Sustainable bean-less coffee company receives $40M in funding

Atomo Coffee, the Seattle-based coffee company that made U.S. headlines in 2019 for its caffeinated beverage that requires no beans, has just received $40 million in funding in hopes of continuing their mission of sustainability in a waste-ridden industry. 

According to a press release, the company has come one major step closer to providing a smooth version of everyone’s favorite morning drink that has the same caffeinated kick but doesn’t require any beans at all.

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Atomo Coffee was started by Jarret Stopforth, Ph.D., a radical food scientist with 20 years of experience, and Andy Kleitsch, an entrepreneur who has been working in wireless, internet and payments for more than 20 years.

They love coffee, but realized there were a couple of distinct things that could be made better about it — namely, reducing the bitterness of the brew and reducing the impact of production so that coffee can be enjoyed for generations to come.

"I love coffee, but every day I was adding cream and sugar to mask coffee’s bitter flavor" said Stopforth. "By replicating the taste, aroma and mouthfeel of coffee, we’ve designed a better tasting coffee that’s also better for the environment."

Sixty percent of all coffee species are threatened with extinction, according to research published in Science Magazine this January, and some of them may start disappearing in the next 10 to 20 years. This is due to a variety of factors, including climate change (most specifically exacerbated droughts), the spread of devastating fungal pathogens, and coffee wilt disease.

Social, economic and market-based factors like population expansion and increasing global demand for coffee also threaten the long-term future of coffee beans.

"We believe we have a moral obligation to stop harmful coffee farming practices, but none of us want to stop drinking coffee." said Kleitsch, CEO of Atomo. "Atomo’s technology can halt the need for further deforestation by reducing the demand for coffee beans."

The research and development team for Atomo, led by Stopforth, who has previously worked for brands like Chobani and Soylent, broke roasted coffee beans down to a molecular level. They studied the more than 1,000 compounds that determine the body, mouthfeel, aroma and color of a cup of coffee, honing in on those compounds responsible for the taste and aroma of coffee. Then they sourced naturally-derived compounds that could be combined to create a new form of the drink, called "molecular coffee."

Colleen Killingsworth contributed to this story.