s brew is simply out of this world, even with the altered crema.

“The Italian Space Agency commented that β€œthe heavenly aroma of espresso coffee in the decontaminated air of the ISS [International Space Station] created a unique atmosphere, and the effects of zero gravity could be noticed when the liquids settled. Even in these conditions, with the nuances it created, the taste of the espresso produced with ISSpresso exceeded all expectations.” – Some guy named Mario

What about cream and sugar?

For those wondering about cream and sugar: astronauts get bespoke blends, ensuring their coffee is just the way they like it. NASA has long recognized the importance of providing food that is nutritious as well as enjoyable for astronauts. They have done extensive research on space food and nutrition4.

An Astronaut Floating Away From His Starbucks Coffee In Outerspace
One small sip for man…

A Look at Consumption Stats

From the Apollo 11 crew’s first space brew to today’s ISSpresso delights, coffee’s become a staple for astronauts. And the evolution of brewing equipment reveals our commitment to improving their cosmic coffee experience.

Challenges Brewing Amongst the Stars

Space coffee isn’t all smooth sipping:

  • Safety: Equipment must operate without Earth’s gravitational containment.
  • Temperature: Space’s distinct heat properties affect brewing.
  • Cleaning: Traditional sinks? Nope. Innovative cleaning solutions? Yep.
  • Authenticity: Striving for that perfect cup, with aroma, crema, and temperature.
  • Logistics: Shipping and storing special blends for lengthy missions.

Brewspiration for Earthlings

Want a coffee experience that’s out of this world without leaving Earth?

Here’s to brewing, whether on Earth or amongst the stars! πŸŒŒπŸš€πŸ΅

To Conclude

The infinite expanse of space doesn’t stop our astronauts from enjoying a comforting cup of joe. As space exploration expands, so will our space coffee tech, ensuring every astronaut feels a touch of home.

  1. https://currentprotocols.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cpmc.91 β†©οΈŽ
  2. https://coffeeadastra.com/blog/ β†©οΈŽ
  3. https://brulosophy.com/2017/04/10/the-lodo-effect-evaluating-the-low-oxygen-brewing-method-exbeeriment-results/ β†©οΈŽ
  4. https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/143163main_Space.Food.and.Nutrition.pdf β†©οΈŽ
  5. https://www.etsy.com/market/astronaut_planner β†©οΈŽ
Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.