Is it single-origin? How’s the mouthfeel? Is it superior to ‘traditional’ coffee? We put ‘Coffiest’ to the test (because eventually somebody was going to).
When Soylent, vanguards of efficiency-focused millennial nutrient consumption, announced their newest product, we felt a kernel of curiosity. Blame it on a fascination with all things coffee-related, a bemused interest in ‘what the kids are up to these days,” or even just an effective Facebook marketing campaign, but we couldn’t help wondering: is Coffiest any good?
In the world of specialty coffee, there’s a process for testing beans that helps coffee professionals separate exquisite beans that deserve to be finely roasted from beans with the culinary integrity of an old brick. This process, called cupping, takes into account various qualities of the coffee like aroma, flavor, body, and aftertaste, assigning a score to each. While scoring is technically subjective, the idea is to build a framework that coffee professionals can share to get a ballpark idea of a coffee’s characteristics and quality.
It was a Wednesday, the sun was shining, so we figured, “What the hell, let’s cup some Coffiest!”
After acquiring a few matte-black bottles from a person giving it away for free in downtown LA, we hit our first roadblock. There were only three words on the packaging: “Coffiest,” “caffeine,” and something called “l-theanine” (which we refuse to google). In the coffee world, we’re used to knowing something about the origin of what we’re drinking. Where it was grown, how it was processed, things like that. Details. Coffiest is the specialty coffee version of “The Man With No Name”. It just showed up in town, dressed sort of strangely, and nobody’s quite sure how to approach it.
But we aren’t here to debate packaging or origins, we’re here to cup some urban spaceman coffeedrink! So we peeled off the waxy plastic, unscrewed the cap, and got down to business.
We weren’t really sure what to expect here, (and to be honest we were a little disappointed that unscrewing the cap wasn’t accompanied by an airlock noise), but it actually smells pretty ok. There’s a strong graham cracker aroma, with some honey sweetness and notes of cocoa. It legitimately smells like s’mores in a bottle, which is kind of cool and disconcerting in equal measure. Either way, doesn’t smell much like coffee at all, which is sort of the point? 5.50/10
The initial sip invokes an immediate comparison to oatmeal or pancake batter. (Given that Soylent is packed full of soy proteins and algaes and what-have-you, it’s going to have that taste no matter what.) Then the cocoa powder hits, and it really does taste… powdery. Remember the milk after a bowl of Cookie Crisp cereal? Like that, but less sweet. There are some coffee notes on the back end, but it tastes much darker than the website’s proclaimed “real lightly-roasted coffee.” We can’t get much beyond chocolate and faint coffee, especially since it still smells overwhelmingly of s’mores. 4.5/10
Coming off the back of the palate, the taste isn’t technically bad. You probably get more coffee notes out of the aftertaste than anywhere else, though still heavily mediated by cocoa power. It’s weirdly dry though, as if it’s evaporating off the back of your tongue. Imagine eating a small spoonful of cocoa powder, raw flour, and instant coffee. Sketchy. 3.5/10
Unsurprisingly, there isn’t any acidity to be found. The drink itself is somewhere between a protein shake and nut milk, so it’s never going to be truly acidic. From the coffee we can taste, we can’t say that it would benefit from more acidity, but we can’t really score it for acidity since it’s basically absent. Coffiest seems to be veering away from the specialty coffee evaluation system. We’re in uncharted waters, folks. ?/10
If we could adequately describe what’s going on here, we’d probably be in a different line of work like materials science, or poetry. It’s a heavy drink for sure, but less gritty than we expected of a drink with 400 kcals per bottle. And while it’s heavy, it’s incredibly viscous. It moves faster than it should for how heavy it is. It’s not unenjoyable. In fact, it’s fascinating, like watching somebody run on one of those moving sidewalks at the airport. 7.25/10
Balance is where the coffee all comes together. How the different elements add up to produce a cup of something that you drink and enjoy. In Coffiest’s case, the drink doesn’t seem very balanced at all. For one, the aroma lingers over every other aspect. The aftertaste is alarming, and the change-over from the viscous body to the dryness of the aftertaste is like taste-bud whiplash. It’s not sweet enough to really own up to the s’mores vibes it gives out, and there certainly isn’t enough emphasis on actual coffee flavor to merit occupying 50% of this drink’s name. Compared to a well-roasted single origin coffee, Coffiest is profoundly confusing. 4.0/10
We can’t really give Coffiest any points for sweetness or being a clean cup, but technically we can award it points for uniformity. Since we’re assuming that it’s cooked up in huge batches by some process involving lasers and robots in a warehouse with Pitchfork-approved EDM blaring through a Beats Pill, the taste isn’t going to vary from bottle to bottle. +4
If this were a normal coffee, this is where we would say that coffee shouldn’t taste so strongly like pancake batter. This is where we would say that coffee shouldn’t contain 400 kcals. This is where we would say coffee isn’t really supposed to be this mysteriously thick and fluid. But we also enjoy the cultural and interpersonal aspects of consuming food at traditional intervals, so what do we know? -0
So according to our method of evaluating quality specialty coffees, Soylent’s Coffiest cupped at 28.75 on a 90 point scale (since we bailed on acidity).
What does this mean? Effectively nothing. If you’re in the market for a 400 kcal cup of coffee, just add some yak butter to your mug. People have been doing that for years.
If you’re interested in specialty coffee, you’re probably the sort of person who values taste over convenience, quality over calorie count. And in that case, we’d recommend drinking some real specialty coffee (we’ll ship you some if you want). Coffiest is about as confusing as its name (seriously, how do you pronounce that? Coffee-ist? Cof-feist?) and it doesn’t resemble coffee in any way, shape, or form. We also haven’t noticed any upticks in productivity or efficiency since consuming it. Case in point: we wrote this article.