Bean there, done that? Feel Atomo with revolutionary coffeeless coffee
Coffee without beans? A start-up brews a new cup of Joe
A block away from the Starbucks on Seattle’s busy Western Avenue, a woman bends over a coffee grinder and a black kettle full of bubbling water sits on a hotplate. The air is thick with the roasty aroma of fresh-brewed java. The scene would be entirely unremarkable except for a few outstanding details. One, the woman is wearing a lab coat. Two, there’s a steaming glass beaker instead of a mug. And three, not a single coffee bean was involved in making it.
This is the office of food tech start-up Atomo Coffee, where a team of food scientists and chemists led by friends and co-founders Andy Kleitsch and Jarret Stopforth are working on what they hope will be the successor to meatless meat, eggless eggs and milkless milk. Atomo’s coffeeless coffee is made from upcycled ingredients, for example sunflower seed husks and watermelon seeds, which undergo a patented chemical process to yield molecules that mimic the flavour and mouthfeel of the real thing. The resulting grounds are brewed just like a regular cup of coffee. And yes, it has caffeine.
The R1.4-trillion coffee industry is one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change. The plants that grow arabica beans—the most common worldwide, favoured by both coffee snobs and chains like Starbucks — thrive in cool regions with distinct rainy and dry seasons. But global warming is causing those regions to shrink. Within the next seven decades, arabica is likely to lose at least 50% of its habitat, according to a 2019 report from scientists at Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As temperatures continue to rise and growers move their farms in search of cooler temperatures, rates of deforestation rise as well...