The proprietary technology of UK start-up Barista Verde allows consumers to enjoy a cup of coffee, brewed from green beans, in minutes and at the push of a button. NutritionInvestor speaks with chief executive Hugh Malkin to find out more
By Murielle Gonzalez
Barista Verde is pushing ahead with CoffeeBud, the world’s first fully-integrated kitchen appliance that will allow consumers to roast, grind and brew a cup of coffee from green beans at the push of a button – and within minutes. The business is the brainchild of Hugh Malkin, a doctor of chemistry and chief executive of Cambridge Scientific Innovations (CSI), a UK company that specialises in extracting analytes from solids via a liquid, engineering highly calibrated machines for the pharma and medtech sectors. “I morphed into an entrepreneur interested in automation and robotics,” says Malkin before revealing the ‘eureka’ moment that led to engineering a compact unit with the potential to disrupt the multibillion-dollar bean-to-cup and pod coffee markets.
CSI launched its first robotic unit in 2013. It enabled laboratory staff to analyse and determine the percentage of active pharmaceutical ingredients in a tablet or capsule, undertaking this process repeatedly and accurately. “One day, I poured myself a cup of coffee while looking at the piece of equipment we had, and the idea of what today is CoffeeBud started to brew in my head,” says Malkin.
He thought about using pre-roasted beans in a pod that would then be heated up, ground and brewed, but that process wasn’t disruptive enough. He wanted to give everybody the ability to make the freshest coffee in their kitchen – it had to start with beans straight from the farm.
“Coffee is really complex in its taste profile,” says Malkin. “Within the first 10 minutes to about an hour after the beans are roasted, the taste profile changes dramatically because of the loss of organoleptic and volatile aroma compounds,” he explains. “Today, everyone at home is missing out on the experience of fresh coffee.”
Malkin and his colleagues also wanted the process to be kind to the planet; hence he decided to use cardboard instead of the plastic-aluminium pods typically used by all incumbent coffee machines in the market. This eco-friendly option required an engineering solution as challenging as brewing a cup of coffee from the raw ingredient.
“We would be roasting green beans at 200-plus degrees, using boiling water and very high pressure to make an espresso – none of these processes is compatible with cardboard,” says Malkin. He reveals the technical challenge led to Barista Verde’s first intellectual property – a 100% recyclable cardboard pod design. It also allows the machine to deposit the ground waste back in the cardboard pod for home composting.
The patent-protected machine also has a ‘wow factor’ built-in. Once the cardboard pod is inserted in CoffeeBud, the unit levitates the beans as they are air roasted in a see-through compartment, and then ground. Malkin says the aroma that comes from it is great. “It really makes you want a cup of coffee!”
From farm to cup
Barista Verde will enter the market with IP-intensive technology that allows consumers at home to experience coffee as never before. Malkin argues that Barista Verde is not just about enjoying the freshest cup of coffee, but also about shortening the supply chain involved, and making drinking coffee an experience with social and environmental impact.
“We want to bring the farmer closer to the consumer,” says Malkin, noting Barista Verde is dealing with coffee farmers in South America and other parts of the world, paying a fair price for the beans. He argues that working directly with the farmers also ensures that the only processing the beans go through before consumers brew their cup of coffee is at the point of origin when the beans are washed and dried by the farmers and their cooperatives.
Educating consumers about the provenance of the coffee they choose is also a driver of the business. “We want to have all the information about the farmer, the crops, the altitude, all the elements that are important at the end of the brewed cup of coffee, making the user feel part of the growing experience,” says Malkin.
The CoffeeBud machine is paired with Barista Verde Academy, an education platform for people to have at their fingertips through a website and dedicated app. It will provide information about where the coffee comes from, how it is grown, what processes are involved in getting it to consumers, and how you can make the most out of the coffee experience.
Malik says the company is an aspiring B-Corp business, and that Barista Verde wants to establish a foundation so that it can reinvest in farming community projects with one penny from each pod sold from year one.
The business model of Barista Verde is twofold and driven by the IP-protected CoffeeBud machine and cardboard pods. The direct-to-consumer business model will see Barista Verde sell CoffeeBud with a subscription model for the delivery of the green beans cardboard pods set up to a periodicity of choice.
“Each capsule carries a unique encrypted code that controls the machine,” says Malkin, noting this code also carries the different roast profile for the consumer to choose according to their preference, and the educational material and background information about the green beans in the cardboard pod.
Selling CoffeBud through wholesalers and department stores is also in the cards. “Because we’re offering so much more to what’s available in the market today, we worked on the design knowing we needed to hit a certain price point, so we get a good cost of goods,” says Malkin. “We can be really competitive but offer so much more.”
Bean-to-cup machines go from £200 to several thousand pounds while pod-only devices are typically cheaper, ranging from £50 to £300. Malkin says Barista Verde is aiming to give CoffeeBud a price point of £600.
Malkin and his team at CSI are not alone in the project. Barista Verde is a joint venture between the company and food and drink business accelerator Mission Ventures.
“We’re scientists and engineers with a product we think is brilliant, but we need to take the next step to the consumer market,” says Malkin. “We’re looking for the right type of investors to add that sort of value, with the network in the consumer product market, perhaps with the network in the coffee industry as well. We do have those discussions going.”
Paddy Willis, chief executive of Mission Ventures, is bullish on the market potential of the disruptive proposition of Barista Verde. “It won’t be for everybody, but from the commercial perspective, the aim is to get 1% of the $15 billion capsule market,” he says.
The lifestyle changes associated with working from home is proving the perfect platform for CoffeeBud. Department store giant John Lewis reported a 33% increase in sales of coffee machines and 44% in milk frothers since March, showing how home workers are missing their speciality coffee.
Willis believes Barista Verde embodies an interesting dynamic because its dual offering can evolve in parallel. “As a foodtech solution, CoffeeBud has the potential to enter the foodservice space sitting next to vending machines. Barista Verde is also a coffee company, sourcing the best possible beans and educating consumers on how they can enjoy it in the freshest possible way without damaging nature,” he concludes.
Date published: 19 November 2020