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.”