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‘Molecular coffee’ replicates everyone’s favorite pick-me-up with less bitterness.

Mike Pomranz
February 07, 2019

As a lover of good coffee, I spend a lot of time dealing with beans: researching roasters and the origin of their beans, buying them by the bag, and then grinding them fresh to get the best flavor. But a new startup called Atomo Coffee apparently thinks I spend too much time fussing about all of that: Instead, they’ve developed a coffee that doesn’t use beans at all. “Molecular coffee,” they call it. Wait, what?

Microbiologist Jarret Stopforth, along with company co-founder Andy Kleitsch, has been working on a way to replicate a standard cup of coffee — down to the taste, aroma, and even mouthfeel — all with natural ingredients, none of which are coffee beans. Of course, the question becomes why replicate something that already exists, but Atomo says it hopes to actually improve coffee’s flavor — specifically, killing the dreaded bitterness.

“68 percent of Americans mask the flavor of coffee with cream or sugar,” Kleitsch told FoodNavigator-USA, “and the way we translate that is that two thirds of the people that drink coffee are not actually satisfied with it. You’re also adding calories to your coffee with cream and sugar.” (For the record, I would argue that many people would be more satisfied if they just chose a better brand, but that’s a different discussion.)

Interestingly, for now, Atomo isn’t making actual liquid coffee, but instead is making faux coffee grounds — meaning you still have to brew your own cup. The company says their grounds can be used exactly the same as regular grounds (same amounts and all) in drip machines, Aeropresses, whatever. “We wanted to match that ritual [of making coffee] and offer something that’s a one for one exchange,” Kleitsch added. Their first product is meant to be “a smooth cup of coffee, not too light, not too dark,” but they say varieties — even those that replicate fancy single-origin coffees — are in the works.

They even held a taste test on the campus of the University of Washington. You can see how it went down here:

Interested in coffee without the beans? Atomo isn’t expecting to launch their product online until the end of 2019, but the brand has just created a Kickstarter campaign for those wanting to get in on the ground floor. If you grab the still-available early bird pricing, you can get 50 8-ounce cups worth Atomo for just $19. It actually sounds like quite the bargain for tasting the future.

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