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Science in Your Life: the perfect cup of COFFEE

April 11, 2012

A previous post….an oldie but a goodie.

On June 12, 2011 Night Lab presented an educational science program for adults called the Science of Coffee. This 2-hour crash course on coffee forever changed the way I will drink the world’s 2nd most traded commodity (oil is #1). Not only am I convinced that a Chicago company imports the highest quality coffee beans, but with a few simple “scientific” adjustments you can filter out the impurities of your current coffee-drinking experience to brew a perfect blend of pleasure & aroma.

Science Chicago education

The teacher for the program was a purchasing agent for Intelligentsia Coffee, Sarah Kluth. Most people would not call her a professional scientist, but there is no doubt she applies science to her job. Compare her work to a marine biologist researching dolphins in the Pacific or an astronomer studying stars with a telescope in Chile –Sarah travels to multiple continents to observe information, analyze data, and develop logical conclusions that benefit the society of coffee drinkers.

chicago education researchWhether she is studying climates in coffee growing regions around Planet Earth, examining the color of the cherry (the fruit that protects the coffee bean on the tree), or utilizing her olfactory receptors & taste buds to identify the most flavorful beans; Sarah is confident that Intelligentsia is selling the highest quality coffee beans. Once she applies her scientific skills to bring the best beans to Chicago, the coffee making process is far from finished.

Intelligentsia then applies more scientific rigor to the roasting process, which you can read about here: Roasting & Production. Eventually the coffee beans end up at your home where all this hard work will be in vain if you fail to properly brew your morning joe. Here are 3 “scientific” adjustments you can apply to maximize the quality of your coffee drinking experience:

  1. For maximum freshness, coffee beans have a recommended shelf life of 2 weeks once they’ve been roasted, so check the roast date before purchasing
  2. The optimum balance of coffee grounds/water should be 2.2 grams per ounce, meaning about 18 grams per cup.
  3. Use purified water (not distilled or Chicago Municipal tap water). You’ll clearly notice a taste difference
  • You might also be interested to know, a light roast coffee has slightly more caffeine than a dark roast

Aside from learning these helpful tips and the benefits of a French Press and a Burr grinder, Sarah’s passion for improving coffee quality was inspiring. I asked her, “Is it difficult for you to drink coffee from an average breakfast restaurant, since you’re used to tasting the best coffee in the world?” Her answer (and I’m paraphrasing),

Yes, but it motivates me to work harder so everyone can share my coffee drinking experience.

I LOVE her answer, not only because of her empathy with your bad coffee experiences, but I saw the genuineness in her eyes. This combination of empathy & science, rarely found in the business world, makes me confident that every pound of Intelligentsia coffee you buy is top notch. Now it’s your job to bring it home, apply science to your morning, and brew the perfect cup of coffee that is aromatic & pleasurable.

In conclusion, one reason I started the LETUBEU blog is to create awareness of how science can improve the quality of your life from a cup of coffee to the management of your friends. So, as you move forward, if you are not happy with the quality of some aspect of your life, use science—observe, analyze, and conclude–to find the most efficient solution. During this process, be honest with yourself and you won’t go wrong.

Thank you to Stephanie Levi, creator of Night Lab and www.science-is-sexy.com. Stay tuned for future Night Lab programs around Chicago, I’ll be sure to promote them. Thanks for reading and letUbeU.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cory permalink
    July 11, 2011 10:11 AM

    You have the coffee you water ratio backwards: it should be 2.2 grams per ounce, meaning about 18 grams per cup.

    Otherwise, nice article!

    • July 11, 2011 11:50 AM

      Cory, thanks for the correction. We don’t want people drinking diluted coffee, that wouldn’t be pleasurable at all.

  2. Silent H permalink
    July 11, 2011 10:01 PM

    Sorry but I think – THINK – your ratio might still be off. I mean, they COULD be advocating for that but it seems “heavy” at about 12.x : 1 whereas most coffee people I know are brewing in the 16 : 1 range give or take.

    • July 11, 2011 10:34 PM

      I put an email in to Sarah Kluth. She’s on vacation so we’ll have to wait till she returns for her official answer. However, this could be very subjective depending on who is drinking the coffee, or selling it; and the type of coffee brewer being used. Maybe it’s an adjustment I should have avoided since many people probably don’t have scales (that measure to the gram) in their homes.
      Thanks for the feedback though, we’ll figure this out.

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