artificial intelligence cupping spoon

Deciphering what flavor notes are present in a given coffee is more art than science. Tasters spend hours upon hours training their palates, translating the sensory information through the lens of past (highly subjective) flavor experiences to arrive at descriptors that best align with the original sensory input. But one startup is looking to take a more scientific approach to identifying flavors in coffee. The company is called Demetria and they have created an app to “detect a specific and high value sensory (“taste”) profile of green coffee.”

In a press release announcing the company, Demetria touts itself as “the first AI-powered taste and quality intelligence [software as a service] startup for the coffee supply chain.” The startup has already secured $3 million in seed funding led by Colombian-Israeli investment firm Celeritas as well as private investors Mercantil Colpatria.

With their app, Demetria is attempting to digitize the entire coffee assessment process. Using a portable near-infrared sensor, a coffee is analyzed and fingerprinted for biochemical markers, which then gets run through the company’s AI-based platform, the “e-Palate,” that then matches the biomarkers to their associated flavors as defined by the SCA flavor wheel. Per the press release, the analysis can be done at any stage of production line, from green to roasted coffee.

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via Demetria

Per Demetria, the new technology will be a boon for coffee producers, especially smallholder farmers for whom “cupping is inaccessible,” making it unable for them to “determine or manage the quality of their crop.” The press release goes on to say that because quality determinations are made later in the supply chain, farmers aren’t able to analyze their crops or deliver consisting quality, leaving them to have to accept “just a base commodity price for their produce.”

“The ability to discover the quality of green coffee beans is a game changer for an entire industry that’s relied on a primitive supply chain and artisanal processes for 300 years. It’s hard to believe that the world’s biggest roasters have effectively been buying beans with very limited knowledge about their quality, and that the majority of coffee farmers, the most critical players in the supply chain, don’t understand the quality of their own crops and hence are paid unfairly, threatening the sustainability of this $450 billion industry,” said Demetria’s co-founder and CEO Felipe Ayerbe. “Our technology delivers vital intelligence to ensure crop consistency and quality control, resulting in readdressing the economics of the coffee value chain to benefit every key player.”

Demetria's app has already gone through a pilot program with Carcafe in Colombia and is now in the process of “[developing] a series of apps that help farmers and their transaction points in the supply chain to control and track bean quality, and price it accordingly” with the Colombian National Federation for Coffee Growers.

While there are perhaps questions about how the app can accurately quantify something as subjective as flavor perception, the conceit—empowering farmers through crop analysis and transparency—and its stated goal—allowing producers to fetch a higher price for their hard work—are certainly exciting developments, with a huge potential upside. For more information visit Demetria's official website.

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

Top image is an original parody photoshop created by Sprudge, and does not depict the actual technological process used by Demetria.