How To Stop Spilling Your Coffee, According To Physics

Photographed by David Brandon Geeting.
Oh, beautiful, sweet-smelling coffee, we love you so. But it turns out, we may not know you as well as we thought we did. Despite our undying devotion, we may have been holding our coffee cups incorrectly for pretty much our entire lives. According to a new research study entitled A Study on The Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime, authored by Jiwon Han and summarized by Food & Wine, we spill our coffee so often simply because of the way we hold our cups. A simple error for which there is, thankfully, a simple fix. Most people hold their coffee either by using the handle (so obvious!) or by gripping the body of the cup. To cut down on spillage, Han recommends carrying coffee cups from the top, instead, using what he calls the “the claw method.” Using this grip will shrink “the magnitude of acceleration” as we move; i.e., holding your coffee cup from the top will cause you to swing your coffee much more gently and spill less. But if clutching your coffee cup like a claw sounds just too awkward, Han does have an alternative: walk backwards. How does that work, exactly? “Since we are not accustomed to backwards walking, our motion in the walking direction becomes irregular," Han explains, "and our body starts to heavily rely on sideways swinging motion in order to keep balance." This essentially causes the liquid to move gently around the cup rather than messily hitting — and spilling over — the sides. True coffee devotees, we will now know you by your backwards walk through the office each morning.

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