A Machine That Tastes Espresso, But Prefers Only the Good Stuff

Illustration for article titled A Machine That Tastes Espresso, But Prefers Only the Good Stuff

This machine can taste the quality in your cup of espresso, and can identify coffee types nearly as accurately as a panel of trained human espresso tasters. How does it work?


The machine analyzes the gas espresso gives off when heated, translating combinations of ions into subjective descriptions like "roasted, flowery, woody, toffee and acidity." Called an "electronic taster," it was created by chemical engineers at Nestle in Switzerland, and will be used as a quality control device in the coffee industry. And perhaps as an evaluation tool for a few coffee snobs (for the record, the machine only tastes ristretto pulls).

Analytical Chemistry published an article this week about the amazing machine, including a precise scientific evaluation of "coffee headspace." According to a release about the research:

The multisensory experience from drinking a cup of coffee makes it a particular challenge for flavor scientists trying to replicate these sensations on a machine. More than 1,000 substances may contribute to the complex aroma of coffee.

Add the researchers themselves:

Coffee scientists have long been searching for instrumental approaches to complement and eventually replace human sensory profiling.

Well, at least the machine won't create Skynet when it becomes sentient. Instead it will probably head here.

When Machine Tastes Coffee [Analytical Chemistry]



Annalee Newitz

@Morgan: Aw man, history is always written by the humans.