ISSpresso: Searching for the Perfect Cup of Coffee in the Final Frontier

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In space, no one can make you a good cup of espresso … until now.

In June 2013, just a week into his six-month mission aboard the International Space Station, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano famously said the only thing he missed was a good Italian espresso.

But very soon, astronauts abroad the ISS will be able to enjoy a cup of cafe-quality espresso thanks to Lavazza, purveyors of fine Italian coffee, and Agrotech, an Italian aerospace engineering company and space-food developer. Together, these two companies, along with with the Italian Space Agency, have been working for a few years to develop the first capsule-based espresso system created specifically for space travel. They call it the ISSpresso.

ISSpresso
Presenting the ISSpresso, an innovative zero-g espresso machine to help astronauts brew a perfect espresso in space.

The entire machine has been designed to withstand the rigors of operating in low-Earth orbit. Because it’s never a good idea to have scalding hot water floating around a space station, some modifications needed to made in order to deal with fluid dynamics that differ from what Earthbound coffee brewers experience. For instance, the plastic tubing found in standard capsule extraction machines had to be replaced with strong steel tubes that could handle liquids at high pressures and high temperatures.

Like many machines that go into space, the ISSpresso includes back-up systems of all the critical components for safety reasons—and because there’s nothing worse than having the espresso machine go down. As a result, the machine weighs just under 45 pounds (20 kilograms), about 15 pounds more than a typical Lavazza espresso machine.

Although its primary and most-anticipated purpose is to make a great espresso, the ISSpresso can also be used to make other hot beverages, like caffè lungo, tea, broth, and even hot water to rehdyrate food.

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy’s first female astronaut, will be bringing the ISSpresso with her on the forthcoming Futura mission, so she may very well be the first person to truly enjoy a good cup of coffee in space.

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