Thursday 13 June 2024
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Loric Coffee, specialty instant is real: “We want coffee lovers of all levels to try and enjoy a wonderful taste experience”

The co-founder: "Instant and specialty are really only oxymorons because the industrial spray-drying processes for supermarket instant has dominated the market, and their approach destroys any specialty character."

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MILAN – What if the specialty could also be instant, would you like to try it? For those not limited by prejudice, the idea is available and was made possible by the two founders of Loric Coffee, Lorenzo and Luke. They are the ones who can directly explain what we are talking about.

Here, the link to their website.

Specialty coffee and instant coffee, at first glance might seem like an oxymoron: what are your reasons for producing Loric Coffee?

Lorenzo: “During the pandemic, we were so excited to see exploding interest in roasting and brewing coffee at home. But we were also dismayed to see how difficult it was for folks to navigate the oceans of advice and gadgets. We wanted coffee lovers of all levels to enjoy a wonderful specialty coffee in its best light possible, and have that baseline.

Secondly, during the pandemic, we saw tons of wasted product as global shipping, climate, and consumption patterns changed. This places pressure on specialty coffee farms to forsake specialty harvests for larger, stable commodity coffees. We wanted to explore a low-capital coffee preservation approach that mitigates the time-pressure of specialty coffee sales.”

Luke: “Instant and specialty are really only oxymorons because the industrial spray-drying processes for supermarket instant has dominated the market, and their approach destroys any specialty character.”

What target audience did you have in mind with this Loric Coffee of yours?

Luke: “Because of the low volume we’re starting at, our first target audience is going to a new type of consumer, a coffee collector. Loric will capture coffee “vintages” that can be held, traded, compared, etc. because of the long shelf-life. We see this as a proof-of-concept that can expand to a small portion of the best harvests of each year.


Coffee is normally cupped within the window of geographic harvest seasons, but we think it could be fascinating to taste across time and evolution.”

Where is your production base?

Lorenzo: “Loric Coffee is based in the Bay Area, where we’re currently operating with a class B cottage food license as we’ve been in R&D. For scaling, we’re evaluating production facilities in Asia where production costs, packaging manufacturing, and distribution outside of the US is easier and cost efficient. Coffee is 98% water, so the advantage of only needing to ship that remaining 2% (which is the soluble portion for instant coffee) is awesome, and could open us production from many areas.”

Are there many competitors to produce instant specialty coffee?

Lorenzo: “There have been many instant coffee pioneers who have come and gone, but also many forging strong today. There were now-defunct companies like Sudden Coffee and Voila who pioneered specialty instant, big successful white-label and partner processors like Swift Cup, and my favorite is Black & White Roasters because we see many process similarities.”

Luke: “I hesitate to think of this space as competitors, specialty instant is such a hard product to scale for volume that I think everyone in the space can have exciting things to offer. In my view, the RTD market has expanded far faster these last few years than specialty instant producers can keep up with.”

Which specialties have you selected (and why?) and what processing steps do they undergo to turn them into soluble?

Luke: “Our first two coffees are both natural process Ethiopian heirlooms, from the Guji and Gedeo zones respectively. Most casual drinkers we know don’t have their coffee roasted and brewed optimally to experience the deep flavors there, so we chose these to highlight how character can be preserved.”

Lorenzo: “We brew with a Ground Control batch brewer by Voga Labs for maximum reproducibility, with the same steps and temps you’d use to brew in a café setting. We do extract at a higher TDS for efficiency, but our goal is to minimize any character change. Then we rest and freeze to -20 to -40F, and freeze-dry in customized Harvest Right pharmaceutical lyophilizers.”

How do you solve the problem of maintaining the quality of a raw material such as specialty?

Luke: “Minimizing oxidation before freeze-drying is a huge ordeal for us, from storage to roasting to brewing, up until the instant coffee is finally produced. Because we deal in very small batches, we try to use the best anaerobic containment and processes possible. Like other specialty roasters, we also employ UV hand sorting of green, sampling, humidity control, and deep freezing.”

What about that of acrylamide instead? Usually, undergoing multiple cooking processes increases the risk of developing high amounts of it: how have you handled this?

Lorenzo: “For us, acrylamide formation could only happen at the same place it happens for all other coffees, which is during roasting. The heating we do during the freeze-drying process is well below maillard formation thresholds, indeed it’s below even drinking temperatures!”

Is soluble specialty coffee less expensive and also less difficult to understand (because more immediate preparation) for those who are not coffee nerds and don’t know or don’t feel like brewing a V60 every day?

Luke: “Absolutely! I think about how much amazing coffee is actually wasted because they were way past roast date, poorly ground, poorly brewed, etc. It’s not a judgment on folks, coffee is legitimately difficult to peak, even for experts. So the idea is if we capture that peak for them, drinkers will appreciate coffees even more, especially specialty coffee. Convenience is just a nice bonus!”

Lorenzo: “Also, we rarely see great specialty coffee prep used for culinary purposes because it adds so much more overhead. We have had great experience using Loric Coffee for non-drinking culinary purposes, and it really makes a difference in elevating foods as an ingredient in its own right.”

Have you studied different lines with as many single-origins?

Luke: I have a big notebook of endless coffees we tasted along with their instant counterparts! What we settled on were coffees that maintained >95% of their character after processing. That said, our processing has also evolved greatly, so I’m sure there are many coffees we passed on before that we could make work today.”

When, where, and how much will Loric Coffee soluble specialty coffees be available for purchase?

Luke: Our first collection will be sold both via online retail, and as a web collectible that let’s people trade access to a stash of a particular vintage of coffee. We’re rolling this out before year’s end, and have been chatting with a couple specialty suppliers and growers about tackling their best harvests for our next collection. As we’re completely self-funded, our releases aren’t driven by sales goals but by discovering really great coffees.”

So far the feedback, including from professionals, have confirmed that you are going in the right direction, or are there still aspects to improve?

Lorenzo: “We’ve been lucky enough to have shared with two awesome professional coffee-tasters and technologists, shout-out to Umeko Motoyoshi and Julien Langevin. For us, it was awesome to get such a positive response from them, but most importantly, that their assessment matched our own notes. This signaled to us that lyophilization preserves the character we wanted, and so we just need to puzzle out what our future beans need, and customize the process.

For the casual tasters, I think the loss of aromatic volatiles can be noticeable, although we do have strategies to combat this. But once brewed, the drink itself has gotten very good reviews, especially with balance and “smoothness” which is often them tasting perfect extraction for the first time. Aroma difference aside, they tell us they’ve unable to tell reconstituted Loric from the local 3rd wave cafe!

Next for us is capturing a wider spectrum of coffees so that the casual taster can understand this isn’t the taste of Loric Coffee per se, but of the beans themselves. I dream of a flight of coffees from peak harvests across every producing region to take our consumers on a journey of coffee diversity.”


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