Nov 30, 2023

I recently learned about Cometeer, a new take on instant coffee Basically: make a coffee concentrate, rapidly freeze it with liquid nitrogen to maintain flavors & aromas lost with traditional instant, ship you those frozen capsules, and then you dissolve those in hot water and drink. , from a James Hoffman video. I didn’t get to participate in the taste test he organized using Cometeer to ensure consistency across partipants, but I thought it would be an interesting way to try some new roasters that aren’t locally available & also try a wider variety of roast styles than I typically buy, so I ordered a mixed roast box.

It arrived yesterday & I’ve now drunk a couple cups. So, is it good? I mean, it’s fine, yeah. It’s way better than instant (even good modern instant, not just old school awful instant like Folgers), but not quite as good as fresh-brewed, as you’d expect. It’s like a good fresh-brewed drip coffee with a lot of the aroma wiped away. The flash-freeze process definitely maintains some aroma compounds, which is an advantage over other instant approachs, but some volatile compounds are still definitely lost.

Are the roasts good? Yeah, definitely: Cometeer’s partner roasters is a Who’s Who of coffee luminaries. This morning I tried a light roast from Square Mile (which, being UK based, I otherwise don’t think I could get at all economically or particularly fresh here in NY), which was delicious. I thought I didn’t like light roasts, and if I’d been blind-tasting I would have described this as a medium roast, so this was a nice prompt to re-evaluate that. I’ve also had a medium roast from Birch Coffee which was good but not my favorite: a little bitter & tannin-y. I still have a box of Intelligentsia’s espresso blend & Black & White’s Original Blend to dip into.

Was this a good way to sample different coffees? Ehhhhhh, sorta. The mixed roast box is 4 boxes with 8 servings per box, and I would have preferred if they had offered something with 8 different coffees with 4 servings each, or something like that. The 8 servings/box makes sense as a regular coffee subscription size, but my specific use-case just wasn’t a great fit for what Cometeer is selling.

Is this economical? No, no it’s not. The mixed roast box was $84 for 32 6-8 oz servings, for $2.62/serving. That’s basically the price of a small 12 oz drip at a cafe, and much more than brewing at home. I usually buy a 12 ounce bag of Joe’s espresso blend for ~$20, which is $1.17/serving for a 12 oz cup, or $0.83/8 oz to make it more comparable to Cometeer’s 6-8 oz suggested dilution. 12 ounces is 340g, I brew a V60 with a 60g/L ratio and usually brew a 20g/333ml serving (very close to 12 oz), so that’s 17 servings/bag. 8 fl oz is ~237 ml, needing 14g of beans, so the same bag would brew ~24 8 oz servings.

I knew going in this was going to cost more per-cup than my usual coffee, and I did this experiment for reasons of “that seems interesting” and “I’d like to try different coffee”, but it does leave me a little confused about who this product is for on a subscription basis.

Quality-wise, it’s certainly an improvement on instant, but it’s still not as good as just making your coffee fresh. And it’s not really conveniently portable (the capsules need to be kept frozen), so unlike “good” instant it’s not a great fit for the coffee snob away from home (traveling, hiking/camping, etc.).

Convenience-wise it’s not that much less wall-clock time than just brewing a V60 (most of that is waiting for the kettle, and I weigh & grind beans while the water is boiling). Convenience and quality-wise it’s probably pretty competitive with a good pod machine like a Nespresso, but still more expensive. Most pod coffee is very bad & I don’t think I’ve actually tried Nespresso, but I hear it’s okay? And from what I can see Nespresso pods tend to go for ~$1.45/pod. Nespresso roasts do tend to be dark, even when Nespresso claims otherwise, so I guess if you wanted light-medium roasts Cometeer would win out on that.

So the audience seems to be: snobbish enough to want good coffee from specific roasters at home, but lazy/busy enough to not actually make coffee or walk to a cafe? Seems like a narrow niche to me, but I could be wrong. I guess the other demographic is YouTubers doing big, geographically distributed taste tests, but that’s gotta be pretty niche.