Coffee trips, slips and spillages

coffee accidentThere’s nothing worse than a soggy bourbon!

(Most) lawyers love coffee. In fact, I have heard it said there is a direct correlation between the greatness of a lawyer and the blend of coffee he or she drinks. I’m not so sure about that, but anecdotally at least, I think it’s a fair statement that the majority of lawyers love their coffee.

I’m sure we’ve all had a mug miscalculation at work which results in stained trousers and a damp crouch for the rest of the afternoon. Ahem. Well, I know I have. 

Walking back to your desk with hot mug of something can be hazardous too (and not just for the office carpet).  Thankfully, a new scientific study may help to reduce the risks (I’m glad the UK taxpayer hasn’t forked out for this wondrous insight, though).

From 09/05/12:

Ever wondered why it's so hard to walk with a cup of coffee without spilling? It just so happens that the human stride has almost exactly the right frequency to drive the natural oscillations of coffee, when the fluid is in a typically sized coffee mug.

New research shows that the properties of mugs, legs and liquid conspire to cause spills, most often at some point between your seventh and tenth step.

So says a pair of fluid physicists at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Coffee drinkers often attempt to walk quickly with their cups, as if they might manage to reach their destination before their sloshing java waves reach a critical height. This method is scientifically flawed. It turns out that the faster you walk, the closer your gait comes to the natural sloshing frequency of coffee. To avoid driving the oscillations that lead to a spillage, walk slowly.

Forget science and fluid dynamics; just let common sense prevail. Sprinting back to your desk with a cup of hot liquid isn’t smart in any circumstances.   I don’t know that we needed Professor Nescafe to tell us that!

Secondly, watch your cup, not your feet.

The researchers found that when study participants focused on their cups, the average number of steps they took before spilling coffee increased greatly. Krechetnikov and his graduate student Hans Mayer, the primary author of the study, suggested two explanations for this result: First, focusing on one's cup tends to engender slower walking; second, it dampens the noise, or chaotic sloshing, in the cup.

Yes, focussing on your cup is a kind of ‘flying on instruments’ approach. Coffee cup

Third, accelerate gradually. If you take off suddenly, a huge coffee wave will build up almost instantly, and it will crash over the rim after just a few steps.


Well, thanks for the tips.  Who me?

Now claim conscious lawyers can walk about their offices carrying cups of hot coffee safe in the knowledge they’re less likely to go A over T scalding a colleague in the process and, much more importantly, denying themselves their caffeine fixes.

I can sleep soundly tonight!


  1. haha! Well if scientists like that get paid huge amounts to research conclusions like that i'd like to be one too! The job seems easy enough.

  2. At least you'll be able to safely walk about with your macchiato now! ;-)


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