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Join hosts Toni Okamoto and Paul Shapiro as they talk with some of the leading start-up entrepreneurs and titans of industry alike using their businesses to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Dec 1, 2019

In the 29 previous episodes of this show you’ve heard about pork without pigs, milk without cows, diamonds without mining, and even wood without trees. Well, on this 30th episode, we’re exploring the brave new world of coffee without the bean.

Turns out that there’s a lot of deforestation for coffee growing, and climate change is making the situation worse. In fact, experts predict that the amount of land suitable for growing coffee is expected to shrink by an estimated 50% by 2050.

But, what if you could make coffee out of agricultural byproducts, like watermelon seeds and sunflower seed husks? Think it wouldn’t taste as good? Well, according to a Seattle-based startup called Atomo, they’ve not only recreated the exact taste of coffee, but they go on to claim that in blind taste tests of their brew vs. Starbucks, 7 out of 10 people preferred the taste of their so-called molecular coffee.

Company cofounders Andy Kleitsch and Jarret Stopforth began with a successful Kickstarter, giving them enough funds to do the food science necessary to crack the coffee code. After putting out a press release about their prototype, investors came calling, and literally within days they’d signed a terms sheet for $2.6M.

Now, Atomo is brewing, making coffee in which they can precisely control the amount of caffeine, and much, much more. It’s a fascinating tale of one more way in which food tech innovation may help alleviate pressure we’re placing on the planet. So sit back and maybe enjoy a cup of coffee while listening, and know that that cup in the future may be even tastier for you and better for the planet. 

Books discussed in this episode