What in the World is AI Coffee?

The latest coffee blend from Kaffa may be ‘AI-assisted’, but it’s old school excellent.

Courtesy of Kaffa
Kaffa Al-conic Coffee. Courtesy of Kaffa

In decades past, the best ways to increase the value of your company were understandable but difficult. You could increase your revenue, decrease costs, increase your dominance of the market, increase margins, improve the quality of your product, reduce consumer churn, increase customer stickiness, and so forth.

In 2024, you have a new, far easier option. Just slap “AI” on whatever you’re selling and if you don’t get VCs running at you with open wallets, at least you’ll get a ton of free press — particularly if the idea is facially stupid.

I say this because I’m falling for the very trap set by the collaborative coffee made by Finnish boutique coffee brewers Kaffa and the AI company Elev, who have collaborated on ‘Al-conic;’ what they describe as “a groundbreaking coffee blend crafted by AI.” They even have the surreal, computer-generated animated visuals that have become customary on any AI-product website.

To give the most generous portrayal of the idea; Kaffa Roastery is a highly regarded coffee roaster, based out of Helsinki in Finland. The country consumes more coffee per person than anywhere else, and Kaffa is among their best roasteries, selecting top-quality beans and preparing them for their demanding local consumers and international e-shopper coffee aficionados.

For this collaborative release, they involve AI in the process, by submitting descriptions of all their beans to a ChatGPT-like chatbot and letting it then spit out its guess of what should be the best blend. Rather than a typical two bean mix, allowing you to easily tell the distinct flavors of each, the chatbot instead created a blend of four; 40 percent Fazenda Pinhal from Brazil, 10 percent Ethopian Geruke, and then a final 25 percent each of San Lorenzo from Colombia and La Bolsa from Guatemala.

As an ex-bartender, I’ve played around with using AI to make recipes before, and adding too many ingredients is an odd AI quirk I’ve found. The result is usually at best unremarkable, and sometimes spectacularly bad. However, according to the team behind this, the beans customers receive are exactly the blend that the AI recommended; that it didn’t need any tweaking.

Kaffa sent me two bags — in ground and bean form —  and having tried both, I can understand why they were happy. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t have a distinct personality — it doesn’t taste like one particular region — but this medium roast coffee is exceptionally easy to drink, with a mild sweet fruitiness and slight chocolate hint.

In their explanation, this is an example of how AI can push creative boundaries, and find combinations that humans wouldn’t. It’s possible that’s so; or that they’re working with an incredible quality of ingredients to start with, which can’t go horribly wrong when mixed, and got lucky with a final result. Put simply, given the reputation of their other beans, AI doesn’t seem to be doing anything extraordinarily better here.

Except, of course, for getting more earned media. If so, job well done.

The New York Sun

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