Barista in Space

Coffee Brewing Device 3D Printed for Astronauts

Coffee Brewing Device

Have you ever wondered how astronauts take their coffee? Check out this 3D printed coffee brewing device which has been created to help drink in space.

This latest invention, a 3D printed handheld coffee brewer was designed by professor Mark Weislogel and his mechanical engineering graduate student Drew Wollman. It has now been successfully tested in space.

Astronaut Kjell Lindgren reached out to Wollman and Weislogel about the need for such a device, after reading about their team’s zero-gravity espresso cups in Wired Magazine.

The device has been part of an ongoing project for the last few years. In 2013, Weislogel explained how difficult it is to drink in space. He said:

“For starters, it would be a chore just getting the coffee into the cup. Absent the pull of gravity, pouring liquids can be very tricky. But, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose you are on the space station and you have a cup of coffee in your hand.  The most natural thing would be to tip the cup toward your lips, but when you do… The coffee would be very hard to control. In fact, it probably wouldn’t .  You’d have to shake the cup toward your face and hope that some of the hot liquid breaks loose and floats toward your mouth.”


How Does the Coffee Brewing Device Work?

Usually, astronauts drink instant coffee in a bag with a straw but in 2014, Weislogel and his team managed to design 3D printed espresso cups which could pour the coffee right into your mouth – just like a cup on Earth.

A year later, they had even managed to create cups which allowed astronauts to smell the coffee which could even be thrown back and forth safely.

The device which has been successfully tested has an espresso cup with a modified brewer attachment, which holds a k-cup. Hot water is pumped through the k-cup with a syringe, creating freshly brewed coffee.

The cup works thanks to exploiting capillary forces. Amazingly, it only took Wollman about a week to design the device and create it using a 3D printer too.

Wollman said to Katu: “Kjell is really excited about coffee and I think he loved it. On the video we saw nothing but joy so it was a success all around!”