the future

Will Bean-Free Coffee Be the New Meat-Free Burger?

No beans here. Photo: Jase Kuusisto/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the United Nations shared yet another alarming report about climate change. This time, it focused on the threat to our food supply due to the overuse of land and water resources plus the loss of arable land due to climate change.

Coffee is a notable offender as the crop requires a lot of water to grow. But at least one company thinks that there’s a future for coffee that’s not grown in soil, but formulated in a lab. The Observer reports that Horizon Ventures, an early investor in Impossible Foods, has put $2.6 million into Atomo, a Seattle-based company working to develop what it calls “molecular coffee.”

Unlike lab-grown meat, where animal cells are coaxed into creating cuts of beef, the science behind molecular coffee isn’t quite as clear (and according to Atomo, a lot of their work is still proprietary). But the general idea is that Atomo will create a cup of coffee from the bottom up, using the building blocks that comprise it, including quinic acid, dimethyl disulfide, niacin, 2-ethylphenol, and a handful of other elements.

Atomo execs promise they’re not out to destroy the coffee industry, but to offer a sustainable alternative. If all goes according to plan, the first bag of Atomo coffee grounds should be available next year.

Will Bean-Free Coffee Be the New Meat-Free Burger?