The Coffee In Dune Means More Than You Think

Frank Herbert first published his sci-fi novel "Dune" in 1965, and it has since spawned multiple recreations, including the most recent film release this past October (via LA Times). While there are some differences between the current adaptation and the book material, many key pieces of the story are still true to the original, including the importance of coffee in the "Dune" universe. 

Admittedly, the role of the beverage may be more subtle in the 2021 flick, though there's still plenty of mentions. For example, the coffee service in the sietch — aka underground cavern — of Zendaya's character Chani's home (via Sprudge). Yet, the role of coffee for Timothée Chalamet's character Paul Atreides, and the mock society in general, is described more in-depth in the original written material, as the article says Herbert is thought to have been a big fan of the drink.

On both the desert planet Arrakis and the more Earth-like environment of Caladan, there are many book quotes describing the characters and their frequent coffee-drinking. Paul's mother is described in the following passage: "[Jessica] frowned, turned to Mapes. 'Mapes, bring a stimulant. I'd suggest caffeine. Perhaps there's some of the spice coffee left,'" ("Dune" page 239, via Sprudge). Paul Atreides is mentioned multiple times in reference to his own fancy coffee service as well, as Sprudge says it's described as made up of "fluted alloy of silver and jasmium" — which sounds perfectly ahead of its time!

A recipe for Dune-style coffee exists

In their vast analysis, Sprudge continues to share the role of coffee in the culture of the desert-dwelling Fremen people of the "Dune" universe, quoting passages including, "She thought of calling for coffee and with the thought came that ever-present awareness of paradox in the Fremen way of life: How well they lived in these sietch caverns compared to the graben pyons..." Amidst this pondering, Herbert later writes on the page, "From the cup arose the aroma of spiced coffee." ("Dune" page 636, per Sprudge).

So entrenched in the "Dune" culture does this spiced coffee appear to be, that a 1984 fan created their own recipe for Fremen coffee in Dune Encyclopedia, as shared in the article. Using a Fremen-specific grinding method (think very fine), you are supposed to take about 3/4-cup of water, 15 grams or about a half-ounce of Fremen coffee and then brew, add sugar, honey, and at least 5 milliliters of spice. While the recipe does not specify exactly how this turns out, many Redditors have gotten in on the conversation and have surmised that this particular beverage is more like espresso or rich Turkish coffee than like the traditional American drip (via Reddit).

This discussion, however, leads to yet another Reddit fan question on coffee — with water so scarce on the desert-like planet Arrakis, how does coffee even happen?

How does the coffee flow on a desert planet?

One person was so intrigued by this coffee question three years ago that they asked the online Reddit community how coffee could be made on the desert planet, noting, "In a such a well-thought and complex world I refuse to think that the author forgot about this detail, so I hope somebody can tell me how it is possible for the Fremen to drink coffee so easily," they wrote. 

Other Redditors were quick to step in with theories and suggestions. As one person said, "The Fremen probably don't use all the water for terraforming Arrakis. They have some use for it to make coffee, planting crops for food, etc." In addition, readers surmised the spice in the beverage might change the way coffee is made in the fictional world. Said one person, "If however you think of it as a necessary stimulant ... [Frank Herbert] doesn't say what they make it with and considering how self-reliant Fremen were, we can assume it wasn't the coffee we drink, but something made with spice, as it has a cinnamony flavor."

There is also evidence of possible cultivation of coffee beans in the few areas of the universe that are used for agriculture, like how date palms are grown, with the book stating, "Now came the crucial test: date palms, cotton, melons, coffee, medicinals — more than 200 selected food plant types to test and adapt," ("Dune" page 806, via Sprudge). 

So, to the surprise of many, coffee plays a vital role in "Dune" culture. As fans here, we'll be on a quest for that perfect recipe for a spiced cup and hope you share yours!