La Colombe Tests Self-Heating Cans of Coffee

Give it a twist and in two minutes you've got hot coffee on the go.

Thanks to the literally thousands of coffee shops, delis, and convenience stores around the country, getting a hot cup of coffee on the go isn't really a problem. But unless your destination has a microwave, taking that coffee with you and expecting it to be hot hours later isn't an option. Not that it hasn't been tried. Technology for self-heating food and drinks has been on the market for decades in various forms—most notably in military MREs—and when you expand out of beverages and into soups, noodle dishes, and other entrées, the rest of the world is full of options.

Domestically, however, such a product in the coffee space has yet to take off. But Philadelphia-based coffee roaster La Colombe is taking another crack at, well, cracking the American market with a self-heating can of coffee. The brand has teamed up with a technology company called HeatGen to test-market a pair of canned coffees that can become piping hot with just a simple twist. A La Colombe spokesperson said via email that the test run is part of the brand's "Fresh Ideas" program, "a line of limited-batch beverages that come from our Philadelphia-based research and development innovation hub."

Self-Heating La Colombe
Courtesy of La Colombe

So how does it work? The bottom of the can houses a self-contained heating element that relies on a "solid-state" chemical reaction to generate heat, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, and that is also, apparently, recyclable along with the can. Twisting the mechanism activates the reaction, and in two minutes the coffee inside (10.3 ounces, due to the slightly reduced real estate) reaches a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, it's your choice to pour it into a mug or enjoy it directly from the container. The two launch flavors are an unsweetened La Colombe Brazilian Single Origin and La Colombe Brazilian with Milk+ Sugar.

According to the Inquirer, the product was in development for five years before its initial (limited) launch in the coffee brand's flagship Fishtown location, only. The current price tag per can is $5, but is expected to drop significantly when the product receives a larger rollout in Wegmans supermarkets.

“I want to see how people react,” La Colombe CEO Todd Carmichael told the Inquirer. “I’m experimenting with technology and I’m experimenting with people. Is it a fad or a novelty or is it a trend? I want to see how it fits in with people’s lives.”

Full disclosure, I actually tried a similar product about ten years ago. My reaction at the time was "why isn't this everywhere?" But given that in the decade since I first experienced the technology self-heating cans have yet to sweep the nation, La Colombe is probably wise to let this potentially hot innovation simmer.

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