Would you let a molecular drink printer make you “coffee”?

The molecular drink trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, much to the chagrin of many of us here at Sprudge. It all started with coffee – or maybe “coffee” – and Atomo, a Seattle-based tech startup we’ve talked about many times over the years that sells “lab-grown coffee”; after breaking down the molecular structure of coffee, Atomo reconstructed it without using coffee. It’s a fascinating exercise in understanding what makes coffee what it does on an atomic level, even if we don’t like the dubious claims they make about coffee farmers. More recently, Compound Foods has joined the grain-free coffee fray, and Finnish scientists have used “bioreactor techniques” to create synthetic coffee.

And the next evolution of drinks-that-aren’t-really-made-of-what-they-are-is-here and it turns into omni-drink. The Cana One is a “molecular drink printer” and can whip up a version of just about anything you want to quench your thirst, including alcoholic beverages.

As Engadget reported, the Cana One is a countertop beverage dispenser that can “mix any of thousands of different beverages,” including teas, waters (sparkling, energizing, or flavored), juices, sports drinks, soft drinks, hard sodas, wine, cocktails, and of course coffee (iced only). According to the article, the Cana team spent three years”[teaming] with beverage brands around the world” and break down beverages at the molecular level in order to “[isolate] the trace elements behind flavor and aroma. The fundamental beverage building blocks are all stored in a single cartridge, along with additional cartridges for sugar, spirits and CO2, from which the Cana One uses to reconstitute your drink of choice.

Using “new microfluidic liquid dispensing technology,” the Cana One will allow users to change the amount of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine in their beverages. According to Cana, most drinks are only 90% water with various other flavoring agents, so they get an extra 10% from molecular carts.

Instead of buying replacement cartridges, Cana will automatically send you free ones when you run out. But there is a catch. You pay per drink with the Cana One. Each drink will cost between $0.29 and $3, with Cana saying “the average price will be lower than bottled drinks at retailers.” It remains to be seen how exactly you pay for each drink and whether they are in fact cheaper than store-bought options.

And because no molecular drink can come out without some devious claims of environmentalism, the Cana One says it can “reduce waste and associated emissions by helping people avoid bottled and canned beverages” while “[reducing] the waste of water that is needed to grow ingredients for things like orange juice and wine.

Currently on pre-order, the Cana One can be reserved through their official website for $99, with the first 10,000 units selling for $499; the price goes up to $799 after that. According to Engadget, the company plans to start shipping units in early 2023.

I have to admit, this whole molecular drinks thing sounds like that Dirty Projectors album where they tried to recreate a Black Flag album entirely from memory after not hearing it for over a decade. It’s like, wow, what an interesting concept, I was listening to that once. But afterwards, when I want Black Flag, I listen to Black Flag. It’s cool that a bunch of scientists are trying to recreate coffee – although some might say it’s the least interesting thing you could have done after breaking down flavor and aroma to the molecular level – but when I want a drink, I’ll have this drink. We’re not yet in the sci-fi post-apocalyptic era of human history, so I need a silky green simulacrum to remember the taste of times before.

Zac Cadwalader is Sprudge Media Network’s Managing Editor and a Dallas-based writer. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

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