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Machine Taste-tests Coffee

Cup of coffee. (Image credit: Morguefile.com)

At last, scientists have devised a machine with good taste — for espresso.

The new coffee-tasting machine researchers have invented could lead to more satisfying cups of joe around the world.

Electronic tasters help the food and drink industries analyze the flavor of their wares. But developing a machine that can expertly gauge coffee has proven unusually challenging for decades, as more than 1,000 substances may contribute to the complex aroma of the brew.

Now scientists have invented a new machine that could rapidly judge the taste and aromatic qualities of eight different types of espresso nearly as accurately as a panel of trained human espresso tasters.

The device analyzes gases released by a heated espresso sample. It then interprets this chemical data into taste qualities such as "roasted," "flowery," "woody," "citrus," "toffee" and "cocoa."

"I personally enjoy working with coffee because of its complexity," said researcher Christian Lindinger, a senior research scientist at Nestlé Research in Switzerland.

The machine should help compare different sets of coffee to ensure the quality of java that ultimately goes out.

"Though coffee quality may change from year to year, the cup quality should always remain the same," Lindinger said.

Lindinger and his colleagues will detail their findings in the March 1 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Charles Q. Choi
Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica.