I already know what’s going to happen here.
Word will get around that there’s yet another exotic, extremely expensive coffee being made by passing coffee cherry through another animal and picking the beans out of its poop, because the original such method wasn’t enough.
And every time people find out that I’m a coffee nerd, they will ask me if I drink this. Every time. Because that’s what happens with Kopi Luwak. It’s like how app developers are guaranteed to be pitched terrible or impossible app ideas by their parents’ friends.1 I’ll continue to be asked about poop-coffee by everyone for years to come, and I’ll have the same response: No, I haven’t tried it. No, it probably isn’t worth it. No, it probably isn’t that different from just good regular coffee.
The elephant process in particular has some red flags. First, the input beans aren’t particularly noteworthy — this is a way to add far more value to otherwise unremarkable beans. I also question whether the elephants really aren’t being exposed to caffeine, as they claim. The process they’re describing sounds similar to many decaffeination methods and is likely to result in at least partial decaffeination, which would, of course, leave the removed caffeine in the elephants.
The alleged flavor benefit — the common claim of “removing bitterness” — is also questionable. Most bitterness comes from improper roasting, stale beans, or continuously-heating brew methods like percolators or the warming plates on most automatic-drip coffeemakers. With different roast levels and brews, almost any beans can achieve a wide range of flavors, from sweet and fruity to charred and bitter.
Most notably, we already have coffee processes in which controlled fermentation is used to alter flavor, such as Monsooned Malabar. I’ve had that, and it’s great — it adds a hint of tartness and sourness, which is great for some occasional variety, and doesn’t involve any animals or digging through their output.
I’m unclear on whether these beans are put through the elephants before or after roasting. If it’s after roasting, the decaffeination effect will be even more pronounced — the coffee is partially brewing inside the elephant, and they’re definitely getting a lot of caffeine — and the taste will probably be similar to brewing already-brewed Monsooned Malabar beans again.
If this guy’s making a good business giving people an exotic experience, good for him. Great experiences are worth paying for. But outside of the experience, the coffee’s taste alone is probably neither worth the trouble nor particularly unique.
Oh, you make apps? I have a great idea for an app. I just need someone to make it for me. Can I tell you about it? Maybe you can help me make it? This is really a million-dollar idea. But you can’t tell anyone! OK? I don’t want the big guys to hear about it and steal my idea. OK, here it is. Ready? Oh, this is gonna be so good. So everyone posts their videos on YouTube and talks to their friends on Facebook, right? And everyone loves sports. What we need is an app that’s like Facebook and YouTube together for sports fans. You could watch every game from every sport live in the app, and we’d put our own commercials in place of the real ones to make money. And here’s the best part: are you ready for this? You can record your own commentary over the game, and then your friends can watch your version of the game with your commentary and our commercials instead of the official ones! And then your friends could all give their responses to your commentary, live, and then send that stream to their friends to watch, like a chain letter! Isn’t that incredible? I’m telling you, this is a million-dollar idea. How long would it take to make something like that? ↩︎