Scientists work on formula for a cup of coffee

The grain size of a coffee grind plays a key role in the taste. (Credit: Starbucks)

One coffee drinker’s perfect brew may be another drinker’s battery acid, but mathematicians say they’re zeroing in on the equations behind the taste of drip coffee.

The University of Limerick’s Kevin Moroney and his colleagues lay out the state of the art in the SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics. The findings could well spark a buzz in coffee-crazy Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks.

“Our model describes flow and extraction in a coffee bed, specifies extraction mechanisms in terms of the coffee grain properties, and compares the model’s performance with experiment,” Moroney said in a news release from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

One of the conclusions can be boiled down to a simple rule: If the coffee tastes too watery, grind the beans more finely. If it tastes too bitter, go with a coarser grind.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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