Just like any hard-working professional, an astronaut can use a good cup of coffee first thing, which is why Lavazza has developed a new custom espresso machine for use in space, destined to find a home aboard the International Space Station.
The coffee machine, which is known as the ISSpresso (no, really) is a joint project between the Italian coffee company, Argotec, and the Italian Space Agency. Weighing in at a hefty 20 kilos, it will arrive aboard the ISS in November 2014, along with Italy's first female astronaut, Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti. But what, pray tell, is different about making espresso in space?
Actually, not as much as you might expect. First, the pressure required inside an espresso machine is high —between 8 and 10 bar— which gets astronauts living inside a highly expensive and sensitive satellite a little nervous. So, the plastic tubing that usually carries the steam has been replaced by a steel version capable of withstanding 400 bar. That should do. (Incidentally, the pressure aboard the ISS is equal to that on Earth, so it boils at the same temperature of 100°C.)
Elsewhere, the output from the machine obviously required some thought, too. Rather than spewing hot coffee into microgravity, the machine pumps the brew out into small plastic pouches, not dissimilar to something you might carry blood donations in. Sadly, that means the results will have to be sipped through a straw.
And how does it taste? Well, its flavour profile is dulled because it's impossible to smell the coffee that's being imbibed; the missing scent is a key component of tasting any food or drink. On the plus side, though, the espresso does at least pack an intense flavour even without smell, so it'll be better than the instant coffee currently in use. [WIRED]
Image by Lavazza