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September 15, 2019

Is the future of coffee beanless?

coffee

Could you imagine starting your day without a cup of coffee? Coffee’s popularity is growing, but coffee plantations are under threat. Diseases, population growth and climate change mean that an estimated half of the land currently used for growing coffee won’t be suitable in a few decades time. Extensive deforestation of tropical forests for coffee plantations is another reason why the future of coffee is uncertain.

But don’t fear, because a sustainable alternative is in the works. Atomo Coffee is a molecular coffee with a nearly identical colour, taste, mouthfeel and aroma of coffee. This Seattle-based start-up analysed the 1000+ naturally occurring components in coffee beans, and then designed their own version of the drink using the most important components that contribute desirable characteristics to coffee. The components they use come from other naturally occurring plant sources which they say are more sustainable than coffee. Atomo will also be a vegan product. The exact composition of the beanless coffee remains shrouded in secrecy for now, but we know it contains many different natural compounds from other food sources, like antioxidants, flavonoids, acids and caffeine. The coffee is said to have a complex flavour profile, with prominent roasted almond and toffee notes. It doesn’t have the bitterness of coffee, so perhaps less people will feel the need to add sugar and milk to it. They want to preserve the coffee-making ritual, so this product will likely be sold in the form of grounds and be brewed in the same way as regular coffee. Whatever formula they have, they are getting something right: when a blind tasting was conducted at The University of Washington, 70% of students who tasted it preferred Atomo to Starbucks. 

Atomo molecular coffee is predicted to hit the market next year and won’t be a high-end product but rather one that appeals to the masses. They want their product to be affordable, sustainable and accessible to everyone. Although people tend to be skeptical of “lab-engineered” products, especially as they are not disclosing their ingredients list yet, the concept is interesting and it’s good to know there will be a sustainable alternative back up to get our coffee fix in the future.