If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Food Science

Coffee without the beans gets a boost

Seattle firm to start selling reverse-engineered coffee in 2021

by Alex Scott
August 20, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 32


A photo of cartoons on coffee mugs.
Credit: Atomo
Atomo will use the $9 million it has just raised to build a roastery in Seattle.

Coffee may be great, but it takes an environmental toll on the regions where it’s grown. Atomo Molecular Coffee is confronting this problem by replicating coffee “from the atom up” using molecules derived from US farmers’ plant waste. The company just raised $9 million from venture capital firms that it will use to build a roastery in Seattle. Commercial rollout is slated for 2021. Atomo plans to sell its coffee at a price similar to that for premium specialty coffees.

To replicate the taste and ­sensation of coffee, Atomo combines organic acids, oils, proteins, and polymers from plant waste, including watermelon seeds, ­sunflower seed husks, and a variety of pits, stems, leaves, and other seeds. It roasts and grinds ingredients in a traditional coffee-making manner.

The firm copies the color of coffee with a combination of natural additives. Caffeine content can be tuned according to customer preference.

Atomo says its version of coffee is more sustainable than bean coffee, with 95% of the drink’s ingredients by weight coming from “upcycled” plant materials.

The company developed its molecular coffee with the help of Chahan Yeretzian, a chemistry professor who heads the Coffee Excellence Center at Zurich University of Applied Sciences. “In the Atomo project, we are re-creating the complete experience while addressing the multiple challenges and threats linked to coffee as a crop,” Yeretzian says. “Consumer tests have shown that we are on track.”


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.