Seattle based startup Atomo, are hacking the coffee plant out of your morning Joe. Their “Molecular Coffee” isn’t trying to put coffee growers out of business, they are just trying to create an alternative to coffee.
Coffee grows in a very specific climate range right along the equator. The Coffee Belt spans from Northern South America through parts of Africa, India and Indonesia. With the rising crisis of Climate Change, the areas around the equator are going to be hit the hardest and with it, the beautiful Coffea plant.
“We realized, holy crap, you know, coffee is actually in trouble–it’s at risk,” says Andy Kleisch, CEO of Atomo.
They’re currently running a KickStarter Campaign offering anywhere from 50 – 3000 cups worth of Atomo coffee for their backers.
It’s All Chemicals, Man
The team at Atomo made up of food scientists, biochemists and entrepreneurs, researched the chemical makeup and molecular compounds of the coffee bean. They found of the 1000s of compounds in coffee ~40 of those are essential to the flavor. By identifying the chemical compounds that make the flavor, they can extract them from other natural plant-based sources.
In a small taste test on the University of Washington campus, 70% of students preferred Atomo’s “coffee” to Starbucks.
Preserving The Sacred Ritual
They initially developed a liquid beverage that had all the taste of the coffee, but they soon realized one of the fundamental aspect of coffee is actually brewing it. “You want your morning ritual to stay the same.” They’re still perfecting the texture using food by products like sunflower seed shells, or watermelon seeds.
One Black Coffee. Room For Sustainability?
Coffee is a very ecologically intense crop to grow. By developing a coffee from more sustainable materials your morning coffee can help save the planet. By creating a replacement for coffee Atomo hopes to slow the deforestation for the sake of coffee. At the end of the day coffee isn’t a very sustainable plant. If you drink just 1.5 cups a day, that’s a years worth of work for 14 arabica coffee trees, just for one drinker. That’s a lot of trees.
“We clear forests,” Kleisch says. “We pollute the environment with pesticides. We hire slave labor. We store this, and then we ship it around the world, all to get this crummy cup of coffee. There’s gotta be a better way.”
What’s Next For Atomo?
With the help of KickStarter, Atomo is looking to finalize the formula, manufacturing and distribution. Prior to the crowdfunding campaign Atomo partnered with food & beverages developers Mattson to bring the coffee to market.
Based on the success on the kickstarter and their first batches they plan on developing different flavor profiles of ground coffee, espresso, and even the first truly decaf coffee.