Math Moves Scientists Closer to Perfect Coffee

Coffee-maker companies will likely be paying attention
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2016 4:15 PM CST

(Newser) – One plus one equals … brew? Scientists out of Ireland's University of Limerick tapped into math and a computer model in their quest to come up with a cup of coffee that would satisfy even Twin Peaks' Special Agent Dale Cooper, the CBC reports. And while it was impossible to master every factor in the "hideously complicated" set of coffee-brewing variables, the researchers were able to make some inroads in the drip-coffee process in a study published in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics. Making the experiment challenging is that coffee comprises about 2,000 chemical compounds, the subjectivity of individual preferences, and the fact that each step of the brewing process can affect how the beverage turns out—from the water temperature and how fast it flows, to how densely it's packed and how long it's brewed.

And so the researchers concentrated on an easily measurable variable: the size of the grind. What they discovered is the larger the grounds, the better the hot water was able to flow in between them, minimizing bitterness. What you'll lose with that bigger grind, though, is the caffeine boost, as smaller grinds offer more of a wake-up wallop. Lead author Kevin Moroney also notes the ideal molecule extraction from a coffee bean is 20%. The researchers note it may be impossible for the average Joe to maximize his joe with this info, but they point out that coffee-machine makers are likely paying close attention to the math. "Our overall idea is to have a complete mathematical model of coffee brewing that you could use to design coffee machines, rather like we use a theory of fluid and solid mechanics to design racing cars," co-author William Lee tells the BBC. (The most potent cup of coffee you can buy.)

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