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The Sounds Of Your Beans Roasting: Better Coffee Through Acoustics

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Every once in a while we read about a scientific research so odd, so offbeat, that we cannot help but wonder how. Without any intention to minimize or neglect the importance of breakthroughs in science, of course. Now, what you are about to find out may not have serious scientific implication – as in, it may not solve any huge global issues – but it may lead to us drinking even better coffee in future.

The boiling hot cup of delightful black liquid is universally appreciated and adored – for its alluring smell, the irresistable flavor(s) and caffeine boost. But even the most devoted of coffee aficionados rarely venture into contemplating the delicate process of roasting coffee. And that, needless to say, is probably the most crucial part in making your coffee beverage really pop.

Depending on the way the coffee beans are roasted – the length of time, the amount of right temperature, etcetera – your coffee’s flavor and aroma will be different. And during the process, again, depending how far the progress of roasting has advanced, the beans will produce distinctive cracking sounds. Each of these sounds indicate the status of roasting. This gave Preston Wilson, the The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering professor, a rather remarkable idea. Not to mention revolutionary.

This acoustician came up with the idea of constructing an automated acoustical monitoring technique for roasting coffee. The functioning principle is thus: there are three parameters of the cracking sounds, as postulated by Wilson in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. Each emitting sound has a gradually higher acoustic amplitude than the following. As the roasting process draws to close, the so called “first cracks” (similar to pop-corn being popped, as Wilson puts it) are in higher register than the second cracks (resembling the sound of breakfast cereal cracking when milk is poured over).

This researched sprung out on Wilson’ own accord – to satisfy his own curiosity, as he admitted. The project is completely unfounded and will partake in conditions created solely by Wilson, who himself roasts coffee. He says that there are certain commercial benefits at hand. “This could lead to optimized coffee roasting, which would increase quality, decrease errors in roasting, and potentially save energy used to power the roasting process.”

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