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Coffee making ... relies on some hardcore science?

Did you know that coffee is the second most consumed drink on the planet?

Narrowly beaten by tea, this makes for an enormous worldwide industry, reliant on some hardcore science! NYSF 2018 Session A students were given behind the scenes access at Two Before Ten Coffee in Canberra to explore the science that turns a plant into that delicious flat white we Aussies love so much.

According to general manager, Phil,  “There are so many different variables that you can play with, much like science, to change the taste of the coffee.”  This starts right from the growth of the plant, including: rainfall, temperature and altitude, meaning that coffee originating from different areas will have distinct taste characteristics. The best coffee roasters will source beans from different locations to create mixtures with complex flavours. In processing the coffee, different roast temperatures will affect the chemical reactions that occur during roasting. Responsible for giving coffee its distinct bitter taste, students saw and learned about these reactions, including maillard reactions, to break down amino acids, and caramelisation reactions, to breakdown sugar.

Exploring the chemistry behind coffee - content image

Next came quality control, starting with identifying known scents in a sensory calibration experiment. Could you identify the smell of walnuts just by smelling a container of liquid scent? As the students could attest, it was much harder than it looked. In a step towards training to be professional coffee quality experts, referred to as ‘Q graders’, students were introduced to ‘cupping’, the professional method of tasting, grading and analysing roasted coffee. Using their new found skills, the group investigated the effect of changing the grind setting on smell, taste and feel of the pour over coffee result.

Check out the video to see a sneak peak of how they did. Can you spot their new found Cupping techniques?

What an unorthodox, but fascinating visit. Science really is everywhere!

For more information about Two Before Ten Coffee, visit:

Brooke Krajancich, Communications Intern NYSF 2018 Session A and NYSF Alumna 2013.