All the comforts of home: Espresso in space

Samantha Cristoforetti was the first Italian woman to go to space, but more importantly to some astronauts, on May 3 of this year was also the first astronaut in history to drink Lavazza Italian espresso while in orbit on the International Space Station (ISS).

Dubbed the ISSpresso, the new coffee machine was a collaborative effort between Lavazza (the “nectar-of-the-gods” coffee as far as I’m concerned—-I’m addicted to Italian coffee) and Argotec, an Italian engineering and software company.

Do not take this achievement lightly because this is actually an important scientific achievement that will better enable scientists and engineers understand the principles of fluid dynamics and microgravity conditions in space.

The espresso machine-in-space design also set a record for the shortest development time of a space project taking only about 18 months. This is much faster than the average for space projects. The machine is far more complex than such a machine as we have in our kitchen and it weighs about 25 kilograms due to all the redundancies needed in the critical components as required to meet strict safety requirements of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA.

ISSpresso machine on the ISS (Image courtesy of Argotec)

ISSpresso machine on the ISS (Image courtesy of Argotec)

The innovative capsule design enables the proper cup of good espresso but also any other hot beverages including broth to rehydrate the space food. The technological lessons learned in the machine development will be useful both for new experiments on future space missions and immediate earth applications.

If astronauts are expected to travel from Earth to Mars in the Orion spacecraft on a nine month journey, they had better have good coffee on board because they will not be in a state of suspended animation and will need coffee to stay awake to perform their duties while to and from as well as on Mars in the 2030s which is a mission that can last two years! I can’t go without coffee for a few days no less be deprived of it for two years! I am sure some astronauts will agree with me.

Just remember, as one astronaut told me, In space, tonight’s urine is tomorrow morning’s coffee . Drink up.

Please share your thoughts and comments regarding this achievement with our Planet Analog audience.

5 comments on “All the comforts of home: Espresso in space

  1. EricaDee88
    November 24, 2015

    Samantha Cristoforetti is my kind of girl! This is amazing…I can't imagine ever going without coffee! (As I sit here with my now empty coffee cup in my hand!)

  2. eafpres
    November 25, 2015

    Hi Steve.  It is interesting the incredibly slow pace of understanding basic stuff in a zero or micro-gravity environment.  I mean, really, heating water, pushing it through a bed of material to desorb caffeine and flavor, and dispensing it into an insulated bag–doesn't sound earth shattering but apparently is space-shattering!

    I agree with Erica that I cannot imagine going several years without real coffee.  However, I recall that Starbucks has an instant coffee that gets close to brewed (their VIA line).  But given that nearly all waste needs to be recycled to recover water and other things, and most of that recycling is likely to be some sort of solid-liquid or solid-gas contacting, I guess a general purpose approach to doing those unit operations makes sense.

    Remember when we were kids and we had space food sticks and Tang, and all the marketing using NASA and space exploration as marketing?  So we got orange “juice” in 1959, and coffee in 2015, so I guess eggs sunny side up to complete our breakfast in space will be somewhere around 2071.

  3. jimfordbroadcom
    November 25, 2015

    is that word “safety”.  Think about it; would you want that scalding hot water used to make the coffee floating around in the capsule with no benevolent gravitational force to bring it down onto the floor?  I wouldn't!  As far as the caffeine goes, I'm a decaf drinker as I've had the heart palpitations even without it, and sleep and I have a very dysfunctional relationship anyway.  Don't want to make it worse, not to mention the headaches from caffeine withdrawal that don't go away except overnight.  I can definitely appreciate that being without a good cup of coffee for months on end would not be pleasant!  Now if we can just get decaf iced tea to catch on…

  4. David Ashton
    November 25, 2015

    I'm always amazed that none of the whizz-bang spacecraft we make rotate (like the wheel-based space stations shown in books in my youth and I think in 2001 – the intermediate space station) or have rotating bits (like Discovery in 2001) to simulate gravity.  It would make it so much easier to prepare meals and beverages, apart from anything else.  Sure, it does pose some challenges, but it has huge advantages.  Anyone know why this is not done?

  5. stevenbradley79
    December 8, 2015

    It's probably not made yet because there isn`t a safe way to do it properly? 

    My question is why did they try to reinvent the espresso machine when they could have modified a portable espresso maker for use in space…. 

    I.e – something like this – www(dot)


    It's got a heating coil working with batteries and utilizes a CO2 container to make the pressure needed to get the coffee going. No need of gravity there. Apply pressure and temperature on one end and get hot steaming coffee on the other. + U can make it use a coffee capsule. 

    Was it so hard to make it compatible for space use? 

    Why did the brands making this did not pitch the idea to the space agency ? 

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