University of Tasmania researchers, Dr Jason Smith and Alex Bissember, stumbled across a new way to extract compounds from spice and plants while sharing their morning coffee.
The UTAS scientists have found a coffee maker can complete an extraction process in a couple of minutes compared to a highly-specialised, pressurised hot-water extractor unit that would need days to complete. This means scientists will be able to extract compounds more efficiently and cheaply than ever before. “Because we can scan more plants more quickly, we can increase our potential for finding useful molecules,” said Dr Smith.
The researchers did not need to modify the household espresso machine and were surprised to have extracted nearly pure shikimic acid – a raw material for Roche’s antiviral drug Tamiflu – from the spice, star anise. The discovery has been praised in the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the largest organisation in Europe for advancing chemical sciences. “Coffee machines could become essential pieces of lab kit for natural product chemists,” the article says.