Out-of-this-World Espresso for Astronauts
12/12, 2014

Italian coffee machine makers are working to create a device that will be able to produce espresso in weightless conditions on the International Space Station.
Italian coffee machine makers are working to create a device that will be able to produce espresso in weightless conditions on the International Space Station.

Italian-style espresso coffee has a large public following around the world. Many people have given up traditional coffee and have turned to this thicker drink.

Now, Italian coffee machine makers have created a device they say can produce espresso in weightless conditions. They are hoping to put their product on the International Space Station.

Many people cannot imagine life without coffee. And for most Italians, coffee means espresso. A special coffee machine is required to create this thick drink.

So, when Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti traveled to the International Space Station last month, her friends may have worried about her.

They were, most likely, not concerned about her being the first Italian woman in space. She is a captain in the Italian Air Force, after all. They probably did not worry about her having health issues or physical difficulties.

No. They probably worried how Ms. Cristoforetti would survive in space for six months, drinking only instant coffee.

This is, most likely, a frightening thought for most Italians.

Italian teamwork delivers space-age espresso

To solve the problem, an Italian coffee maker and an engineering company teamed up on a special project. They wanted to help the astronaut and others enjoy a good cup of coffee while traveling through space.

The coffee maker Lavazza is based in the Italian city of Turin. Argotec, another Turin-based business, makes space food. The two companies joined together to make a space-age coffee machine that would work at zero-gravity.

The machine is called ISSpresso – a combination of the abbreviation of International Space Station and the word “espresso.” ISSpresso overcomes zero-gravity by forcing water through small container of coffee.

Alberto Cabilli is the head of research and development at Lavazza. He says the two companies first had to find out how to make coffee on the space station.

The ISSpresso is different than espresso makers here on Earth. But a few conditions are the same in space as they are on the ground. These conditions include the small containers of coffee, water pressure and the water temperature of 75 degrees Celsius.

Mr. Cabilli says one difficulty was making sure the machine would meet safety requirements on the space station. Argotec made changes to its first design. The company had to make sure the machine would not leak in orbit.

Experimentation leads to cutting edge coffee

David Avino is Argotec’s managing director. He says the idea for the machine began as a technology experiment. But he says NASA, the American space agency, became interested in getting such a machine and keeping it on the space station. He says that if everything goes well, the espresso maker will be kept at the station and be available for all the astronauts.

On November 23, Ms. Cristoforetti went into Earth’s orbit. The ISSpresso, sadly, did not. It seems, the espresso maker did not pass an equipment test and had to be fixed. The latest plan is to send it into space in April.

Besides espresso, the ISSpresso machine can also make tea and clear soup. Now all they have to do is make a zero-gravity pizza oven.

I’m Anna Matteo