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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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m01229, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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environment
Dunkin' Donuts is Ditchin' Their Foam Cups
m01229, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
m01229, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

There are certain tactile sensations that consumers associate with fast-service franchises. Go into a McDonald’s and you’re likely to walk out with a French fry container soaked in grease. Head to Taco Bell and your takeout bag will be heavy with hot sauce packets. At Dunkin’ Donuts, a thick-walled foam cup keeps your hand cool while your coffee stays hot.

Not for much longer. This week, Dunkin’ announced plans to insulate their beverages in a more environmentally friendly way. Beginning this spring, the company will eliminate the polystyrene foam containers they currently use in favor of a new, double-walled paper cup, a move that's expected to remove 1 billion foam cups from waste streams annually.

The paperboard used in the cups—which will come in the chain’s standard four sizes, from small to extra large—is certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard and is said to have heat retention properties equivalent to the current foam cup. Dunkin’ is promising that consumers won’t need a cardboard sleeve to insulate themselves against the heat.

“With more than 9000 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the U.S. alone, our decision to eliminate foam cups is significant for both our brand and our industry," Karen Raskopf, Dunkin’ Donuts's chief communications and sustainability officer, said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to improve our packaging, making it better for the planet while still meeting the needs of our guests. Transitioning away from foam has been a critical goal for Dunkin’ Donuts U.S., and with the double-walled cup, we will be able to offer a replacement that meets the needs and expectations of both our customers and the communities we serve.”

The move is scheduled to begin in New York and California and spread to all Dunkin’ locations worldwide by 2020.

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Palmpress
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Food
This Tiny Press Lets You Brew Barista-Quality Coffee Anywhere
Palmpress
Palmpress

Whether you prefer the convenience of single-serve pods or the high quality of pour-over coffee, there’s a brewing method out there to suit your tastes. As Co.Design reports, one of the latest options is the Palmpress, a hand-held silicone brewer that combines the ease of using pods with the delicious taste of more time-consuming brewing methods.

To use it, just fill the press with ground coffee and pour in hot water. Then, screw on the lid and allow the grounds to steep for three minutes. Similar to less-portable options like the Clever dripper or a French press, the Palmpress uses immersion brewing to extract the coffee evenly, giving you a smooth taste every time.

Once the coffee is done steeping, it’s ready to pour: Flip the press upside down onto the top of your mug and compress the silicone base. When you push it down, the Palmpress releases a perfectly-portioned serving of coffee into your cup.

The Palmpress is completely reusable and doesn't require any paper filters, plastic pods, or other supplies destined to end up in the trash, making it both wallet- and eco-friendly. The press only makes 8 ounces at a time, so it’s not ideal if you want to make more than one cup of coffee, but its small size (it's around 2 inches tall when collapsed) makes it an appealing option for traveling, camping, and days when you just can't stomach the thought of the office Keurig.

The Palmpress is currently out of stock, but it will cost $39 when supplies become available again.

And if you’re really looking to improve your morning coffee experience, there’s more you can do beyond updating your equipment. From what kind of water to use to the perfect temperature, here are some tips for brewing coffee at home.

[h/t Co.Design]

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