The world of coffee is often torn between the old and the new, traditional brewing techniques and the newest and coolest method. But if there’s one area just about everyone would agree that improvements could be made, high tech or whatever, it’s instant coffee. Sudden coffee is looking to do just that with good beans, better technology, and a web-based business model.
Sudden is the creation of Kalle Freese, a decorated Finnish barista, and Joshua Zloof, an entrepreneur in the food space; Freese originally started his own cafe, but was frustrated by the inability to serve more than, say, a hundred or two hundred people a day. But an encounter with famous coffee scientist Chahan Yeretzian – once responsible for the taste and aromas of Nespresso (!) And now scientific advisor to Sudden – convinced him to pursue the possibility of making instant coffee that … well, don’t fear not.
The problem with instant coffee is that it’s bad news from start to finish.
“They start with bad coffee, roast it very black, then extract it twice, which kind of blew me away,” Freese explained. “About 60% of the mass of the bean is extracted, and normally you don’t even want half of it. You get a lot of these heavy, bitter, woody compounds.
The dehydration process, too, is carried out in huge volumes and at high temperatures in large companies, depriving the coffee of its aroma.
Freese summed it all up with a Finnish saying that is, in essence, a less polished version of our own “lipstick on a pig”.
He was convinced that the process could be improved and that the resulting product was not only drinkable, but actually good. Over the past two years, after $ 500,000 in angel funding in 2015 and a $ 2.8 million fundraiser last December, they’ve developed a process that seems to have done just that – I got a taste of it myself. -even. It was also good enough for Y Combinator, which accepted Sudden into its Winter 2017 Business Bundle – the second food startup after Soylent to be included in the accelerator.
Kalle and the Sudden team have made three basic improvements to the instant coffee process.
First, they use good single origin beans, sourced from 49th Parallel roasters in Vancouver, BC. As with any good dining experience, you can’t skimp on the ingredients.
Second, they built a bulk brewing process that doesn’t destroy the beans.
“We use a unique, fully enclosed centrifugal brewing system that doesn’t allow any aroma to escape,” Freese said. “We also extract the coffee at low temperature (85-90C). As a result, we only get the good stuff – sweetness, fruity, acidity – and none of the bad things like bitterness and oakiness.
Third, they have developed their own freeze-drying technique which they describe as the equivalent of a server farm. Instead of a huge machine processing tons of coffee at once, a collection of small freeze-dryers is used. This allows them to tailor the process to a particular batch of coffee and maintain the quality while still pumping a lot of the finished product per day.
“We’ve developed our own profiles to do this in a way that preserves flavor,” Freese said. “You have to find a balance between temperature, pressure and drying time. “
So what does it taste like?
I set up a little blind tasting test at home to see if Sudden Moment could deliver on the company’s promises. I drank a cup of Sudden, a cup of regular instant, a little drip from a cafe down the street, and a sip of myself.
After changing the identical cups a bit, I gave it a try and, I’m proud to say, identified them all correctly. Sudden’s brew had some things in common with the Standard Instant: a super sweet aroma and a very straightforward flavor that doesn’t linger – that would be the lack of oils that show through in the cool brew. But while the regular instant had a sort of generic all-purpose coffee flavor, Sudden’s clearly tasted like a lighter roast, with the expected notes to go with it, and there was less of the feeling than something. bitter was covered by something sweet.
In short, it was pretty good, although fundamentally outclassed by a fresh infusion. Definitely better than the standard instant, and even the drip down the street (a respectable cafe but not their best lot, it has to be said).
This really is the sweet spot Freese was aiming for. Having taken 9th place in a world barista championship, he knows what good coffee is and what it isn’t, and he wouldn’t go wrong in thinking that freeze-dried liquids could compete with the real one. But that’s not the point. Instead, it’s about bringing decent coffee and selection to people who don’t have the time or access to get the right stuff.
“We have a lot of people who love great coffee, but live in a small town that has no place to get it,” Freese said. “We are leveraging technology to provide a better coffee experience for people who don’t have coffee. “
The business model is essentially coffee as a service: for a monthly subscription you regularly receive 8 packets (or multiples) of coffee servings suddenly – at the moment a turning bean, but in the future maybe. be a type you requested, or maybe something new that is recommended based on your taste. The current cost is $ 19 per month – $ 2.75 per cup if you include shipping costs.
Yes, $ 2.75 a cup for instant coffee. I too am skeptical, but Freese is optimistic. He doesn’t expect people to switch completely, but rather to use it “in tandem” with their existing habits. If you love great coffee but what they have at work is awful, what are you going to do? Set up your own private machine and order beans? Go out and pay $ 4 every time you need a lift? Or would you like to keep a few Sudden hits in your office, sure it’s better than what’s in the break room and you can do it in a minute or two?
It should be noted that this is the first sophisticated version – if Sudden were Tesla, it would be the Roadster phase, Freese suggested.
“We buy some of the best and most expensive coffees in the world. We have a team of 10 and we make tens of thousands of cups per month. I see this as taking whatever is good about third wave coffee – the brand, the durability, the great taste – and making it affordable for the mainstream consumer. “
Eventually, there will be more choices and cheaper options as the business grows, although Freese hopes to maintain the personal connection with customers: doing tastings, sending care packages for birthdays, and recommending new styles. or beans. Hoping that they will also make the packaging a bit greener as they grow older.
Sudden Coffee offers are live right now, so you can give it a try, so to speak. If nothing else, I can recommend it as an emergency coffee option that’s considerably better than the regular instant.