VTT breaks ground on laboratory-produced coffee

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has successfully used cellular agriculture to produce coffee cells in a bioreactor.

By guest author Aleksi Taivainen from Good News Finland

VTT on  September 15, 2021 highlighted that the innovation offers a more sustainable alternative to coffee production at a time when soaring global demand for coffee is putting an enormous strain on land use, causing deforestation especially in sensitive rainforests.

The interdisciplinary process begins with the initiation of coffee cultures, establishing cell lines in the laboratory and transferring them to bioreactors to start biomass production. The roasting process was developed after analysing the biomass and the end result presented for evaluation to a trained in-house sensory staff.

The first batch of the laboratory-produced coffee smelled and tasted like real coffee, according to VTT.

Heiko Rischer, research team leader at VTT, pointed out that although the brew had a similar profile to ordinary coffee, the laboratory work serves only as the basis for iterative optimisation carried out under the supervision of specialists with dedicated equipment that is part of the art of coffee making.

He estimated that the research centre is only four years away from ramping up production and securing the requisite regulatory approvals in Europe and the US.

“The true impact of this scientific work will happen through companies that are willing to re-think food ingredient production and start driving commercial applications,” he added. “Ultimately, all efforts should result in more sustainable and healthy food for the benefit of the consumer and the planet.”