Cup of Joe

Coffee geniuses use lasers to make cold brew in three minutes

The method was outlined in a paper published in Nature and cuts what would otherwise be a 12- to 24-hour process down to just three minutes.

Before the laser, during the laser, after the laser

The latest breakthrough in food tech is in: you can now make cold brew with lasers. The future is now, baby, and I’m happy to be here. Researchers from the technical chemistry department at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany have figured out how to brew cold brew in a record three minutes, as opposed to the typical 12 to 24 hours of steeping coffee grounds.

According to a paper in Nature, the team of chemists pointed a laser beam at a vessel that contained the coffee powder, stirred it up, and then filtered the lasered coffee concoction through a standard coffee filter. The lasers are “ultra-short pulsed” and they produced a coffee that, according to the lab’s chromatography and spectrometry, is similar to conventionally brewed cold brew.

The pH of cold-brew and laser-brew.

Can I try it? — For now, laser coffee is confined to chemistry labs, but its developers are interested in eventually introducing it to the world. Chemist Anna Ziefuss has been working with lasers for years, but it wasn’t until 2022 that she decided to apply her approach to her favorite consumables.

It’s worth noting that, in an interview with FastCompany, she revealed that she prefers using a French press in her personal life. But she wants to cash in on the decade-long cold brew craze, and she’s making plans with colleague Tina Friedenaur to develop a startup for their nearly-instant cold brew method. She also shared that her initial interest in lasers was sparked by the excessive laser use in The Big Bang Theory.

You could always just use an espresso machine or a regular drip coffee-maker, but the cold-brew flavor isn’t the same as the hot brewed stuff: without the heat, cold-brew has less titratable acid, fewer antioxidants, and a flavor profile that started winning people over in the 2010s (though it’s been big in Japan for centuries).

Are laser coffee machines going to be the next home technology to populate countertops across the nation? Am I ready for picosecond laser fragmentation every morning? Hey, sounds like cool beans to me.