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The Math Behind Brewing the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Science RealClearLife Staff
Girl holds red coffee cup.
Math may be the key to the perfect cup of coffee. (Getty Images)


Coffee is an impressively complex beverage, with over 1,800 chemical components. So even if you’re fortunate enough to find what strikes you as the perfect cup of coffee, determining just why it’s so sublime is still a seemingly impossible feat. Enter Kevin Moroney at the University of Limerick, William Lee at the University of Portsmouth, and other academics. They used mathematics to attempt to determine the precise way to make an incredible cup and published their results in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics.

Obviously, each individual has their own personal interpretation of what tastes like perfection, but the research helps to determine precisely how to get the type of taste one desires in each cup. In particular, they focused on drip machines. “Our overall idea is to have a complete mathematical model of coffee brewing that you could use to design coffee machines, rather like we use a theory of fluid and solid mechanics to design racing cars,” Dr. Lee declared.

Their goal was to calculate the perfect grain size for an individual’s taste. Grinding beans too finely—and as a result, having grains that are too small—can create coffee that is too bitter. Not grinding enough, however, leads to coffee that is watery. By finding the exact grain size for their palette, each person can determine exactly how much grinding is required. And we’re bound to locate perfection through simple trial and error: America alone consumes an estimated 400 million cups of coffee each day.

To read more about this research, click here. And even if you haven’t done the calculations to determine your personal ultimate grain size yet, the video below can still help ensure you get a damned good cup of coffee.