Is there a scientific basis for the coffee making equipment which Gale Boetticher describes in Breaking Bad?

Picture of the "Ultimate" coffee maker

He talks about maintaining the right conditions for bringing out the coffee flavor without degrading it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I found this link: reddit.com/r/chemistry/comments/1jr3nf/… and vacuum brewing seems to come up here and there. But there's no explanation anywhere as to why such a method produces a good coffee. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Dec 20, 2013 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ The setup used in "Breaking Bad" is non-functional. It isn't an autoclave but rather a vacuum pot. Check out this video, "Tour of the Superlab with Propmaster: Inside Breaking Bad" which explains it doesn't actually work! $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Mar 3, 2018 at 3:03

2 Answers 2


Yes, there is a scientific basis, but I think you can't do anything with the apparatus shown in the figure. Here you can find much information about it. I will try to summarize.

It seems that extracting coffee at a lower temperature makes it tastes better. Gale thinks that the amount of quinic acid is the key variable that makes good coffee. In fact, some studies (McCamey, D. A.; Thorpe, T. M.; and McCarthy, J. P. Coffee Bitterness. In "Developments in Food Science." Vol 25. 169-182. 1990.) report that bitterness of coffee is due to quinic acid but is not the only substance involved (see this link). I don't have any reference about the dependence between temperature and method of extraction and quantitative of quinic acid extracted.

By the way, the apparatus should extract the coffee in a more effective way. The vacuum pump seems to suggest the use of the vacuum to make the water boil at a lower temperature. But the connections in my opinion make no sense, so I will try to describe it:

enter image description here

All start with an autoclave that is connected with a Gast vacuum pump. This is connected with an Allihn condenser (not the right thing to do because in there you should connect the water used to refrigerate), and then to a heated Erlenmeyer flask that is connected with a strange steel cylinder (I don't know what it is, maybe a filter), then to a Florence flask and then to another steel cylinder (...). The inspiration comes from a Florence Siphon but this is much simpler and is generally something like this:

enter image description here

Here you can read and here you can watch how it works.

Of course this is not so nice and intriguing as the previous apparatus and is not a geeky thing that makes us think we are dealing with a great chemist, so the authors thought to make the apparatus more appealing but completely useless!

  • $\begingroup$ They should have just asked the guys over at Funranium Labs for one of their setups. $\endgroup$
    – Aesin
    Dec 24, 2013 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ I assumed that he was doing some sort of vacuum enhanced Soxhlet extraction where the volatile vapours of the coffee were also condensed to add to the flavour. It doesn't look like it was wired that way. $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Dec 24, 2013 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ @matt_black a soxhlet however needs water refrigeration, I don't see any real use of this apparatus.... $\endgroup$
    – G M
    Dec 26, 2013 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ The top right ?? is a filter, according to this video (from @Tom below) $\endgroup$
    – Déjà vu
    May 2, 2019 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ @RingØ great! you can edit the answer if you want and add the details and the link! $\endgroup$
    – G M
    May 2, 2019 at 6:40

I think you can make coffee with the machine shown in the picture. This is my analysis.

breaking bad coffee machine

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, but why do you need a Allihn condenser in that position? $\endgroup$
    – G M
    Jun 19, 2014 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure why the vacuum is required. The water can boil and then be cooled down to 92C before it's run through the coffee grounds. $\endgroup$
    – user7656
    Sep 1, 2014 at 2:15

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