A new drink: laboratory coffee?

Maybe the morning when you wake up will smell laboratory coffee is not far away. A coffee made from cultured plant cells. However, it is still unclear whether this new brewed beverage will be able to recreate the complex flavors of real coffee beans.

A study published in the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that some of the pleasant aromas and flavors of a regular cup of coffee can be recreated by roasting and brewing coffee cell culture.

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. According to the USDA, 23 billion pounds of grain are expected to be produced during the 2023-2024 growing season. However, coffee cultivation is increasingly threatened by global warming because coffee bushes only grow at certain temperatures and altitudes.

Since the 1970s, scientists have studied lab-grown coffee plant cells as substitutes for soil-grown beans, but few studies have evaluated the taste of lab-grown products compared to traditional beans.

The process is based on the extraction of coffee cells from coffee plants, which are then grown in bioreactors filled with a nutrient medium. The cells multiply and grow in the bioreactor, forming a biomass that can be harvested and dried. The dried biomass is roasted and can be brewed like regular coffee.

Hieko Risher and her colleagues examined how roasting coffee plant cells affects them and the beverages made from them.

First, the research team grew cells from crushed leaves of Coffea arabica in a laboratory bioreactor.
The cells were then freeze-dried, ground to a fine powder, and roasted under three different conditions.

Laboratory coffee results

Longer roasting produced a color similar to dark roast coffee beans; something that scientists have discovered is important for taste perception. Current powders from lab-grown coffee contain twice as much caffeine as previous bioreactor coffee products, although the levels in current powders are much lower than in cultured beans.

When coffee plant cells grown in a bioreactor (top left) are roasted (powders top right and bottom), they develop colors similar to conventional light or dark roasted coffee.

The team prepared the drink using roasted cell cultures or roasted grains of Coffea arabica dark roasted and served them to trained tasters. The following conclusions have been drawn from this:

  • The panelists found similar levels of bitterness and acidity in the regular and laboratory drinks.
  • The new drink has an aroma more of toast, burnt sugar and smoke.
  • Some of the Maillard reaction products that give coffee its characteristic flavor, such as guaiacol and some pyrazines, were not detected in the cellular drinks, although other Maillard reaction products were present.

In general, although some of the flavors and aromas of beans coffee typical can be achieved by roasting cultured cells, researchers say more work is needed to explore processing methods to further improve the flavor of this alternative to cultured coffee.

The authors acknowledge funding from the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, Ltd.


With information of: https://www.eurekalert.org/