Mathematicians are close to figuring out how to make the perfect cup of black coffee

The best part of waking up…
The best part of waking up…
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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A simple cup of black filter coffee—that ubiquitous fuel of labor forces across the globe—is composed of more than 1,800 chemical components. And now scientists think they can rein in those components to create the perfect cup.

In a study published in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics (pdf), boiling down the best-tasting cup of joe may have everything to do with how coffee goes through drip filter machines. That meant analyzing the size of coffee grains, and what water can extract from those different-sized grains. “Extraction of coffee solubles from roast and ground coffee is a highly complex process, depending on a large number of brewing parameters,” the scientists wrote.

The key is that in cases where grains are too fine, coffee can often be more bitter to the taste, meanwhile coffee not ground enough can wind up too watery. Among some of the variables they looked at were intragranular porosity, intergranular porosity, coffee solid density, the grain diffusion fitting coefficient, and the surface dissolution fitting coefficient. This is what some of the math looks like:

Image for article titled Mathematicians are close to figuring out how to make the perfect cup of black coffee

Now that they understand the variables, they think they’re closer to getting to the perfect brew. What the scientists are trying to do is design the perfect cup of coffee for most people, which means making specific coffee grounds measurement changes based on the most preferred taste of the estimated two billion cups of coffee that are consumed each day, according to BBC News.

“We’d hope you could optimize the coffee machine for a certain size of grains,” one of the study’s authors told the BBC. “You could adjust the flow rate so you get the perfect extraction there.”

In addition to the size of the coffee grinds, scientists are also curious about the speed at which coffee machines should have water rubbing up against the grains. Until that kind of technology becomes available on standardized coffee machines, consumers will have to continue experimenting on their own to find that perfect cup.