NASA/AP
NASA/AP

Funky Cups Allow Astronauts to Sip Espresso in Space

NASA/AP
NASA/AP

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti came aboard the International Space Station, she brought a whole new experience to microgravity: espresso. She became the first astronaut to sip espresso made with the ISSpresso, a custom-crafted space beverage machine designed by the Italian Space Agency, the coffee company Lavazza, and Argotec, a tech manufacturer. 

Instead of drinking it out of a bag with a straw like other space beverages, this space-spresso involves 3D-printed cups that use surface tension to control the liquid. A group of researchers from NASA Johnson Space Center, Portland State University, and the Japanese space agency are presenting data on how these Space Cups have fared in their first few months of what’s called the Capillary Beverage Experiment at the American Physical Society’s annual fluid dynamics meeting this week in Boston. 

According to the research team, many of the astronauts have been most excited about the smell, which is much more aromatic than the residents of the ISS experience from drinking through a straw. "This is eerily like drinking on Earth," as one astronaut commented. 

Mark Weislogel of Portland State University explained the problems baristas in space face in a blog for NASA earlier this year:

In a normal cup of espresso, carbon dioxide bubbles release and collect to form a crema. Some of the bubbles adhere to the walls of the cup, while the remainder rise and stratify due to their size in layers we refer to as foam. Steam rises above the surface of the crema in part condensing in an advancing front on the inside surfaces of the cup. The cup cools by natural convection and the aromatics waft at rates determined by buoyancy. These processes are completely induced by gravity!

With the Space Cup, touching your lips to the cup creates a capillary connection that’s similar to the one that allows a paper towel to soak up water, wicking the liquid into your mouth. In microgravity, liquids naturally flow along narrow corners, so the cup has a sharp interior corner that guides the espresso toward the mouth. 

The fluid dynamics research that comes out of astronauts drinking from these Space Cups might eventually guide how other fluid systems—like fuel or water stores—are designed for the ISS. 

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Broccoli Coffee Is Here
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iStock

First there were Starbucks’s unicorn frappuccinos. Then there were bone broth lattes. Could broccoli coffee be the next brewing trend?

Australia’s main scientific research agency, CSIRO, thinks it's possible. As reported by Mashable, the organization worked with research and development corporation Hort Innovation to create a nutrient-rich broccoli powder that can be added to recipes for an extra dose of protein and fiber.

Considering that two spoonfuls are equal to one serving of vegetables, the foodstuff could be beneficial to children—and adults—who recoil at the sight of leafy greens. It still tastes like broccoli, but the flavor can be masked by adding it to other foods and drinks, including coffee.

Commonfolk Coffee, a cafe in Mornington, Australia, gave it a go and whipped up a “broccolatte” for brave customers to sample. The beverage was met with some trepidation, with one customer telling local TV station 9 News, “It’s freaky. It shouldn’t be green,” and another describing it as “green milky mush.” Another said she was happy to be making her morning coffee more nutritious.

For those who think greens and caffeine simply don’t mix, CSIRO has a few other suggestions. Instead, try adding the broccoli powder to fruit-based smoothies, soups, and veggie dips (any of these recipes will do the trick). Researchers even used it to create a cheese puff snack that was apparently popular with kids.

The powder is good for you, and it’s also good for farmers, who now have a way to use up unshapely broccoli considered too ugly to sell. The heads of broccoli are dried out and crushed into a powder while retaining the taste, color, and nutrients of the vegetable. This product is part of a larger project to cut down on food waste by creating new products from unwanted produce.

Check out footage of Commonfolk's broccolatte from 9 News below.

[h/t Mashable]

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How You Act at Starbucks Might Reflect Your Ancestors' Farming Style
Greg Baker, AFP/Getty Images
Greg Baker, AFP/Getty Images

What you do in Starbucks may be linked to more than just your personal coffee preferences. As Science reports, a new study on coffee-shop behavior in different parts of China indicates that farming practices that date back generations still influence how people behave in public. It found that in regions where agriculture traditionally focused on wheat, people were much more likely to be sitting alone at coffee shops compared to people in areas where rice was the dominant crop.

The study, in Science Advances, sounds kind of crazy at first: What my great-grandfather farmed has nothing to do with how I drink my latte, surely. But the design of the study, which involved observing almost 9000 people at 256 coffee shops in six different Chinese cities, is a surprisingly clever way for scientists to observe cultural differences in the real world, researchers who weren't involved in the study told Science.

The study's authors, from the University of Chicago’s business school, Beijing Normal University, and the University of Virginia, wanted to know if the cultural differences of farming wheat and rice persisted through non-farming generations. Rice paddies require twice as much labor as a crop like wheat, as well as massive irrigation systems that would require cooperation between multiple farmers to build and operate. Thomas Talhelm, the study’s lead author, has previously proposed what he calls the "rice theory of culture." That is, the cooperation between neighbors necessary to grow rice led to an interdependent culture that is more collectivist and community-oriented, compared to cultures that grow wheat (like the U.S.), which have developed to be more focused on the individual.

What does this have to do with coffee? The researchers examined how people behave in public in northern China, a wheat-growing region, compared with southern China, a rice-growing region, as a way to examine how cultural differences that arose from agricultural practices still persist in urban life. Across local coffee shops and big chains like Starbucks, they observed that on weekdays, an average 10 percent more people in northern Chinese coffee shops were drinking their coffee alone compared to southern Chinese coffee shops. That number varied by day of the week and time of day, though the researchers didn’t explore why. (Possibly, people just don’t hang out with their friends much in the middle of a Monday morning.) On weekends, the difference was slightly smaller—5 percent—but still significant.

The difference held even when controlling for the type of coffee shop (international chain or local shop), age demographics of the area, and the percentage of workers in the city who are self-employed (and thus, more likely to do their work in a coffee shop).

To further study how regional differences affect behavior, the researchers decided to rearrange some chairs. They went to Starbucks and pushed chairs together in a way that would inconvenience people trying to walk through the cafe, then waited to see how many people would push the chairs out of their way. They found that in a sample of 700 Starbucks customers that were subjected to what they call “the chair trap,” people in wheat-growing areas were more likely to move the chairs out of their way (an individualistic move) while those in rice-growing areas were more likely to adapt themselves to the situation, squeezing their bodies through the tight space without disturbing the chair setup (a collectivist move).

"The fact that these differences appeared among mostly middle-class city people suggests that rice-wheat differences are still alive and well in modern China," the researchers write. This included in Hong Kong, which is located in a rice-growing region but is both wealthier and, due to its time as a British colony, has more Western influence than mainland Chinese cities. In general, the southern cities studied were denser and more developed than Beijing and Shenyang in the north, according to the researchers, and yet economic growth and urbanization didn't seem to make the culture more individualistic.

The researchers have proposed doing a similar study in India, a country that also features a split in wheat- and rice-growing regions. Since China's north-south split means that rice-growing and wheat-growing cities feature significantly different climates, it may be useful to see whether the difference holds in cities in India that share the same climate but have different crops.

[h/t Science]

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