Coffee is the next frontier for entrepreneurial technologists looking to make an impact on a budding industry. Just have a look around Kickstarter and you’ll find all manner of coffee inventions, re-inventions, and re-inventions that are actually no different than the original product they are supposedly revolutionizing; not all ideas are good ones (or new ones). But now, the next frontier is heading to the final frontier: space, as two entrepreneurs are going to roast coffee in space “to produce perfectly roasted coffee beans.”
According to The Guardian, Space Roasters is the brainchild of Anders Cavallini and Hatem Alkhafaji. The Dubai pair’s plan is to shoot a pressurized tank filled with 300kg of green coffee into space—around 200km, or 124 miles, in height (for reference, the ozone is around 30km from the earth)—and then let the heat from re-entry do all the roasting. Their theory is essentially that gravity accounts for the flaws in coffee roasting: “beans tumble around, break apart, and are scorched by contact with the hot surfaces of the roaster,” per the article. But in space, where no one can hear your beans go to first crack, “if gravity is removed, the beans float around in a heated oven, giving them 360 degrees of evenly distributed heat and roasting to near perfection.”
According to The Guardian, the temperature inside the capsule will be held at around 200°C (392°F) for the entirety of the 20-minute plummet back to earth. Cavallini and Alkhafaji are unsure yet how much they will charge per cup of their space coffee, but seeing how it will be sold in Dubai, it’s safe to say it will fall in the “fuckton of dirhams” range. According to their website, a pre-sale starts in four weeks, where the price will presumably be revealed.
The real question is—other than the very obvious, “Why?! Why are you doing this!?!—will the coffee be any good? 20 minutes is a pretty long roast time, at least by terrestrial standards, but 200°C is a very low temperature. Like, “may not make it to first crack” low. I’m no roaster or anything, but that doesn’t quite sound like a recipe for success. Or good coffee. Though, Cavallini has “over five years experience, roasting, brewing, tasting coffee from around the world,” according to a very ambiguous statement on the company's about the duo's coffee bona fides, so maybe they know what they're doing?
But what is progress and innovation without a few over-engineered misfires? And who knows, maybe this one isn’t a stinker. Maybe this sous-vide free fall through space is how all coffee will be roasted in the future. I have my doubts, but I’m willing to be proven wrong if Cavallini and Alkhafaji want to send me some coffee to try, ideally by not targeting a plummeting coffee rocket ship at my house.
Hopefully the coffee won’t collide with the La Colombe Draft Latte Todd Carmichael shot into space (if he did in fact send one to space, though we have our doubts).