INFRA: the new Futura podcast on the sounds that surround us

You may also be interested Futura is pleased to present its new podcast INFRA, entirely devoted to sounds! If you don’t know anything about it, don’t worry: INFRA is a general culture podcast for everyone. Every two weeks, you have an appointment for an excursion of about twenty minutes in the field of noises, rhythms or even melodies. Whether they come from the engine of your car, your favorite movies or music, your cat, planes crossing the sky, the depths of the ocean or even your own body, you will be amazed to discover how many stories each sound can tell us! The first episode of the podcast is available from today, so head over to your favorite platform now to subscribe. So as not to lose a moment, you can discover episode 1, devoted to coffee, by clicking on the player’s play button below, or by reading the transcriptiontranscription provided in addition, adapted for the deaf and hard of hearing: To listen this first episode of INFRA, click on Play, then let yourself be carried away, or go to the listening applications to subscribe! © Futura Episode transcript Hello everyone. Welcome ! I’m Emma HollenEmma Hollen, I’m a science journalist and audio manager at Futura and the creator of this podcast. A podcast that we decided to call INFRA in reference to infrasound, but also because over the episodes, we will explore under the surface of things, in the infra, to discover the invisible. Every two weeks, I suggest that we meet for an excursion in the field of sounds. We will take a sound as a starting point, and from there we will draw a path that will take us through science, culture, technology. Anyway, we’re going for a walk together. And if all goes well, we will learn and discover a lot of things along the way. Note that this sound can come from anywhere: from the music you listen to every day, from the engine of your car, from space, from the depths of the ocean or from your own body, when silence is quite powerful. In this first episode, we will talk about the noise of espresso machines, the impact of coffee on the health of your ears, the invention of the first capsule, the different methods of preparing coffee and the comedian Alphonse Come on. Before embarking on this exploration, remember to subscribe and do not hesitate to tell us what you think of this new format at the end of the episode. From 2006 to the grind culture[Générique : une musique percussive rythmée par des sons. Un réveil sonne. Une main tape dessus et un homme se met à bâiller en sortant de son lit. Il allume un robinet, se brosse les dents, et se rase. Puis il se verse des céréalescéréales tandis qu’un micro-onde sonne en arrière-plan. Une voiture démarre, un chienchien aboie et une sonnettesonnette de vélo résonne, puis la journée s’emballe et les sons se multiplient jusqu’à la dernière note, ponctuée par un feu d’artifice.]Personally, I prefer tea to coffee. I find it less exciting, more delicate, associated with time for oneself. Coffee, on the other hand, irritates, it awakens, it makes effective. Coffee is the drink of the grind, a term that designates both the verb “to grind” in English but also the culture, increasingly decried, of incessant work. Always work harder to prove your worth. Where tea is a drink of relaxation, coffee is often the drink of work and stress. Admit it, how many colleagues have answered you with a grumpy look because they haven’t had their morning shot yet? And then there is the ritual. Making tea is a matter of patience and attention: you dose the quantity, you count the minutes, you watch the colorcolor. But at home or in the office, having a coffee today often means this: [le vrombissement désagréable d’une machine à expresso]. [Parlant plus fort pour couvrir le son :]Coffee is a loud business! Let it be ground [un moulin à café broie des grains]frozen and broken to make soluble [une machine rotative casse une plaque de café congelé]filtered [une cafetière émet des borborygmesborborygmes]or you order it at the counter [une buse à vapeur crachote], coffee likes to be heard. We will talk later about these different methods of preparing coffee and their impact on its taste, its smell, and even on your health, but first, I invite you to travel with me in 2006. NASANasa has just launched the New Horizons probe; Cars, The DaVinci Code and Casino Royale explode at the box office; TwitterTwitter and Roblox hit the web; and this ad is on TV:[Publicité Nespresso : une musique sensuelle marque l’entrée de George Clooney dans une boutique. Il entend deux femmes discuter du café qu’elles boivent en le décrivant comme « dark », « very intense », « sensual ». George Clooney les interrompt en demandant « You’re talking about Nespresso, right?». « Uh uh », acquiesce l’une des femmes. George Clooney, légèrement vexé de répondre « Yeah… What else? ». La publicité se conclut sur le slogan « Nespresso, what else? ».]The original Nespresso advertisement, featuring George Clooney. © Nespresso, Partizan Café and hearing Let it be said, Nespresso is certainly not the first brand to market espresso machines for individuals. But at the time, she was undoubtedly one of the loudest, as her commercials marketed her as a luxury item, shrewdly muting the sound as the coffee ran across the screen. The deltadelta that separates the [musique suave] accompanying the entry of George Clooney and the [son de régurgitation] that users have discovered at home has been the subject of quite a bit of mockery and parody. But is a Nespresso machine really noisy? Or are we simply surprised by its loudness compared to other coffee makers? To find out, we can turn to the very useful table compiled by the Coffeemakerpedia site. We find the maximum sound produced by 7 models of the brand and we discover that the noisy one is the Pixie, with a maximum threshold of 80.7 decibels. The machine is therefore as noisy as a hair dryer[hair dryer in operation], a [camion passant près de vous] or a vacuum cleaner]. Not unbearable, but not very pleasant. This is generally the threshold from which we begin to qualify a sound as very loud. And for reference, it is generally considered that hearing can be permanently damaged from 85 decibels. By the way, speaking of hearing and coffee, two very interesting studies have come out in the last few years. The first was conducted by McGill University in 2016. The results indicate that taking coffee or caffeinated caffeine can delay recovery after temporary hearing loss. [Une musique rock et des applaudissements étouffés :] In other words, if you went to a concert and your ears seem clogged when you leave the room, avoid caffeinated drinks while they recover. It also works if you played [perceuse] all morning and you thought you’d take a little coffee break. And be careful, it’s not about waiting five minutes before getting back to the kawa. In the study, which was conducted on animals, the researchers talk about waiting 8 days before the guinea pigs regain almost their hearing before, without caffeine. Outside of these periods of convalescence, to take care of your ears you can… drink coffee. Yes I know, it may seem counter-intuitive and yet, this is the conclusion of the second study, conducted in 2018 by a Korean team. The researchers, from two medical universities in Seoul, analyzed coffee consumption and hearing among no less than 13,448 participants and found that regulars who drink it daily experience 50-70% loss of hearing. less hearing than occasional drinkers. Note that the effect was more visible if the coffee was ground rather than soluble or canned. You can find the two articles in the episode links, provided in the description, for more details. Bottom line: Drink coffee, but only when your hearing isn’t recovering from trauma. Does that mean that you should avoid drinking it when you do a job where you are exposed to a lot of noise or even that you should switch to tea if you live in a noisy city? That, I’ll let you discuss with your ENT. Let’s go back to our noisy coffee machines instead, and try to understand why the Nespresso Pixie [vrombissement] breaks our ears a lot more than the dying rattle of a standard filter coffee maker [borborygmes de cafetière à filtre]. Éric Favre’s initiatory journeyThe Grail and the curse of Nespresso can be summed up in one word: capsule. It all started in 1975, when a Swiss engineer named Éric Favre joined the “packaging” department of Nestlé. Éric is 28 years old, he is full of good will and he has taken up a challenge: to produce the best espresso. At the time, we drank two types of coffee at home: coffee beans, delicious but laborious to prepare, or soluble, quick to make but without much taste. Favre’s mission is to combine the qualities of these two methods of preparation, in order to offer a coffee that is both tasty, easy and quick to make yourself, at home. His wife, Anna-Maria, an Italian, is not convinced, however, and often makes fun of her husband’s lack of knowledge about coffee. National pride obliges. But he has every intention of impressing her. The couple pack their bags and go on a trip to Italy, in search of the best coffee there is. [un train traverse un passage à niveau]. [Une foule romaine, des tasses s’entrechoquent, une machine à café souffle de la vapeur.] Their excursions take them to Rome and one day while walking near the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, Éric notices a long queue in front of one of the city’s cafes. Nothing, not even the type of machine the staff are using, seems to distinguish him from the others, and yet the crowd surges in as a sweet smell of roasted coffee and burnt wood rises around him.[On passe de la rue à l’intérieur du café :] So he decides to walk through the doors of the famous Café Saint-Eustache, Caffe Sant’Eustachio, which is still said today to serve one of the best espressos in the capital, and talks with its boss, Mr. Eugenio. When he asks him how he manages to make such a coffee, the manager answers him first: “I press a button” (Spingo un pulsante). But hey, by dint of discussions, he ends up revealing to her the secret of their success. Instead of activating the espresso machine’s plunger once to push hot water through the grind, Sant’Eustachio employees pump three to four times for a cup. By doing so, they introduce more air into the water before it comes into contact with the coffee, and that’s what makes all the difference. The coffee is more airy, which brings two things. The grind undergoes greater oxidationgreat oxidation, thereby releasing more acids, oils and aromas, producing a stronger and more fragrant coffee. And it also results that the latter is covered with a creamy layer of crema, the characteristic frothfoam found in espresso. This consists of a mixture of proteinprotein, oil and melanoidin, a combination of sugarsugar and amino acidsamino acids found in malted barley, the crust of a very hot bread or the golden exterior of your favorite pastries. The invention of the coffee capsule It is therefore no surprise that this discovery becomes a pivotal moment for Éric Favre. Back in Switzerland, he immediately went to the drawing board with his team to design a prototype espresso machine, based on Mr. Eugenio’s formula: [un crayon à papier griffonne :] foam=air + water + coffee oil. He also designed the first capsule, in the shape of a bowler hat: a half-sphere containing ground coffee, covered with an aluminum membrane. Inside the machine, a needle [perce un trou la capsule puis y injecte de l’eau brûlante et de l’air]. The pressure increases and the membrane deforms until it comes into contact with a plate adorned with prickles, which tear it inwards [psch, le café bouillonne et se met à couler]. The coffee is released and now you have just made yourself a cup of espresso as good as a Roman coffee, directly at home. So, of course, Nestlé filed the patent the following year, in 1976, but it was only after a decade that the firm finally decided to launch the production of these machines. The device was expensive, and the commercial management doubted that it would manage to dethrone the famous instant coffee, instant coffee found at the time in all homes. Individual pods are first sold to professionals, in hotels, bars and offices. Then, in 1986, the Nespresso system was made available to a wealthy public, to whom it was presented as a luxury product. An angle that is still perpetuated today. Little by little, the capsules invaded the market, and it is difficult today to have a coffee at the office – or to drink it at a friend’s house – without hearing the [vrombissement] of his device. The Business Research Company estimates 13.3 billion dol the coffee capsule market for 2023. And let it be said: this roar can be found at Nespresso as well as at DeLonghi, Lavazza, or Philipps, even if George Clooney’s machine has the reputation of featuring among the loudest. From the noise of the counter coffee[Une ambiance de café : des personnes discutent.] When you go to a restaurant or a bar, you know that it is generally recommended to step away from the counter if you want to have an audible conversation, especially around lunchtime. It is because beyond the noise of [tasses qui s’entrechoquent] and some [voix tonitruante de la patronne] which issues injunctions to its serversservers, the espresso machine is also making a lot of noise. [Une succession de bruits de moteurs, de sifflements et de claquements, que nous allons analyser.]So let’s break that noise down. First, there is a good chance that the device will grind – yes, it’s the subjunctive of grind -, that it will grind the coffee directly. [Le son aigu d’un moulin qui tourne.] The grind is then placed in a portafilter, this object with a long, usually black handle that is wedged into the machine by making it make a quarter turn on the side. If your server is in a bit of a rush, it’s not uncommon for the metal parts to knock together at this stage. [Claclaclac.] Then press a button [tac] and the water runs through the coffee releasing those first mouth-watering aromas [un léger vrombissement, le café coule dans sa tasse]. This process generally produces little noise, but if you have requested a cappuccino, then the waiter can inject steam into a small jug of milk through the nozzle on the side of the machine, to produce the hood of froth that gives his name to the drink. [Pschuiiiiiit.] Finally, the portafilter is removed and emptied, usually by tapping it upside down on a trash can to knock out the grinds. [ponk, ponk, ponk] and start the process again. Espresso vs filter coffeeIn a capsule machine…well, actually, none of that happens. Even if you do have a mixture of water and air passing through the coffee, it’s usually not the noisiest stage. You will potentially notice the sound produced by the perforation of the capsule [psch]but what produces the most racket is the pump [vrombissement]. Also in the Coffeemakerpedia article, engineer Pablo Barrantes explains that a piston vibrates inside the pump to allow water to be injected with enough pressure into the capsule. To understand exactly how the pump of an espresso machine works, I provide you with a link to a video that will allow you to better visualize the system. What you need to remember is that inside the pump, located in the center of your machine, a piston is activated by an electromagnetic field which makes it move back and forth. This very fast movement allows it to let in water from the tank at the back, to pressurize it and then push it towards the capsule before returning to its initial position. European pumps running at 50HzHz, so the cycle is repeated 50 times per second, and what you hear is the combination of the [ronron du champ magnétique] and the [martèlement du piston] which moves at high speedspeed. To add a layer of it, the vibrationvibration can also shake the plasticplastic casing and the moving parts of the machine, and that’s how it is, and I promise you, this is the last time, we get this noise : [vrombissement]. Whether you are a fan of the counter coffee or the espresso machine, you get in both cases a dense, concentrated and aromatic aromatic drink, more or less close to the legendary beverage produced in his time by Mr. Eugenio in his Roman bar. As we said, the liquid is also covered with a smooth crema, a mixture of proteins, oil and melanoidins which give it this delicious taste. It is an airy coffee, born from a mixture of water and air, which gives it this soft and characteristic sound: [son étouffé de l’expresso qui coule]. Compare that to the sound of filter coffee now: [son clair du café filtre qui coule]. Filter coffee is generated neither by pressure nor by air. It therefore has no crema and sounds much more… liquid. The ground coffee is placed in a filter above the coffee maker, and the water is poured in gradually to infuse the grind. It is a process that can take more or less time depending on the technique you use, but you will generally end up with a longer and less powerful coffee, since the filter blocks some of the components and, in particular, the oil of the coffee. . This is also why it is suitable for people with cholesterolcholesterol problems. Unlike a French press coffee maker, an Italian coffee maker, or even an espresso machine, which coarsely filter the coffee by simply blocking the grind but letting all the components through, the filter coffee maker retains the substances called cafestol and kahwéol, present in coffee oil, which can increase the level of triglyceridestriglycerides and LDL cholesterol. A 2020 study thus shows that filter coffee, even if it is less powerful, presents less danger to heart health and could even reduce the risk of mortality in general. Once again, the article is available in the link in description. Small bonus: the filter coffee would also be less acidic and would allow connoisseurs to savor more nuances and different flavors in the same cup. Would we have found the crème des cafés? Is it time to throw away our soluble coffee to move on to a more noble solution? The answer and the end of this episode after a short break. Alphonse Allais and the invention of soluble coffee So, soluble coffee. Genius or fraud? First, a little history tour. According to modern sources (link in description), it is to the French writer, journalist and humorist Alphonse Allais that we owe the invention of instant coffee. If his name means nothing to you, he is the author of phrases like: [une musique élégante au piano]“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. “The least idle pickpockets are precisely those who always have their hands in their pockets. “And John killed Madeleine. It was around this time that Madeleine lost the habit of deceiving Jean. Or even “The advantage of doctors is that when they make a mistake, they bury it right away…” No doubt, Allais is a comedian, but he is also the author of works lesser-known scientists on photography, color photography, rubber rubber synthesis, or, you guessed it, freeze-dried instant coffee. It was during his military service, during the second half of the 19th century, that the idea came to him. The coffee is probably stored in poor conditions by the army and the resulting sock juice is the subject of many complaints among its fellow fortune-tellers. With his master, the pharmacist François-Victor Pillard, the friend Alphonse imagined a clever technique to capture the aroma of coffee before it was transported and sold to customers. In their patent n°141530, filed in 1881, they propose that the coffee be prepared and filtered upstream to produce a thick concentrate, which will then be freeze-dried and then broken into granules small enough to be dissolved in hot water. [on verse de l’eau chaude sur les granules]. A stroke of genius… but without much commercial success. Nine years later, on the other side of the planet, the New Zealander David Strang invented a similar process which he filed under the patent number 3518. Then in 1901, it was the Japanese chemist Satori Kato who recorded and presents its own solution at the Pan-American Expo. But it was not until 1910 that the invention was commercialized on a large scale, by the businessman [avec l’accent anglais :] George Constant Louis Washington ([avec l’accent français :] George Constant Louis Washington, à la française). Mission finally accomplished for Allais, at least indirectly, since the Washington coffee met with some success with the soldiers who gave it the nickname “cup of George”. In 1938, Nestlé launched its soluble coffee which it baptized Nescafé, and the circle was closed. Today, almost 20% of the coffee consumed in the world is purchased in the form of granules. Advantages and Disadvantages of Soluble Coffee Okay, but that doesn’t tell us whether instant coffee can match its competitors when it comes to taste, aroma, or health benefits. So, let’s start by looking at how soluble is produced today. [Un grand ventilateur de four souffle.] The green beans first pass through a huge oven where they are roasted at an average temperature of 200°C. This cooking gives them their characteristic brown color; it allows the sugars to caramelize and especially the aromatic profile to develop. The darker the roast, the more bitter the coffee will be, the lighter the roast, the more acidic the drink will be. The roasted beans then pass through a [moulin industriel où ils sont réduits en mouture]then it goes through a process similar to what one would come across for an espresso machine. [Un bouillonnement, un jet de vapeur] Thanks to the injection of high pressure steam, tens of thousands of liters of coffee are produced. They are then heated until they produce a thick concentrate, resembling melted milk chocolate. This concentrate is spread as a sheet on a [convoyeur à bande] and sent in a [congélateur] several tens of meters long where there is a freezing temperature of -50°C. Once in a solid state, this slick of concentrated coffee is broken into granules and continues its journey through a low pressure chamber. [un discret vrombissement électrique]. This time, the soluble coffee beans are heated to 60°C and the low pressure helps the water go straight from the ice state [de la glace craque] in the vapor state [une personne souffle par la bouche]. This is called sublimationsublimation and this process of freezing then desiccationdesiccation is simply called lyophilization! If you want to see the production of soluble coffee in the factory, you start to know the song, go to the links in description. So, of course, it goes without saying that you can’t freeze-dry coffee without breaking eggs. Soluble coffee contains less caffeine than its counterparts. Besides, a little aside, if you are wondering what the difference is between caffeine and theine, I invite you to listen to our episode of Science or Fiction on this subject. [la musique du générique de Science ou Fiction joue discrètement en arrière-plan]. Our instant coffee also contains more acrylamideacrylamide, a chemical compound found in some burnt foods. The latter is classified as a Group 2A compound, probably carcinogenic agents, by the International Agency for Research on Cancercancer, and a 2014 study suggests that it may also be neurotoxic. Ouch. On the taste side, if freeze-drying makes it possible to preserve most of the aromas, the problem mainly comes from the beans that are chosen to produce the soluble coffee. With the idea of ​​compensating for its lower caffeine level, manufacturers have long used robusta for its production: a grain that is certainly more caffeinated but also stronger and more bitter. This choice is generally made to the detriment of the subtlety of the taste and has earned soluble coffee its bad reputation. Note all the same the noble effort of certain brands which have since chosen to turn to arabica or to blends to restore their image. On the positive side of the strength, the antioxidant antioxidant content of soluble coffee is similar to that of coffees prepared by other methods. It’s also easier to store and maintain, and therefore has a lower environmental footprint, according to a 2009 study. Conclusion and bonus fun fact So in the end, what will it be? Espresso, macchiato, long coffee, hazelnut hazelnut, cream, Americano, instant, decaf, mocha? Through the simple sound of a coffee machine, we traveled together from one end of the world to the other, from the end of the 19th century to the year of grace 2006 when George Clooney was doing charm on TV to sell caps. It was a pleasure to write this first episode and to learn many new things throughout the path. I hope this sound excursion will have you more, and that you will have learned at least one or two interesting things. Do not hesitate to tell us what in the comments, and to share your own fun facts to extend the experience. You can also find us on Twitter @futurasciences or @Emma_Hollen to continue the conversation. Infra, so that’s going to be it. A sound as a starting point then a journey through history, science and culture, from definitions to reflections, from digressions to anecdotes, and hopefully, a good dose of interviews to punctuate the journey. In order not to miss the ship, remember to subscribe and do not hesitate to talk about this podcast around you! Oh, and if you know anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing who might like this podcast, feel free to recommend it. Detailed transcripts are provided with each episode for everyone to enjoy. So we meet again in two weeks and until then, listen to the world differently. [La musique se termine.]If you’re still here at this point in the podcast, you’re officially our favorite listener. One last fun fact to thank you for your curiosity and your attention. There is officially no word to designate coffee enthusiasts, but we will still note the existence of the term cofféaphiliste to designate collectors of coffee makers and mylokaphéphiliste for collectors of coffee grinders. And it was the German Robert Dahl who won the Guinness World Record for the most relentless coffee lover in 2012, with no less than 27,390 coffee makers. We imagine that for him, the most difficult thing is not to choose a type of coffee but in which container he will prepare it.