While coffee experts might consider the idea sacrilege, a group of Finnish scientists have recently managed to produce artificial coffee through cell cultures. According to the VTT Technical Research Centre (opens in new tab) in Finland, the resulting beans replicate natural coffee's taste and smell, an assertion that will no doubt lift the eyebrows of roasters everywhere.
However, it's in the process of reducing the harmful deforestation required for larger scale coffee agriculture that has many looking a little harder at the Finnish invention. The problem of maintaining sustainable farming threatens to raise coffee prices across the world (not counting the effect on carbon emissions), so an alternative might have come along at just the right time.
While VTT's Dr Heiko Rischer concedes that "coffee making is an art", the group reports that science has managed to reproduce the organic taste, with a "trained sensory panel and analytical examination [finding] the profile of the brew to bear similarity to ordinary coffee."
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The process of creating artificial coffee begins with coffee cell cultures, which are then placed into bioreactors to continue developing a separate biomass. VTT is well versed in developing artificial alternatives to unsustainable products. The state-owned research facility specializes in carbon neutral commerce solutions, developing everything from dental implants made of cellulose nanocomposites to new synthetic leathers.
At the moment, coffee agriculture is a particularly harmful venture. The climates required to grow some of the world's favorite beans are also those most vulnerable to deforestation. As demand for coffee continues to grow, so do the areas cleared to farm the natural coffee bean, and that's even before the shipping emissions are taken into account.
However, it might be some time before we're using synthetic coffee in our homes. Not only does VTT need to refine its taste and process before large scale production can take place, but right now all foods produced in laboratories requires additional regulatory approval by the FDA before being sold in the US. After that, you've got the coffee purists to contend with.
While we might be a few years away from sipping on a synthetic coffee every morning, you can still up your caffeine game with our roundup of the best Cuisinart coffee makers (opens in new tab). Or, for something a little more convenient, take a look at the best Keurigs (opens in new tab) on the market right now.