Lab-Grown Coffee Brews the Perfect Cup

Coffee can now be grown anywhere!

Oct 29, 2021
Lab-Grown Coffee Brews the Perfect Cup | Coffee can now be grown anywhere!

Coffee is the morning go-to drink. Especially in Finland where they drink more cups of joe per capita than anywhere else in the world. Now, Finland is growing its own coffee sans the beans.

The coffee is being produced in a bioreactor through cellular agriculture, an innovation that could make growing coffee more sustainable, according to a press release from the Technical Research Center (VTT) – a research, development and innovation partner that is owned by the Finnish state. This method has already been used to manufacture meat, dairy, and eggs in the lab.

The first batches of the lab developed coffee smell and taste like the real deal. “At VTT, this project has been part of our overall endeavor to develop the biotechnological production of daily and familiar commodities [like coffee] that are conventionally produced by agriculture,” the research team leader, Dr Heiko Rischer from VTT said in the press release.

Why focus on coffee?
Over 10 billion kilograms of coffee is produced every year according to the International Coffee Organization and demand is growing every year. But producing more coffee will also mean more deforestation as coffee requires direct sunlight reported New Atlas.

But it is unlikely that more coffee will be able to be produced if climate change continues and reduces the amount of land available for cultivation. That’s why it’s necessary to find  alternative methods of producing coffee.

Added environmental benefits of lab-made coffee is that it will require far less water, will have a smaller transportation footprint, and there will be no pesticides used in the production process.

The faux coffee was made using cells that were harvested from real coffee plants according to Rischer. “Initially a cell culture is started from a plant part eg. a leaf. The formed cells are propagated and multiplied on a specific nutrient medium, “ he told New Atlas.

“Ultimately, the cells are transferred to a bioreactor from which the biomass is then harvested. The cells are dried and roasted and then coffee can be brewed. “

The finished product was tested for its taste and smell that included several varieties of coffee that was produced in the bioreactor, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The researcher’s favorite was the dark roast.

Getting the coffee to market
At this point the coffee being produced is experimental food and  would have to receive regulatory approval from the FDA and European certification which could take time reported New Atlas. The product is also being perfected and refined and needs time to scale up to commercial production.

We aim to team up with industrial partners in order to develop a real product,” Rischer said. “In the most optimistic scenario a commercial product could be ready in four years.”

Although lab-grown meat and dairy is starting to be commercially available,  the question is will people accept a cell-grown substitute to conventional coffee? Will they miss the whole sensory experience of grinding and brewing coffee beans? Only time, and a great dark roast, will tell if the world is ready for a cup of lab-grown joe.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.