This Startup Produces Ground Coffee Using Bread, instead of Beans

Ground Coffee
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As coffee consumption continues to increase, so does the urgency of addressing climate change, which poses significant threats to its primary ingredient: the coffee bean. According to a 2022 report, rising mean temperatures in leading coffee-producing countries like Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam are making conditions less favorable for coffee cultivation. By 2050, these regions are projected to become significantly less suitable for coffee farming.

In response to this challenge, foodtech investor Jake Berber and ASTAR scientist Tan Ding Jie founded a coffee startup with an unconventional approach: producing ground coffee without relying on coffee beans.

Dubbed Prefer, the Singaporean startup employs fermentation techniques to produce “bean-free coffee,” offering a sensory experience akin to traditional coffee but with 10 times less carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional coffee production methods.

In a seed funding round led by Forge Ventures, Prefer secured US$2 million, with contributions from investors including 500 Global, Seeds Capital, and Entrepreneur First. Among the investors is Pickup Coffee, a Philippine coffee chain, which will collaborate with Prefer to introduce bean-free coffee to various regions across Southeast Asia.

Prefer utilizes upcycled food items like surplus bread, soy pulp, and spent grains such as barley to ferment and extract coffee’s essential aroma compounds, effectively creating bean-free coffee. These compounds are then roasted, ground, and delivered to customers.

Naturally, the base ingredients do not contain caffeine. While most of Prefer’s supply is decaffeinated—making it the default decaf option for some café partners—it also offers low-caffeine coffee and a caffeinated cold-brew variant. For the latter two options, the company procures caffeine powder and incorporates it into their blends. They emphasize that caffeine levels can be adjusted according to customer preferences.

Primarily catering to B2B clients across 12 locations in Singapore, Prefer supplies ground coffee compatible with existing espresso machines. Additionally, their products can be found in select outlets of the salad chain SaladStop.

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