on September 28th, 2021

Some people get jittery without it, others can’t stand the taste, and then there’s those who not only appreciate its unique bitter flavor but will go to great lengths to experience the best of the best.

October 1 marks International Coffee Day and it’s time to get behind the bean and find out why coffee is amazing – and a lot of engineers make sure the best coffee comes to you.

Man holding jug pours coffee into glass cup
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Why Celebrate International Coffee Day?

Well the short answer is, coffee is valuable.

According to The Coffee Grounds: Insights by Coffee Shops, as a primary product, coffee is highly valued in terms of world trade. 

In fact, coffee is one of the most valuable primary products in world trade and according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), global production in 2019 and 2020 was estimated at around 169.34 million bags. 

This did lower in 2020 as movement restrictions due to COVID19 did place a damper on coffee consumed in shops, restaurants, or through street trade. 

In the year that led to July 2021, Arabica coffee exported 82.63 million bags (up from 78,89 million bags in 2020), while Robusta coffee decreased from 48.70 million bags to 46.97 million bags in 2021

Research by OTC says the decrease in out-of-home consumption due to global lockdowns was interesting, as there was increased demand for alternatives. This indicates that world coffee consumption is stable, and coffee farmers still have major value in the supply chain.

OTC started the global recognition of coffee through International Coffee Day in 2014, and since then it annually tries to shine a spotlight on the importance of coffee in the world.

How Coffee Relates to Engineering

Water and oil might not mix, but engineering and coffee sure do. Thanks to coffee an entire university research wing has been created at the University of California Davis, Engineering Department.

The separate building, aptly called the UC Davis Coffee Centre, started as a chemical engineering class and led to a full-fledged consortium for engineering where coffee is a teaching tool.

The center is also at the helm of research that benefits engineering and drives change in the coffee industry.

In 2017, the Coffee Centre released a book called The Design of Coffee which serves as an introduction to chemical engineering through the lens of the coffee roasting and brewing process.

The book shows coffee experiments that can help engineering students better understand engineering principles like material balances, chemical kinetics, fluid mechanics, the conservation of energy, and even colloidal phenomena.

Photo by Zarak Khan on Unsplash

As a guide, the book gives several experiments that drive engineering optimization – and ultimately teaches you to make the perfect cup of coffee at home, by applying engineering principles. 

Some of the features of the book include data analysis, how to reverse engineer a drip coffee brewer, measuring the energy to make coffee, mass transfer, and flux during brewing, and optimizing coffee strength.

It’s also thanks to two engineers that vacuum seal technology is accessible at home (and even carries the Martha Stewart seal of approval).

Coffee system manufacturer, Espro, was founded in 2002 by Chris McLean and Bruce Constantine when the two dissected the Clover Brewing System, which uses vacuum press technology to deliver a perfectly controlled cup of coffee. 

The technology was expensive and not accessible to those making coffee at home, so they worked on a way to give home brewers the same consistency by distilling all the elements needed for a great cup.

They realized temperature, extraction, and filtration were the key elements – and needed to develop a system where the temperature of the water going in is maintained when it is poured out. 

What they ended up with was their first Espro system, which is a double-walled vessel that allowed water temperature to stay consistent.

A vacuum-sealed lip meant coffee grinds couldn’t mix with the coffee and fine micro-filters removed grit from the brew when it’s poured. Espro is now a popular product and stocked in stores thanks to engineers that took a concept and democratized it.

The theme for this year’s International Coffee Day is also one that can speak to engineers, Coffee’s Next Generation.

The International Coffee Organization believes that investing in youth and new innovators in the coffee trade and industry can be innovative and sustainable. Key to the ICO is the promotion of training and information programs that will assist and improve the transfer of technology that relates to coffee.

Why Do Some People Like Coffee and Others Don’t?

It’s easy to assume it’s the taste of coffee that wins over favor (or is that flavor) or loses it entirely, but actually, it’s biology that might be the biggest decider to if you like coffee or not.

The research paper Non-additive genome-wide association scan reveals a new gene associated with habitual coffee consumption managed to determine that human genetics play a part in our relationship to coffee. 

Researchers isolated the PDSS2 gene as a gene that interacts with many of the chemical compounds found in coffee. Not only does it determine how your body metabolizes coffee, the gene determines how you feel when you have it. Some people simply feel better than others.

The study was the first to identify the gene and found genetic drivers that make it valuable in understanding coffee consumption. 

Although this was the first large-scale study into the gene, and further studies are needed, but it gave a foundation of the basic genetics involved with coffee consumption and how it relates to metabolism.

The findings definitively showed the relationship between coffee lovers and those who simply stay away from the brew and it can be traced to our biology.

If you’re a coffee drinker, take a moment today to appreciate the role the dark liquid plays in the world. If you’re not – there’s still so much you can learn from this beverage that is still changing the world, technology – and driving education.

References

Palmieri, Nadia & Fernando, Ana & Suardi, Alessandro & Bagnato, Valerio & Pari, Roberto & Stefanoni, Walter & Latterini, Francesco & Alfano, Vincenzo & Bergonzoli, Simone & Lazar, Sandu. (2021). The Coffe Grounds: Insights by Coffee Shops.

International Coffee Organization, 2021. Coffee prices reached new highs in August 2021 as concerns about. [online] Available at: https://www.ico.org/. [Accessed 21 September]

Curtis, J. S. (2016, March), The Design of Coffee Paper presented at 2016 EDI, San Francisco, CA. https://peer.asee.org/27384

Espro Press, 2016. Our Story. [online] Available at: https://www.espro.com/our-story [Accessed 21 September]

Pirastu, N. et al. Non-additive genome-wide association scan reveals a new gene associated with habitual coffee consumption. Sci. Rep. 6, 31590; doi: 10.1038/srep31590 (2016).

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