(Photo Courtesy of Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Ever wonder how much effort over the years has gone into making that perfect cup of coffee?

Perfect Cup of Coffee Research (from the MIT150 Exhibition website)

With funding from food industry groups, Samuel Cate Prescott, MIT Professor & Coffee Researcher in the 1930s, established the MIT Coffee Research Laboratory to engineer the perfect cup of coffee. The results were touted in advertisements nationwide, in particular by George Washington Coffee (formerly known as the G Washington Coffee Refining Company). His important work is featured during this year’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 150th anniversary celebration in their MIT150 Exhibition Entrepreneurial display.

“MIT” is internationally recognized shorthand for technological and academic excellence. When filmmakers want to establish a character as a brilliant scientist or engineer, they throw in a line about her MIT education or cut to his class ring. So when advertisements in the 1930s showed a serious white-coated MIT scientist holding aloft a flask with “the perfect cup of coffee,” the American public listened. In 1920, the National Coffee Roasters Association gave Professor Samuel Cate Prescott $40,000 to establish a new laboratory devoted to perfecting coffee. The resulting guidelines—one tablespoon of coffee per eight ounces of water, just short of boiling, in glass or ceramic containers, never boiled, reheated, or reused—were the result of three years of study. More important than the recipe, however, was the refutation of coffee opponents who claimed coffee was a “slow poison.” Wrote Prescott, “Coffee was the servant rather than the destroyer of civilization.” MIT researchers also were active in serious food technologies, working on techniques for preserving taste, nutrition, and texture in canned goods as well as developing nutritional guidelines for preventing nutritional deficiencies.

MIT150 Display Credit: George Washington coffee can on loan from George Washington Coffee, Port Angeles, WA.

George Washington Coffee is a registered trademark of George Washington Inn, a Port Angeles Bed and Breakfast Inn in Washington.