June 25, 2018
— "The world's strongest coffee" is about to become the strongest off-world, too.
Death Wish Coffee, billed as such for its high caffeine content and intense flavor, is set to be launched to the International Space Station.
"We couldn't think of a better way to showcase the smoothness and strength of our coffee than by providing the crew aboard the International Space Station with an easy-to-make blend that will keep them on their feet, so to speak," said Mike Brown, the founder of Death Wish Coffee, in a statement.
A special freeze-dried version of the company's joe, packaged in the same type of foil packets NASA uses for its "normal-strength" coffee and other astronaut drinks, is set to lift off on Friday (June 29) on SpaceX's CRS-15 Dragon cargo spacecraft. Assuming the launch from Cape Canaveral goes off as scheduled, the Death Wish Coffee packs will arrive at the orbiting laboratory at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT) on Monday (July 2), though the Dragon will need to be unpacked before the station's Expedition 56 crew members can enjoy a cup of the emboldened brew.
"Death Wish Coffee sympathizes with astronauts at 5:00 a.m. because we know how dreadful life can be without a cup of strong coffee," Kristin Underwood, Death Wish Coffee's office manager, wrote in a blog posted to the company's website.
Instant coffee has been a staple aboard the space station since its first crew took up residency in November 2000. The astronauts and cosmonauts have had their choice of caffeinated and decaf instant coffee, as well as a Kona blend (reported to be Hula Girl Coffee brand), with a choice of either sugar or powdered cream (or both) already mixed in.
Then in May 2015, the space station got its first coffee machine. The Lavazza and Argotec ISSpresso was specifically designed to brew fresh Italian espresso (and other hot drinks) in microgravity. The machine became a permanent fixture on the outpost (along with zero-g coffee cups), but the on-orbit supply of the ISSpresso's Keurig-like capsules limits its use.
Death Wish Coffee will also be a rare treat in space, but one that packs an added punch. The company describes its blend as containing 200 percent more caffeine than standard coffee.
It was that extra strength that inspired the coffee's launch.
During a 2017 segment of the Death Wish "Fueled by Death Cast" podcast, former NASA astronaut, space station resident and artist Nicole Stott mentioned how tired you feel after completing a spacewalk.
"You're exhausted probably right?" asked one of the show's host.
"You want one of these," replied Stott, referring to a cup of coffee.
A few moments later, the host joked, "How do we get Death Wish to space?"
"You know what, let's talk about that, I think people would love it," replied Stott.
Some time after the broadcast, Stott came up with the idea of launching the coffee to her friend and fellow NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who arrived at the space station earlier this month. It is common for family and friends to include care packages for the crew on space station resupply missions like the upcoming SpaceX Dragon launch.
"Nicole was like, well I know my friend loves coffee, and I'd love to give her my favorite coffee. And so, that was where that idea was born," recalled Brown on a later podcast.
Stott connected the company with NASA's Space Food Systems laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Death Wish Coffee is typically sold in bags of whole and ground beans as well as in K-Cups, but working with the space agency, it was able to develop an instant blend of freeze-dried coffee, packaged by NASA, without sacrificing the coffee's texture, flavor and potency.
To celebrate the flight, Death Wish has designed a "Space Oddity" coffee mug and is holding a contest through its website to give away the same freeze-dried coffee that is bound for the space station.
"This brand has done some incredible things. This is up there. This is really up there," said Brown. "I really look forward to seeing pictures of our new community member, our new coffee drinker, drinking this coffee up in space."
Death Wish Coffee packets as prepared for the International Space Station Expedition 56 crew. (Death Wish Coffee) Death Wish's "Space Oddity" coffee mug logo. (Death Wish Coffee) (Death Wish Coffee Company)