This curious concoction has been engineered to have all of coffee's fabulous flavor, minus the bitterness.
You've probably heard the alarming news that coffee's future is uncertain. Thanks to the spread of climate change-induced diseases and changing weather patterns, there could come a day when we are unable to partake in the near-spiritual ritual of grinding beans, brewing them, and drinking the dark energy-giving elixir that results. That vision is enough to send anyone running back to bed.
Some intrepid food scientists, however, are hoping to soften our societal caffeine withdrawal by offering a head-scratching alternative – beanless coffee. What? you may gasp. Sacrilege! But these daring researchers claim their invention, called Atomo coffee, is not only better for the environment, but even tastier in the cup. They say their beanless coffee does away with the bitterness that three-quarters of coffee drinkers try to mask by adding cream, milk, or sugar.Check out the following blind taste test that Atomo staff conducted at the University of Washington last month. Students were given samples of both Atomo brew and Starbucks' Pike Place medium-roast. Astonishingly, Atomo won the day, picked by 21 out of 30 people as the tastier brew.
Atomo describes its process as 'reverse-engineering' the coffee bean: "We looked at all the compounds in coffee at a molecular level – the body, mouthfeel, aroma, color – over 1,000 compounds in a roasted bean. We found the essential compounds for aroma and flavor. Then we sourced naturally-derived compounds to design our own coffee."
Lead scientist Dr. Jared Stopforth goes into a bit more detail in a press release:
"We are building mouthfeel and body of molecular coffee to mimic that of conventional coffee by replacing the polysaccharides, oils and proteins found in the insoluble part of the coffee ground with natural, sustainable and upcycled plant-based materials that deliver the same great effect."
As I read about Atomo, I kept thinking, "But what's IN it?" No answers were forthcoming. A press release merely states, "We’re not disclosing our ingredients – but we are very happy with the color." (Good for them!) The company is very secretive as to what 'natural, sustainable and upcycled plant-based materials' are used, but I like to know what's in something I'm eating or drinking – and not revealing those ingredients will inevitably raise questions about allergens and sourcing. How is an ethical consumer to know that swapping one plant source (coffee beans) for another actually has a net benefit for the planet?
If those unknowns don't bother you and you're curious to try this non-coffee coffee, you can order a bag of Atomo blend from its Kickstarter campaign, on right now until March 9. Money raised will go toward scaling up production, with a hopeful launch date of autumn 2019. The coffee comes in ground form and can be brewed just like regular ground coffee – in drip machines, pour-overs, refillable K-cups, or AeroPresses.