Real coffee hits space: Italian astronaut brews groundbreaking espresso on ISS

The International Space Station (Photo from nasa.gov)
A fresh shot of coffee used to be a luxury in space. But thanks to an espresso maker that functions in microgravity, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, currently aboard the International Space Station, has finally brewed her first espresso.

Last month, the Dragon spacecraft, built and operated by SpaceX, delivered the first-ever space espresso machine, built by Italian coffee company Lavazza and Italian aerospace firm Argotec, to the space station, along with special, zero-gravity cups.

Prior to the coffee machine's long-awaited arrival, the only option aboard the orbiting laboratory was powdered instant coffee. The cups, co-designed by International Space Station researcher Mark Weislogel and astronaut Don Pettit, are peculiarly shaped so that a sharp corner makes the liquid inside stream toward a person's mouth when they drink from it.

"With this cup, most everything is taken care of passively by the shape of the cup. There isn’t a straight line in it. There are no moving parts. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the fluid systems on spacecraft worked like that? We know it would result in less worry on the ground. The simpler things are, the more robust their function and the less time is needed for maintenance," Mark Weislogel explained in his NASA blog.