Cultivated, Cell-Cultured & Biotechnology

Prefer Raises $2M for Bean-Free Coffee Made With Upcycled Ingredients & Fermentation

Singapore-based startup Prefer has raised $2 million to scale up the production of its bean-free coffee. The round was led by Forge Ventures, with participation from Better Bite Ventures, Sopoong Ventures, SEEDS Capital, Entrepreneur First, and Pickup Coffee.

Prefer’s coffee alternative is made by using microbes to ferment upcycled ingredients such as waste bread, soy milk pulp, and spent brewer’s grain. The resulting mixture is then roasted and ground, using a proprietary process that provides a similar taste and aroma to conventional coffee.

Sustainable and affordable

The aim is offer a more sustainable alternative to coffee, which has a high carbon footprint and is heavily affected by climate change. Changing weather patterns and increased demand are expected to drive up coffee prices in the coming years, but Prefer’s product could provide a more affordable option.

The caffeine content of the bean-free coffee can be customized to suit customer needs; for example, cafes can offer drinks with twice as much caffeine as conventional coffee, or none at all. The coffee alternative is compatible with regular espresso machines, making it an easy swap.

© Prefer

Prefer will use the new funding to increase the capacity of its production facility and expand throughout the Asia-Pacific region, initially focusing on Singapore and the Philippines. Currently, the coffee alternative is available at 12 cafes across Singapore; Prefer also offers pre-made bottled coffee.

Cultivating coffee

Amid growing sustainability concerns, other companies and researchers worldwide are also attempting to develop alternatives to coffee. In 2021, scientists in Finland — the country with the highest per capita coffee consumption in the world — successfully produced cultivated coffee cells in a bioreactor.

The following year, California Cultured announced it was also developing cultivated coffee, with the aim of addressing issues such as child labor and the overuse of pesticides.

“In terms of smell and taste, our trained sensory panel and analytical examination found the profile of the brew to bear similarity to ordinary coffee,” said Dr. Heiko Rischer, Research Team Leader of the Finnish project. “However, coffee-making is an art and involves iterative optimization under the supervision of specialists with dedicated equipment. Our work marks the basis for such work.”

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