Last week Italy was on the verge of sending astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, 37, to the International Space Station (ISS) with a specially designed espresso machine that works in zero-gravity. But this plan had been delayed because of undisclosed reasons. But this will definitely happen sometime in April 2015.
Designed by Turin-based Lavazza and engineering firm Argotec, the ISSpresso, pumps water under high pressure through the machine into a pouch, where it can be consumed with the help of a straw. Italians have also crafted a special cup for the event.
Espresso is distinguished primarily by a complex low-density colloid of emulsified oils. And, due to gravity, these oils rise to the surface to form a foam lid called the “crema,” the reliable production of which can make or break the reputations of baristas everywhere.
In order to function successfully, the machine must be capable of withstanding severe pressure, which is a part of being in space as well as negotiating fluid dynamics in a weightless environment. The ISSpresso machine moves water via a steel tube and weighs about 44 pounds.
Lavazza and Argotec’s machine will not just be putting out Italian espresso, however. It will also be able to provide tea, caffe lungo (espresso with extra water added), broth for soups, and infusions. The broths will allow for the rehydration of food. Everyone involved with the project, including the astronauts, are very excited about this as it gives them a chance to wake up with some genuine Italian coffee in the morning instead of instant coffee.
Last Monday a team at Portland State University presented a paper, The Capillary Fluidics of Espresso, detailing a way to enjoy espresso in space in a manner similar to the one on Earth (in a proper cup), by replacing the role of gravity with the forces of surface tension.
“Espresso is distinguished by a complex low density colloid of emulsified oils. Due to gravity, these oils rise to the surface forming a foam lid called the crema …. To some, the texture and aromatics of the crema play a critical role in the overall espresso experience. We show how in the low-g environment this may not be possible. We also suggest alternate methods for enjoying espresso aboard spacecraft.,”
noted the team, which included a member of NASA and also a high school student.