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Explore STEAM with this easy coffee filter chromatography craft that transforms into a bouquet of flowers! Coffee filter chromatography is a simple and fascinating technique used to separate the components of a mixture, often focusing on pigments or dyes in various substances like markers, ink, or plant extracts. This project is perfect for hands-on science experiments.


Chromatography for STEAM

Coffee filter chromatography is an excellent example of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) activity because it incorporates principles from multiple disciplines:

Science: Kids learn about the scientific principles of chromatography, including solubility, capillary action, and separation of mixtures. They observe firsthand how different components of ink separate based on their interactions with the filter paper and the solvent.

You might also like the original black mark chromatography lab.

Art: Coffee filter chromatography is a creative activity that allows kids to express themselves artistically by creating colorful chromatograms. They can experiment with different colors and designs, making each chromatogram unique.

Chromatogram: a visible record (such as a series of colored bands, or a graph) showing the result of separation of the components of a mixture by chromatography.

Coffee Filter Chromatogrphy Project

Supplies Needed:

  • Paper towel/newspaper
  • Coffee filters
  • Small 4 or 8oz mason jars
  • Green pipe cleaners
  • Water
  • Markers (water-based)
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape

How to Make Chromatography Flowers

STEP 1: Flatten the coffee filters onto a paper towel or newspaper.

STEP 2: Draw a circle on the coffee filter with a marker on the round bottom area.


STEP 3: Fold each coffee filter in half four times.

STEP 4: Add an inch of water to each mason jar and place the folded coffee filter into the water, with just the bottom touching the water.


STEP 5: water will travel up the coffee filter and through the color in a minute or two.

STEP 6: Unfold the coffee filters and let them dry.

STEP 7: Fold the coffee filters in half about 4 times again and round the top with scissors.


STEP 8: Pull the center together with just a touch and tape with clear tape to make a flower.

STEP 9: Wrap a pipe cleaner around the tape and leave the remaining pipe cleaner for a stem.
10. Place in a small cup.


Science Behind Coffee Filter Chromatography

This technique is a fun and colorful activity and a powerful tool used in scientific research and analysis to separate and identify substances in mixtures.

The science behind coffee filter chromatography involves the separation of mixtures into their individual components. There are two phases: the stationary phase (the coffee filter paper) and the mobile phase (the water).

Markers contain various pigments with different solubilities and attractions to the coffee filter paper and water. As the water moves up the paper, it carries these pigments along, but each pigment interacts differently with the paper and the water, resulting in the separation of colors.

Note: The original chromatography experiment is typically done with black markers to reveal a mystery of colors, but for our colorful bouquet, choose any colors!

Once the water reaches the top of the filter paper, you’ll have a colorful chromatogram—a visual representation of the different pigments in the ink and their relative affinities for the solvent (water).

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