The catalytic behavior of Cu surfaces in the anhydrous production of aldehydes from alcohols, a process of industrial significance, is puzzling: the two simplest alcohols (methanol and ethanol) show dramatically different decomposition behavior on Cu. Here, we study the thermodynamic and kinetic processes involved in the anhydrous dehydrogenation of linear-chain alcohols including methanol, ethanol, 1-propanol, and 1-butanol on the Cu(110) surface using multiscale approaches. First, we obtain the adsorption structures and energies of the reaction intermediates, in which van der Waals (vdW) interactions play a crucial role. Then, we determine the kinetic barriers for the two dehydrogenation steps, namely, the O-H and the subsequent C-H bond-breaking on Cu. The reaction of methoxy-to-formaldehyde has a rather high-energy transition state, in contrast to that of alkoxide-to-aldehyde in the longer-chain systems. This difference qualitatively explains the lower production efficiency of formaldehyde on Cu. Finally, we simulate the production rates of aldehydes based on which we optimize reaction conditions and propose possible avenues for enhancing the production of anhydrous formaldehyde using Cu-based catalysts.