Have you ever wondered how to incorporate a STEM mindset into your child’s life without forcing or pressuring them? Look no further than your local Starbucks! With over 30,000 stores worldwide, Starbucks has had to figure out how to create and customize delicious drinks and snacks efficiently and effectively. How does Starbucks get its customers customized beverages so quickly? Why does Starbucks use nitrogen in its cold-brew coffee? To answer these questions, we must use concepts such as systems engineering, combinatorics, and more.
In this playlist, you will learn about the differences between iced coffee and cold-brew. Iced coffee is simply hot coffee that has been cooled whereas iced cold-brew is coffee brewed at room temperature or colder. You will ponder on questions like how do temperature and time affect the coffee solution? How does temperature affect the rate of extraction of compounds? Why do we enjoy that delicious aroma of hot coffee but not after it cools? That’s because temperature decreases the solubility of aromatic/volatile/gaseous compounds leading to the increased aroma. Why does coffee get stale in taste after a while? That’s because high temperatures increase the rate of oxidation and breakdown of these compounds leads to the coffee going bad or stale faster.
For those of us who enjoy our cold-brew, the prolonged extraction time results in a long time for “coffee compounds” to extract which in turn results in a stronger brew. That’s why cold brew coffee is usually diluted before you want to drink it. Also, the lower temperature means that some compounds (like acids) are not extracted. This leads to less bitter coffee. Finally, the lower temperature means that some compounds (like acids) are not extracted and other flavors become pronounced. This leads to ”sweeter” coffee.
Let’s turn our attention to a 21st-century coffee – the Nitro brew coffee. This is a nitrogen-infused cold-brew coffee drink. Its key characteristics are a creamier mouthfeel and a different flavor profile than a typical cold brew. How does this happen? Gas is more soluble at colder temperatures (that’s why there’s no nitro hot-brew). You might think about the sodas we drink (which use carbon dioxide) and wonder why nitrogen? Well, if they used carbon dioxide, we would be drinking acidic coffee since carbon dioxide dissolves in water to form carbonic acid. Nitrogen is a noble gas, meaning it is chemically inert and can provide fizziness without changing the coffee flavor. Also since nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, the bubbles are smaller, leading to a creamier mouthfeel.
It’s mind-boggling to think about the 30,000 Starbucks locations all customizing the drinks for customers around the world. In this playlist, you’ll hear about how Starbucks, like any efficient and customer-focused business, thinks about routines and redesigning them on occasion. Just like the rest of us!
And finally, there is food at Starbucks too! You can watch a video about Sous vide, an innovative cooking technique in which food is vacuum-sealed and slow-cooked in the water at constant precise temperatures until it’s perfectly cooked. With this technique, one can control the temperature of the food being cooked to within 1/10 of a degree. This precision allows you to create unique textures. You get color, texture, and flavor that you want consistently. Another pro is that foods cooked sous-vide can be prepared beforehand and reheated. This cooking method enables even temperatures throughout the food since the outside and inside cook at similar rates, leading to the smooth, creamy texture of the sous vide egg bites you can eat while at Starbucks.
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We hope you enjoy one of our newest walkSTEM playlists on our youtube channel, walkSTEM Academy – walkSTEM@Starbucks. We loved working with Vania Perez, the cafe manager, who you’ll meet in these videos and we loved learning about Starbucks Community Cafes. Did you know that the 12th Community cafe in the nation is in Southern Dallas, right by Red Bird mall? The goal of Starbucks community cafes is to foster community and provide an environment that facilitates people getting together to talk. We love the fact that nonprofits can reserve the private room in the cafe to meet completely free of charge. A big shoutout to the Starbucks team for being such a great sport and partnering with us in our work to reach out to our community and to educators everywhere in order to help all our children grow their STEM mindsets.
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