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THE ATOMO STORY! WHY FUTURE COFFEE MAY NOT CONTAIN COFFEE

Last Updated on November 20, 2020 by monica chan

Atomo is a gutsy startup doing what seems impossible or insane, or possibly both. They are making coffee without using any parts of a coffee plant. Why would anyone do this? It turns out there are some good reasons.

Watch the Bartalks interview with the two founders, CEO Andy Kleitsch and Chief Technology Officer Jarret Stopforth, or read the transcript below to hear their story and learn what the future holds.

Watch the full interview below

Download the Atomo Company FAQ

The Interview Transcript

Nick Baskett

Super. What are you drinking?

Andy Kleitsch

This is what we call conventional coffee.

Nick Baskett

I was going to ask you about this, actually, because you may remember Steve Ballmer. And if you know who Steve Ballmer was, a Microsoft, he was CEO of Microsoft. And, you know, he he famously when the iPhone was released, he famously would go around. If you saw anybody in the building with an iPhone at Microsoft, he would grab it off of them and throw it on the floor and stamp on it. And I was just going to ask you the same thing.

Nick Baskett

If you ever catch anybody walking around with a Starbucks, are you that guy?

Andy Kleitsch

No, we’re not that guy.

Andy Kleitsch

I mean, we actually love coffee. You know, we talk about it all the time. We have material all around the office on coffee. We buy the best coffee in the world. We try every coffee there is out there. And to really understand what coffee is and to replicate it, we have to be consumers of it. We have to love it. We have to be experts in it.

Nick Baskett

And that’s how I’ve started without even without even starting with the introduction. So let’s let’s do this introduction. So who are you? Who are you people?

Introduction to Atomo

Andy Kleitsch

We’re Atomo. We’re a couple of coffee lovers in Seattle. And so I’m Andy Kleitsch. And this is Jarret Stopforth. Stopforth And we’re the two co-founders of Atomo, Coffee and joking about Seattle. We are in the Pike Place market. And so we are we could practically throw a rock and hit the first Starbucks, you know, shop here metaphorically. Yeah, yeah.

Nick Baskett

No, not yet.

Nick Baskett

You don’t actually have a pot of rocks by the by the door.

Andy Kleitsch

Oh, well, we we ran out of supply. We have to go stock up.

It’s fantastic. What is. Let me ask you for those that don’t and I’m sure a lot of people do because you’ve been really all over the press. What does the Tummo do.

Jarret Stopforth

Yeah. Yeah. So we’re we’re building the world’s first coffee without the coffee bean. And the way we’re doing that is we we we have the coffee beans, so to speak. You know, we understood it, we studied it, we were buying coffee and then we replicated it and doing so with coffee beans.

Nick Baskett

And why going to say why? Well, there’s more.

How Atomo Got Started

Andy Kleitsch

I mean, let me give a little bit more story behind it. Like Jarret, you know, two years ago we hooked up and I said, what? What do you wish you were working on? And he says, well, I wish I was, you know, recreating coffee and reinventing coffee and getting coffee without the bean. And I went to his garage is like a little mad scientist in his garage. And he’s actually been researching all the different compounds that go into coffee and research papers.

Andy Kleitsch

And we started making some pretty bad coffee at the time, you know, in his garage, you know, taking all these different compounds and trying to recreate what coffee was. And so that’s how we got started a couple of years ago. And and once he started playing around with that, you know, we kind of had the aha moment or is that this is actually pretty good.

Andy Kleitsch

I don’t know if we’d say it was tasty.

Jarret Stopforth

This is coffee. It’s that wasn’t that great. Very good. And this was two years ago, right in the garage.

Andy Kleitsch

We didn’t know if it was going to be possible to actually create coffee without the bean. That was really an unknown for us. And so once we got going on it, we determined like this is actually possible, this is going to happen. And that’s when we really double down our efforts and really began researching what it was going to take to make coffee.

Nick Baskett

So what’s it like? Like in a curiosity thing, like, I wonder if we can do this or was there a purpose behind it?

Jarret Stopforth

Initially there was a purpose and the purpose grew and evolved. Right. So so when I first conceived of this, we drink a lot of coffee, both Andy and I are coffee lovers, and we drink a lot of coffee, six to eight cups a day. And I was drinking so much coffee, but I was starting to get really disappointed. If I could have coffee from the same outfit on this corner, I’d go over and have the same coffee an hour later on and they’d be completely different.

Jarret Stopforth

And I thought to myself, there’s got to be a way to do this consistently, to make great coffee consistently. And so I thought, well, what is the problem? Why is it so inconsistent? I mean, it’s the bean. Yeah, the magic is also the problem. And so, you know, we started looking into it to find out what what causes beans to be so inconsistent, coffee be so inconsistent. So the first step was, can we consistently make great coffee?

Jarret Stopforth

That’s when Andy and I got together and Andy was looking to do a startup that basically was better and right. And he’s been in entrepreneurship for 25 years and he was looking for his next startup, speaking to all his friends who are working on things to find out what’s a good fit for him. And that’s when he spoke to me. And ironically, we met over coffee. And, you know, he just asked me, what do you wish you’re working on full time?

Jarret Stopforth

And I said, well, I want to make coffee at the coffee bean. And Andy’s first thing was like, why? You’re blowing my. I explained to him my desire we got into the research, started looking into it more, and that’s when we started really unpacking how broken coffee is, how in trouble it is, both sustainably environmentally low carbon footprint wise socioeconomic status. And then we started looking at all of this and said, wow, there’s some good reasons.

Jarret Stopforth

Right. Coffee may actually not be a forever. There’s there’s even a book by William McCook whose coffee is not forever. And it talks about all the issues, fungal rust leaf frost and all other issues. And so we said, well, there’s a lot of good reasons. And I checked some boxes for it to be involved and get sink his teeth into because he wanted to do something that was better for mankind, better for the planet. And that’s when we decided to team up together, lock arms and take this journey.

Nick Baskett

I’ve got to be honest with you, I was not expecting that answer. And that was a I was expecting you to say we we saw something and that led me to believe that this was possible. And then I started to work out the reasons why we should do it, because often times, you know, there’s there’s the breakthroughs you see have all been people say they’ve been built on the shoulders of, you know, other breakthroughs. So you normally see one technological advance that then makes another technological advance possible.

Nick Baskett

And it’s only when you see that thing that you realize that the next thing is you can do it. But what you did was actually say, I want to solve this problem out of the blue. Right. It wasn’t that you you read some white paper about somebody decomposing or deconstructing a coffee bean and you went, oh, that’s really interesting. I can repurpose that that data on that research. You started from a completely different place, which was, you know, I want to I want to solve this problem, but I’ve got no idea how.

Nick Baskett

Let’s just try to work that out. Is that right? And I get that right. Yeah.

Jarret Stopforth

You you kind of got to win. It took this on to solve problems for ourselves. And then we discovered other problems that exist. And so we understood that there’s a bigger journey and a bigger purpose to solve a problem for everyone else to make fantastic along that journey.

Coffee Drinkers Don’t Like Coffee

Jarret Stopforth

We found out that people don’t really like coffee three but seven out of 10.

Nick Baskett

How do you know how dare you?

Jarret Stopforth

So I’m not going to bring real concern. Obviously, they don’t really like it. And sugar and caffeine. But that’s true.

Nick Baskett

That’s true. You know, a lot of people do, actually. The funny thing is a lot of people put the milk and sugar in but don’t realize it’s because they don’t like the coffee that much. They think that’s just right.

Nick Baskett

That’s exactly what we discovered when we discovered. Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s like if you go to Morocco, you can’t have the mint tea there without an abundance of sugar. And that actually quite bitter.

What Kind of Coffee’s Will Atomo Make?

Nick Baskett

But but OK, great. Well that’s that’s so that’s fantastic. I have to now ask because it was I seen on your website that there’s a couple of different coffees. And Max, on our podcast we were talking about we were talking about Atomo as a story and I wanted to cover it and talk to him because he’s a scientist. And we went, sure, whether you had actually launched Only Cold Brew because you have launched. Right. Have you are you commercially available?

Andy Kleitsch

Not yet, no.

Nick Baskett

Okay, so you like an alpha of of of like pilot testing. The coffee’s on different people. So you stop people in the street and you give them coffee and you say drink  this.

Andy Kleitsch

Right. We don’t give it away for free. That’s it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Nick Baskett

So OK, so you’ve manufactured Cold Brew and I thought I seen also espresso in there somewhere is where you and your development cycle.

Jarret Stopforth

Well currently we are working on it cold as we went through this entire process we make we made a coffee one day it was heated and we drank it hot and we said this is really good coffee, but put it in the fridge because we wanted a reference standard to come back to. Tried it the next morning, try to call and thought to ourselves, wow, this really shines up when it’s cold. And that led us, you know, we always had this theory, let the technology lead us.

Jarret Stopforth

And so we we basically decided then that we would launch with cold brew in either a draft nitro or in cans or both, because that is something that we’ve made that’s great right now in order to make those, we have a ground component that we extract, as you do with conventional coffee. Right. So we have grounds to figure it out. We haven’t finalized grounds in a consumer form factor, as we’re working still on that great aroma that you get from it to add to elevate that, and so we haven’t finalized that.

Jarret Stopforth

So since we can work through the extraction, make coffee, we’re going to launch the RTD, either the ready to drink homebrew or the, you know, draft grounds will follow next, either in the form of a pod or grounds. And it’ll be, you know, at that point either or it could launch and then eventually we’ll end up extruding with 3D printing bean for those who want to grind and make their own espresso. So we’ll come 3D print the beans.

Nick Baskett

Isn’t that kind of an expensive 3D printing is as a I’m out of touch with a little bit. But the last time I looked at 3D printers, 3D printing for the mass market was still not commercially viable.

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, it’s making great gains. Mean we don’t have to we could extrude it. There’s there’s many different ways that we could make a bean. That is just one of the things on our horizon. But by the time that we’re doing it, I imagine it will be really well set.

Will Atomo Make Beans?

Nick Baskett

I’ve gone off topic already, but I’ve got to I’ve just got to drill down onto this because it’s so interesting that you’re going to 3D print the bean I’m putting on my face here. You’re going to 3D printing because it’ll look like a bean, right?

Jarret Stopforth

Well, it will look like a bean. It is a bean. It is our bean. It is not. Your conventional coffee bean is the atomic bean. It’s a molecular bean. And the point is that we don’t want to change up the consumer’s habits at all. If you drink cold beer out of a cans we’ll give it to you that way. You drink cold brew. And that will give it to you that way. You drink coffee, we’ll give it to you that way.

Jarret Stopforth

If you like drip, we’ll give it to you that way. If you like to grind and tinker and toy, we’ll give it to you that way. Will cover coffee, right?

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah. I think early on we discovered and we made a commitment that we didn’t want to change the ritual. So yeah, we didn’t want to change the ritual and. Yeah, right. And consumers have a ritual and they want that to be part of their daily routine. And so we said we just have to meet the customer where they are. We have to provide a coffee that they can use in their own experience every day. And just to kind of go back in and talk a little bit more about what it was was mentioning, you know, we create coffee here every day and what people don’t a lot of people don’t understand.

Andy Kleitsch

What we do is that we take these upcycling materials, right. So stems, leaves, pitts’, you know, things that are actually outside the stream from the ag industry, from the commercial ag industry. These are things that are typically thrown away and through Jarret’s analysis on all of our compounds. In those ingredients, we’ve been able to find ways and this is where architectural property comes into play. We were able to find ways to alter and enhance those compounds and those ingredients and use them in our brew.

Andy Kleitsch

And what our brew looks like is it looks like a ground coffee. You know, when we look at our ground material, it looks like ground coffee. And then we use that material every day to extract our coffee and we to create grounds. And so what we’re really talking about here, a lot of people think we’re bleeping and bleeping together atoms and creating some molecular brew. That is just a bunch of chemistry. Yeah, a bunch of chemicals that are cup.

Andy Kleitsch

That’s actually not at all. We’re actually taking, you know, these organic materials and elevating the compounds in them through our tricks here to elevate those compounds that we’re looking for. Right.

How Does the Science Actually Work?

Nick Baskett

So, OK, so we’re getting to the we’re getting to the heart of the matter here in terms of a you you’re you’re taking the great words upcycling you basically you’re taking a waste product from the agricultural industry. OK, can we say what a waste product this is? Corn. Is it is it. What is it?

Jarret Stopforth

Yeah, we’re not giving the specifics of the way, but if you think the way to think about that is if you can think of all the primary ag industries that are out there, just think about California and in and of itself, the amount of fruit and vegetable production, you know, think, you know, outer leaves of lettuce and roots of certain plants and stems and husks and pips, the pulping industry, watermelon pulping leaf seeds behind. I mean, there is a lot that is left behind at the end of the day that I think makes it to, you know, animal feed, cheap animal feed or just makes it to landfill.

Jarret Stopforth

And we’re looking at those and we’re saying these are valuable. They have precursor compounds that we matched through a screening process. We have as part of our IP here that can be converted into the compounds that are exactly equivalent to that found in conventional coffee.

Jarret Stopforth

So we are selecting these upcycling materials. Right. So in essence, waste streams that we call side streams from the ag industry and we are adding value to them by putting them through our biochemical and thermal reaction processes to just convert them into the compounds of interest. There’s some key compounds for coffee. We convert them into those compounds, extract them from a ground material and generate a.

Jarret Stopforth

In which is coffee still blows my mind

Nick Baskett

What blows my mind is, is, is that you’re able to take agricultural waste and find the same compounds that make coffee, coffee in agriculture.

Jarret Stopforth

Well, yeah, well, and we’re using our IP to convert them into that. Right.

Jarret Stopforth

So I understand the range that they’re in there in a form, in a format, in some format that needs conversion.

Andy Kleitsch

But is it really that hard to believe? I mean, like coffee cherry, you know, the bean is the pit of a coffee cherry, you know, and there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables out there that have pits that have very similar lines.

Jarret Stopforth

They make up very similar, doing the same thing, providing food to grow the fruit. And so if you just think about it, it is the bean is a bit of a plant. And we have looked through roots and stems and leaves and petals that have the same sort of makeup and converted them.

Nick Baskett

Fantastic. So is this going to be something that other countries will be able to do? So I guess this is kind of a business model, but also an environmental question. So let’s say I’m Japan, right. And I want to. And you want to sell Atomo coffee in Japan. Would you go about that by using American agricultural waste and then sending the final product over there? Or does it make sense to be able to take agricultural waste in Japan and set up a manufacturing plant in Japan?

Jarret Stopforth

There’s a there’s a bit of both of that, right. So depending on the types of Ag and the type of sidestreams that are in that country and the quantity thereof rate would determine whether we could actually set up an outfit in a country and produce all of their demand. If that were the case and if there’s not a match for that, then yes, there would be the need to bring in some of the material from another country that has an abundance of the key, I would say, materials that we would need to react in order to generate conventional coffee taste.

Andy Kleitsch

Yes, I think it’s possible.

Andy Kleitsch

You know, when you look ahead, our our formula is continually evolving. And so the ingredients that we used two years ago are a lot different than the ingredients we use today as our technology improves. And so right now, we know that there’s a lot of our top ingredients. There’s different places around the world where those ingredients are grown. And so we know that there’s a wide abundance of these ingredients, but we know that our formula is going to continually evolve as well.

Andy Kleitsch

And as our techniques get better, we’re going to be able to make coffee from a wider variety of ingredients. Right.

Is There a Trick in Here to Get Coffee Flavour?

Nick Baskett

And when you say coffee, so what we’re doing is you’re you’re taking these ingredients. You’re getting something that on its own without any added flavours, there’s no little tricks, no little, you know, little slips and things in there where you say, well, just add this little coffee essence in there.

Nick Baskett

You actually get something that tastes of coffee, I have to ask. Right.

Nick Baskett

So you get something that tastes of coffee that doesn’t have any flavoring or anything attached to it. It’s just all the natural ingredients that you that you that you process result in something that tastes of coffee, correct? Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Jarret Stopforth

And I mean, I’ve, I want to believe I’ve been in this industry for about 25 years and I’ve worked on a lot of different projects, making coffee flavored beverages and coffee flavored supplements and so forth. And I can tell you there is nothing that you can get out of a flavor house that will give you a coffee experience. It may hint at coffee, but you will always know that it’s a flavor. You always know that it’s created because it’s simply cannot capture the complexity of the number of compounds that you would have to generate.

Jarret Stopforth

We tried this trick. We we ordered chemicals that we do. You know, we basically mapped what defines coffee. Twenty eight, 28, 29 key compounds. We took him in and of themselves, pure chemicals, added them together, mix them in ratios, mapped them out, does not taste like coffee.

Jarret Stopforth

And the reason being is you can’t simply do that. Coffee is not the sum of its parts. There is magic that happens in the bean. There is by reaction thermal transformation that happens inside the bean that gives you this entourage effect of flavor. And without doing that, that is when we discovered what we needed to do for IP, when we realized that coffee is not the sum of its parts and that we have to basically replicate the reactions occurring in that magical incubator of a bean ex vivo.

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, the depth and complexity of coffee is a lot more than just the top twenty eight compounds that you would get. That you can identify. And so that’s what we really realized was by reacting materials that you get this depth and complexity that you just can’t that you can discern easily when you put your face over a cup of coffee and you get that aroma bomb threat. And when you when you try coffee, it coats your entire mouth and it has that body.

Andy Kleitsch

There’s just certain compounds in coffee that require complexity. And that’s only talking about flavor and aroma. That’s not even talking about mouthfeel and color and bioactive each. So you can take one flavor and you’ll get a hint of coffee. You won’t get the coffee experience, the mouth coating, the delivery, the little bit of bitterness that comes with it. But, you know, the overall effect is felt by all of those different factors.

Nick Baskett

And in fact, that’s what makes if you’re into coffee, that’s what makes the whole thing enjoyable. And that’s why one of us will spend quite so much time drinking so many espressos making it. I don’t know if you saw some there’s some little meme video going around just this last week about this guy making the perfect espresso and he’s there getting more and more wired up as he goes. I can do this better. I can do this better. And he’s always making one more.

Nick Baskett

And actually, that was me. I tell you, I’m that Guy in the morning and is actually I had to I had to cut back the number of coffees I was drinking. And I when I used to have a cafe and I’d go to go to the cafe in the morning and I spent ages dialing in the espresso, but I’d never spit it out. I’d always drink the damn thing. So I’d be five shots in before I’d even had a coffee, just getting the machine tuned up.

Nick Baskett

And and and and for me, all of those factors made it really important. I didn’t it wasn’t you. I’m sure it’s not just taste. I mean, personally, texture and mouthfeel is super important. And and so we’ve talked about the brewing methods. And that was going to be something I was going to ask you about was whether it was for one specific brewing method. But you’re going to cover the spectrum of different brewing methods. That’s correct.

Nick Baskett

Right. You’re going to be so you’re going to be coming up, first of all, with a cold brew, but then you’re going to be slowly developing out into into different brewing methods. Are you going to start with pods and grounds grounds beans?

Nick Baskett

Personally, I think pods are going to be huge over the next few years. It’s not my thing, but I, I think we’re all working from home a lot more now that that a lot of people are going to want espresso, but they’re not going to want to get into espresso in the same way that that those people like myself are really into it. But they will want to have some kind of espresso experience. They’ll want something better than the coffee.

Nick Baskett

They can have a pod, a capsule machine can be a lot cheaper than an espresso machine. A lot easier to actually think. Capsules are going to make a big a big impact. And I know other companies are investing heavily in capsule manufacturing. So I think that would be a smart route.

Andy Kleitsch

So compostable capsule would fit our, you know, our mission right now.

Jarret Stopforth

Yeah, yeah, I know. will be in line with our values. Right. Right.

Jarret Stopforth

So you haven’t you don’t think much about the aluminium recycling roots on that.

Jarret Stopforth

Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s not that we don’t think so much about it, it’s how much of it is truly recyclable and how much is actually recycled. Right.

Jarret Stopforth

So the problem is within aluminum that do not get recycled and the amount that actually ever make it into recycling is probably not that high. Yeah, you’re probably right.

Will Atomo Make Soluable Coffee?

Nick Baskett

I wanted to ask Max. Max made me ask this question. So he wanted to know whether you’re going to get into soluble coffees and whether you’re going to aim for the high volume sort of Nescafe  jar coffee experience. Is that is that going to be something you focus on?

Jarret Stopforth

Yes. Yes. And we could do that relatively fast. You know, if that were for us an important target, we could do that prior to even launching a pilot ground. That that could be a really great journey for us. But I think we’ll evaluate how the market looks and where our problems are there.

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, I mean, I think just take a look at us as a company. We’re we’re a small company. We have limited manufacturing capability right now. And we know we can make really great coffee. So we really want to enter the market with a kind of third wave premium, high end coffee product. Right. Because we can we can create that product and we have a limited capability of manufacturing right now. So we’re not going to race to the bottom and try to kind of come out with a soluble.

Andy Kleitsch

Coffee, because we don’t we don’t have to do that right now. We really want to show people that molecular coffee that we make can be even better than conventional coffee. And so for us, it’s about coming up with that high end premium product. And as our manufacturing capabilities increase over the years, we’ll start enabling these kind of what I would call sensorially of less, you know, a premium experience. But still, you know, we actually think that our instant iced coffee is pretty darn good right now.

Andy Kleitsch

Like, you know, it’s there’s in other words, what we’ve learned is that a lot of conventional coffee takes a hit when you return it or when you, you know, put it through some kind of drying method to make it soluble. So what we’ve been able to do is engineer our coffee to go through those experiences, better to come out better on the other end. So when coffee usually gets reported into a can, it takes a pretty big hit and it can taste pretty awful.

What About Decaf?

Andy Kleitsch

But we know that actually adjusting our formula before the retour process, we can actually make it taste better out of retaught. So we actually think there’s a lot of. Yeah. So decaf coffee, for example, a lot of decaf coffee is not that great. It takes a pretty big hit through that process. So we should be able to, you know, create a better cup of decaf that is engineered to taste better.

Nick Baskett

Let’s talk about it’s funny you say that because I did a we did an episode on decaf coffee.

Nick Baskett

And I’m I admit I had a very negative predisposition going into it, but I actually had some really good decaf recently. And then I so totally changed my position on decaf and went on the podcast and said off and a decaf in years I suddenly had it. I’ve been missing out. It’s actually really great. I can go back to drinking lots of coffee again. And then every coffee I’ve had after that, every decaf I’ve ordered from different from different roasters after that have been pretty bad.

Emulating Speciality Coffees

Nick Baskett

So I think it does vary tremendously. Listen, I wanted to ask you I want to ask I’ve really got to ask this question on on the varieties, because obviously one of the great one of the great interest factors that keeps people that keeps people constantly buying different coffees and interested in the industry is the fact that there’s so much choice out there. And each choice brings with it a different flavor profile, different body in everything else. You know, I can go and I’m drinking right now coffee from Rwanda, which is very different from the kind you remember had last week, Uganda, and I think maybe or in Ethiopian.

Nick Baskett

So I can go and I can go to these different regions and get different varieties of of of of of coffee beans that are obviously then different, roasted by different people and processed in different ways. And then I can make them in different ways.

Nick Baskett

So I’ve got this almost infinite variety available to me, like what she said earlier on in this podcast about quality and consistency.

Nick Baskett

I totally get my very first job was as a quality administrator and I was almost the first thing I was told is you can’t have quality without consistency. You can’t have inconsistent quality, right? So I totally get that. But how are you going to address or are you do you care or are you going to say that’s fine, that world can exist, but we’re going to do these three things, these five things? How are you going to approach that particular issue?

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, well, so let’s put it this way. We’ve had a lot of big coffee companies come to us already. You can imagine without without naming names, I could pretty much say almost every major coffee company in the world has reached out to us and said, what are you guys doing and what can we try it? You know? And because I think we all understand that we have the ability to pull the levers to to turn the dials. And like the things that you like about an Ethiopian might be the the acidity, the blueberry notes that are coming out, you know, so we actually have the ability to customize our formula and to target exactly what attributes you’re getting out of that Ethiopian coffee.

Andy Kleitsch

So is there a world where one day Atomo could be creating a special blend for Starbucks or for Dunkin Donuts or for Nescafe or for, you know, other coffee companies to match exactly what their is, what notes those formulas have? Absolutely. We could be focusing on that. And I think what has been one of the major kind of philosophical questions that we’ve had here is what coffee should we target? You know, as like our first cup of coffee that comes out of the gate because everyone has a preferred cup of coffee and no one can agree on it, you know, so some you know, some people like the French roast and some people like these very light or natural, you know, coffees.

Andy Kleitsch

So it’s been a really interesting conversation we’ve had over the couple of years now of what is the perfect cup of coffee. And so we really have to we’ve really made a decision here that, you know, one of the things that we do that is quite unique is that we can create a less bitter cup of coffee that has all those coffee notes and attributes, Rosty, Toastie, you know, things that people really appreciate in coffee, but without that bitter.

Andy Kleitsch

And so that’s one of the very first coffees we’re going to be coming out with as an ultra smooth cup of coffee. But to answer your question, we absolutely can target varietals and regions.

Jarret Stopforth

Right. And build on that back to the preceding question around decaf or at least that the discussion around decaf. I mean, we’ll make the world’s first to no caffeine, coffee. I mean, in all decafs. There’s some degree of caffeine that remains. And, you know, we’ve discussed, you know, making coffee for pregnant women because that’s the thing overnight.

Will Atomo Patent the Formulas Behind Regional Flavour Profiles

Nick Baskett

Definitely a thing. You’re absolutely right. Yeah. Yeah. OK, so so the next question I’m going to ask and you’re OK to to take, is it the fifth?

Nick Baskett

You can plead the Fifth on this, but you mean the fifth if it’s commercially sensitive.

Nick Baskett

But but if I was the CEO of a business that can make any kind of coffee, I can make that Ethiopian. I can do this. I would be asking the question whether I can patent that algorithm, patent that flavor almost. Which would make your company more valuable, but potentially also, you know, kill any competition. I don’t know. What am I trying to say here? I don’t know. I don’t know whether it be a good or a bad thing, but I would be tempted to do it because I because my job is to make the most valuable company I could potentially would be excluding everybody else from doing the same thing.

Nick Baskett

I’m just wondering whether that’s how have you struggled with we talk about philosophical questions. I mean, have you thought about that?

Yes, actually, I mean, we’ve had a different discussion, but, yeah, not not that particular point, right? I mean, it’s a pretty great idea that you have there, you know what I mean?

Jarret Stopforth

To say. No, wait, wait. Not want to me the molecular fingerprint. Hey, this is what you said, that we could do it.

Andy Kleitsch

I mean, that’s you know, I think that hasn’t been our approach. Right. Our approach has been more of what are the unique techniques and tools and processes that we use to generate the compounds to create these amazing flavors and aromas, body, mouthfeel, color. And so that’s how we’re really approaching it. You know, do we think we can kind of patent Ethiopian coffee? That hasn’t been our approach. We you know, that that hasn’t been how we approach this problem.

Nick Baskett

Great.

Atomo and the Environment

Nick Baskett

What do you think, moving on to the environmental aspect of it? Because I know this is something that that you’ve talked about and there’s two arguments to this, to this two sides to this argument. On the one hand, everybody knows in the industry that the coffee industry is in trouble. And it’s not just the environment. It’s actually all the way pretty much all the way through the value chain. It’s a difficult one to fix everybody. Now, some people think it can be fixed simply you just charge more for a cup of coffee, right.

Nick Baskett

And then the farmer gets paid more. But it just doesn’t work like that. The futures market doesn’t work like that. Logistics doesn’t work like that. Farmers ability to to adopt new technologies and things. There’s so many variables in the supply chain that there isn’t a simple answer. Now, I know the Olam came up with a sustainability framework, which was about the the nearest thing to to being sensible that I saw in terms of trying to build sustainability into the financial like financial stability into the value chain.

Nick Baskett

But equally, well, coffee research is out there doing doing research into trying to make better strains of coffee plant that are going to be more durable, maybe have a high yield, et cetera. And all of this together will will contribute to hopefully, hopefully ameliorating the problem. But you guys there and I think what’s the word? These are Black Swan, you know what I mean? Have you heard of that term? Oh, yeah.

Nick Baskett

OK, so you’re the black swan that comes in that no one expects. This says if you don’t even need the bean, you know. But what do you what who are you?

Nick Baskett

Where you know and and and so and so for the people who are consuming the coffee, this is great news. And potentially I can I can have I can have a machine. I can I get my coffee. I don’t have to worry about the environment. And if to worry about global warming, I don’t have to worry about coffee leaf rust. I just get my coffee in the morning and. And that’s amazing. Mm hmm. The other side of the argument is that if you were to suddenly launch tomorrow at massive scale and just say this is available for everybody, it’s going to be in every shop, Starbucks is going to do it, your local supermarkets got it.

Nick Baskett

You can buy it on the corner shop where everywhere. If that was to suddenly happen overnight, I wonder what would happen to the industry. I wonder what happened to all the people whose livelihoods are depending on it. And so this is an unfair question, right? Because it’s not your responsibility to to to why is your responsibility to innovate? And this is the way it’s always been. And if innovation happens over a period of time, everyone adapts is the same way.

Nick Baskett

You must have heard of the word Luddites and the word Luddite, which generally means somebody who’s just not really with it in technology came around when the Luddites actually actually protested against the introduction of Looms in. I think it was in a in a in a in a manufacturing plant in Manchester or Birmingham or somewhere this guy had looms. And all the people who used to do the weaving went like, this is this is crazy. You can’t put machines in to do our job.

Nick Baskett

You know, we’ll be all out of a job. And they thought it was the end of the world. And of course, we all moved on now and none of us would think about doing that.

Nick Baskett

But what’s your take on it? So you can you can make the arguments for the environment are are are self-evident, clear.

Nick Baskett

But how do you see this playing out and how do you see your role fitting in and integrating with with with all the things I just mentioned?

Andy Kleitsch

There’s so many ways to answer this question. I think that the first thing that we start with is that consumers want to make better choices, you know, in the world today, you know, in fact, I think where you would say 20 years ago, did I think that much about sustainability and that much about the environment as I went about my daily life and as I was making my purchase decisions and 20 years ago. The answer was no, I really didn’t think that much about it, but today today’s consumers take the environment into consideration when they make purchase decisions and as they evaluate what they’re buying and they evaluate their impact on the world.

Andy Kleitsch

And so one of the things that we do that every day, so one of the things we’re trying to do is make it make it possible for consumers to make better choices. So as consumers are going about their day, we want to enable them to make a better choice that’s more sustainable, that’s better for the planet every day. So that’s number one. Number two is coffee farmers. There’s been a lot of research on how many or what percentage of coffee plantations will have to be moved over the next 30 years.

Andy Kleitsch

And the latest stat says that half of all coffee plantations will have to be moved over the next 30 years. So as climate change continues to take wreak havoc on these areas where coffee is grown, coffee farmers are doing what’s called up farming and they’re going further up the hill. So they clear the forest up the hill and move their plantations further up the hill to a climate that’s more suitable for growing coffee. And so what we’re trying to say, just as a whole, is keep growing coffee where you can.

Andy Kleitsch

Absolutely. We don’t want to stop coffee farmers from making it from making a living and having a great business. And we love coffee. But what we would like to see is that coffee farmers do not cause further deforestation, that they do not go further up the hill, that they do not continually wipe out this what’s left of the rainforest for this monoculture crop to go further up the hill. So, you know, what we would love to see is that coffee farmers, instead of making that choice of growing coffee further up the hill, we’d like to see them make a choice of grow something that’s more sustainable for their, you know, a plot of land that they have.

Andy Kleitsch

And so this really isn’t. And we work with farmers. We actually love farmers. We work with farmers every day. So farmers are supplying us with their sidestreams. Right. So we work with farmers. We help farmers get more value from their crops. And so for us, we work with farmers in California, you know, in other areas around here in the United States right now. And so we’re helping farmers make a better living and make more money.

Andy Kleitsch

We don’t have the chance to work with coffee farmers because we simply don’t use any of the product that coffee farmers generate today. But I think a lot of your a lot of what the consumers feel about coffee farmers as they have this vision in their mind of this romantic coffee farmer that’s making this living wage and that has a that has this great environment around them when the problem is it seems the reality is actually romantic and it’s not the reality is really the opposite.

Nick Baskett

They have a very poor lot in life. There’s a charity that we that we support with guys. Putting a first interview that I did on this channel is a guy that goes out and and helps build houses across these farmers in Honduras because they don’t have proper housing. They just do not have a roof over their heads right now.

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, yeah. There’s coffee land. I’m not sure if you’ve read that book. I bought it.

Nick Baskett

I haven’t read it yet. It’s on the shelf with about 12 other books and I’ve got to get the audio book.

Andy Kleitsch

That audio book.

Nick Baskett

It’s easier, although I mean, I do listen to audio books. I stopped I stopped listening to factual books on audio because I find that I, I, I find it easier to flick backwards and forwards and highlight things. I’m trying to memorize something. So I have audio books for all the the stupid narration books or the the the, the comedy things that I listen to but no factual books. I like it.

Nick Baskett

I’m still old school and you have a highlighter and you underline things and you go back and forth that yeah well that’s great. That’s perfect. Feel reads like a story though.

Andy Kleitsch

And in many ways, you know, it’s the story of really how natives in these countries were displaced and how the only option they had left, you know, once their land was taken away and converted to coffee plantations, the only option they had left was to go work at the coffee plantations to actually get fed, you know, two squares a day. And so this was and it wasn’t even it was beans and tortillas. And that’s what you get paid.

Andy Kleitsch

And if you show up and work all day long, we’ll give you two meals and, you know, and a few pennies.

Andy Kleitsch

And so it’s really it’s kind of this whole it’s a sad story, but it does make you wonder how much we take and which we don’t really consider what goes into our cup of coffee every day. I’d say there’s different industries where we look at it very objectively and we and we really don’t look at coffee and think objectively about what went into making that cup of coffee. That’s very true.

Nick Baskett

In fact, to be honest, that’s very true of all the industries. Everything that we consume, unfortunately, is the same way you put it under a microscope. You’ll find that from the clothes that we wear to the chocolate bars that we eat somewhere.

Nick Baskett

Someone is having a very hard time producing that, generally speaking, and the answers aren’t so simple. Yeah, OK.

Nick Baskett

Yeah, absolutely right. Although I’m a little bit disappointed you didn’t hold up like an iPad with one of our stories on there.

Jarret Stopforth

So you get you get you get writing was too complex.

Nick Baskett

You get five out of ten. All right. For trying. But this actually. Right. I’m just going to as a plug here. I’m going to say that we as a little good news story, you know, the other thing you can say, and this is that most coffee, most chocolate farmer’s cocoa farmers have never even tasted chocolate. And we I put out a thing.

Nick Baskett

It’s crazy, right? I think it’s like having saying a coffee. Farmers never tasted coffee. Most most chocolate. Most cocoa farmers have never tasted chocolate, have no idea what it tastes like. I put out a thing in our newsletter a couple of weeks ago and I said, I want to I want to I want to get chocolate bars for free into the hands of into the hands of some farmers to feed them so they know what the hell they’re producing.

Nick Baskett

And I’ll give away some some free advertising if anybody wants to sponsor this on the site. And we got taken up actually by by a company in Cote d’Ivoire, which is actually where I bet you that article refers to. And there’s a there’s a company called Microfertile in in Cote d’Ivoire who’s now sending hundreds of chocolate bars to to Liberia to go into the hands of of children over there who work on cocoa farms. So but yeah, they’re taking this amount of coffee.

Nick Baskett

Sorry. But for that aside, there, but but you you very quickly realize when you look into an industry, any industry, I’m sure this is the case that that that there’s a there’s a there’s not only a cost to it. I don’t think we shouldn’t feel guilty for our for our consumption, but that we should appreciate it. There’s a level of appreciation that’s going there. And I think we should go into it with our eyes open and know what we’re consuming as much as it’s possible, know what we’re consuming and make conscious choices, because that’s just a humane thing to do.

Nick Baskett

We’re lucky to be where we are through being born in America or born in the UK. And, you know, we shouldn’t take that for granted. I have two more questions and I’m going to let you guys go, OK? How is the how do you think the organizations, the coffee organizations like The Speciality Coffee of America, how do you think they they view you? Do they view you as a threat or as a partner?

Andy Kleitsch

Well, I think it’s to be determined. I would say that, you know, it’s we when we first launched, we thought that the coffee industry as a whole would probably want to string us up on, you know, and whatever they do to which is, you know, in Massachusetts and the you know, we kind of thought we would probably be the bad guys, just not knowing how the coffee industry would reply and respond. And the opposite actually happened.

Andy Kleitsch

You know, we were approached by world champion baristas. We were approached by coffee shops all around the world. You know, literally, we have had coffee shops everywhere from the Philippines to Singapore to Ireland to Central America, South America. We’ve we’ve had distributors reach out to us from all around the world and coffee companies. And so I think what here’s here’s something that we’ve understood that we’re beginning that we’re beginning to understand is that there’s consumers all around the world that want to make better choices in how they consume products today.

Andy Kleitsch

And the coffee industry knows that. And so they are trying to solve that need and they’re trying to deliver products to consumers that consumers want to purchase that are better for the environment. So that group of people isn’t just millennials or the Zoom generation consumers. It’s actually across every single segment of the population. There are a group in each segment that want to make better choices. So the coffee consumers are no different and they are those people. So I think what we’ve seen is that we’ve even had coffee traders call us and, you know, like people that their life is around trading coffee.

Andy Kleitsch

You know, they’ve called us and wanted our want to get it. They want to know how can how can they participate in this movement. And so that’s been really.

What About the Future?

Nick Baskett

Yeah, Coffee Traders are not dumb people, commodity traders, anybody on this financial markets, they’re not there because they’re stupid. They will be they’ll want to be ahead of the curve here and they want to know how they can make some money out of the good things you guys are doing. Not in a bad way. That’s just how it is, you know, so I’m not surprised by that at all and. So I’ve got to ask leading onto that so traders and futures, what a great Segway, what does the future hold for you guys?

Andy Kleitsch

Where are you going to be one year, two years, three years? What’s what’s the vision?

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, well, I’ll tell you, it takes a long time to build coffee factories. So this is what we’ve learned, you know what I mean?

Andy Kleitsch

Like we are so well, because these are new factories that have never been built before. So what we’re like, OK, so Jerry and his team of scientists out here, they have been building coffee at the what we call the benchtop. Right. This is in the laboratory. We build it a very small scale. And so what we just did is we just raised nine million dollars to go build our first pilot facility. And this is the next stage of production where you take what you’ve learned at the benchtop and you scale it to a production level where instead of making 50 cups of coffee a day, you can make, you know, thousands of cups of coffee a day.

Andy Kleitsch

And what we learned is that in order for us to make our coffee at production, it takes a little bit of a mix of what you would find in a coffee roastery, what you would find in a brewery, what you would find in other manufacturing industries. And in fact, you can’t just take a coffee manufacturing line and make our coffee. You can’t take a brewery and make our coffee. You have to take all these different industries and kind of bring them together in a way that hasn’t been done before.

Andy Kleitsch

So for us to scale our coffee means that we have to build our own manufacturing facility where we create our secret sauce, you know, we create our grounds. So that’s one of the the challenges of scaling our business. But it’s also a great differentiator for us. And it means that a little bit more difficult for other.

Nick Baskett

You know, it’s not to say it’s a barrier to entry or for the next anything, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Andy Kleitsch

So, you know, for our growth right now, it’s about building a great tasting cup of coffee, understanding how to scale that, building our manufacturing facilities to do that, and then proving that the consumers enjoy it and they want to buy more of it. And then we’ll go out and build a bigger factory and a bigger factory and then go from there. So that’s the stage we’re at right now.

Nick Baskett

Now, when when are we going to be able to buy it?

Andy Kleitsch

So at the middle of next year is when we’re going to have it available for purchase. So, yeah, and we’ll be doing limited runs initially. Right. Because kind of like impossible how when they first launched, they just had it available at select locations. We’ll have available at some select locations and direct to consumer on our website. And so but because we will have limited supply, you know, not everyone will be able to buy it initially.

Andy Kleitsch

So we’ll do our best. We’ll send some of your

Where Will it Be Available?

Nick Baskett

it’ll be in the US to begin with. I imagine you’re launch from the U.S. only.

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’ll be with a handful of retailers and through our direct to consumer website.

Nick Baskett

OK, are you going to promise to send me some? Because I want to know what I want to be one of the I want to be one of the in crowd, you know, I want to give you that.

Andy Kleitsch

Yeah. As long as you do a blind taste test of your real next to hours, like you don’t take your conventional cold brew because this is what we love to do here in our in our in our facility here is will line up three or four cold brews and watch people as they drink and they’ll tell us which one they like. And I think you’d be I think you’d be really surprised what you would consider as acceptable cold brew when you put it next to other cold brews.

Andy Kleitsch

It’s quite alarming. What people are drinking on a daily basis is fantastic.

Closing, and Thanks to Atomo

Nick Baskett

I can tell you honestly, it’s been such a pleasure. You guys have been absolutely fantastic. And thank you for taking time out. I know how busy you are. You’ve got your day ahead of you.

Nick Baskett

My days finished over here, so I’ll let you guys go.

Andy Kleitsch

It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks. Thanks for reaching out. And absolutely. We will send you coffee. We will want to see the results.

Nick Baskett

I’ve got you on camera saying that you can’t you can’t welch on that deal.

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Bartalks Coffee News Cast

COFFEE NEWSCAST – 16-11-2020

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