Microbiologists discover caffeine-adapted bacteria living in the sludge in their office coffee machine.

By Seriously Science | December 3, 2015 11:09 am
Photo: flickr/Ricardo Bernardo

Photo: flickr/Ricardo Bernardo

We can just imagine the scenario that spawned this paper: a bunch of microbiologists sitting around the lab coffee machine, looking for a way to procrastinate, and voila…coffee machine microbiome! Here, the researchers not only sampled bacteria from 10 different Nespresso machines, but they also “conducted a dynamic monitoring of the colonization process in a new machine” (charge new lab coffee machine to grant: check). They found that bacteria rapidly colonized the sludge that sits inside the machines, and many of these species were adapted to the high levels of caffeine and other compounds found in coffee. We’d suggest that they study what lives in the office fridge next, but really–not even a microbiologist wants to go there!

The coffee-machine bacteriome: biodiversity and colonisation of the wasted coffee tray leach

“Microbial communities are ubiquitous in both natural and artificial environments. However, microbial diversity is usually reduced under strong selection pressures, such as those present in habitats rich in recalcitrant or toxic compounds displaying antimicrobial properties. Caffeine is a natural alkaloid present in coffee, tea and soft drinks with well-known antibacterial properties. Here we present the first systematic analysis of coffee machine-associated bacteria. We sampled the coffee waste reservoir of ten different Nespresso machines and conducted a dynamic monitoring of the colonization process in a new machine. Our results reveal the existence of a varied bacterial community in all the machines sampled, and a rapid colonisation process of the coffee leach. The community developed from a pioneering pool of enterobacteria and other opportunistic taxa to a mature but still highly variable microbiome rich in coffee-adapted bacteria. The bacterial communities described here, for the first time, are potential drivers of biotechnologically relevant processes including decaffeination and bioremediation.”

Related content:
What happens when you give a sadist a cup of bugs and a coffee grinder?
Flashback Friday: Physicists explain why it’s so hard to walk with a cup of coffee.
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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Extend that to addicts’ works, urinary catheters, and upholstered chair seats.

    • Don’t Even Try It!

      …and computer keyboards 😉

  • jhertzli

    Bacteria with insomnia?

  • Overburdened_Planet

    What happens when these bacteria become super caffeinated? 😉

    • surfeagleOrg

      be like organisms on steroids

      • Overburdened_Planet

        Hopefully without the ‘roid rage.

    • James Steele

      They will start growing ‘espresso’-nentially… he he he..


      • Overburdened_Planet

        No, I like it. 😉

  • Maia

    Most bacteria are either benign or neutral as far as human life is concerned. The article says nothing about them being harmful. 90%
    of the cells of our bodies are bacterial cells, 10% are “human”. Most of those “in house” bacteria are essential to our life and health. We don’t need to eliminate them simply because of a childish “yuck” response to the idea of “bugs” being everywhere? Or do we? On second thought, that’s how we got to the point that there is now a pathological bacterium which is 100% resistant to the last remaining antibiotic.

    • Emkay

      please tell us…what bacterium(s) make up 90% of your body’s cells?? we’d love to know!

      • Maia

        Yours, mine, everybody’s body is 9 to 1 microbial to human. Every human’s microbiome is somewhat unique, and it changes over time, as well, so I’m afraid you’ll have to do the checking for yourself.
        If you can’t do a direct count :) then, as someone said to me the other day, Google it.
        Eg: put in “human microbiome” or something similar, and eventually you’ll get the general idea of what I’m referring to.

        • Quatergork

          This 9-to-1 statistic is one of those persistent myths that appear readily in Google search results and on Wikipedia but has no firm scientific backing. The truth is, we aren’t sure of the exact human-to-microbe ratio. In any event, we are well over 90% human by mass, and the microbiome (regardless of cell numbers) is a powerful and meaningful component of what makes us human.

          • Maia

            I agree. The numbers aren’t the point, and will change back and forth as we experiment. The point is we are not only human in our composition.

    • Moe Better 11

      I saw no “yucks” in the article or replies – though maybe I missed a few? Yes, bacteria is mostly harmless – just read the Hitchhikers Guide!

  • polistra24

    The headline of this article could serve as a pretty good mathematical answer to a question: “Describe the universe.”

    Answer: For all X, X-adapted bacteria thrive in X.

    We haven’t observed all of it yet, but at this point I wouldn’t bet more than a dollar against it.

    • Maia

      Yeah, I’ve pretty much reached that same conclusion!
      There is even a bacterium named: radiophilans!

  • http://glowbullwarming.wordpress.com/ Earthling

    Further investigation has linked this virus with anthropogenic Glowbull warming.


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