The molecular drinks trend doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, much to the chagrin of many of us here at Sprudge. It all began with coffee—or perhaps “coffee”—and Atomo, a Seattle-based tech startup we’ve reported on a few times over the years that sells “lab-grown coffee;” after breaking down the molecular structure of coffee, Atomo rebuilt it using no actual coffee. It’s a fascinating exercise in understanding what makes coffee the way it does at the atomic level, though we don’t love the questionable claims they make about coffee farmers. More recently, Compound Foods has joined the beanless coffee fray, and scientists in Finland have used “bioreactor techniques” to create synthetic coffee.
And the next evolution of drinks-that-aren’t-actually-made-of-what-they-are is here and it is going full-on omni-beverage. The Cana One is a “molecular drinks printer” and can whip up some version of just about whatever you want to quench your thirst, including alcoholic beverages.
As reported by Engadget, the Cana One is a countertop drink dispenser that can “mix one of thousands of different beverages,” including teas, waters (sparkling, energy, or flavored), juices, sports drinks, soft drinks, hard seltzers, wine, cocktails, and of course coffee (iced only). Per the article, the Cana team spent three years “[teaming] up with beverage brands from around the world” and breaking down drinks at the molecular level in order to “[isolate] the trace compounds behind flavor and aroma.” The fundamental building blocks of the drinks are all stored in a single cartridge—along with additional cartridges for sugar, spirits, and CO2—from which the Cana One uses to reconcoct your drink of choice.
Using “novel microfluidic liquid dispense technology,” the Cana One will allow users to modify the amount of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine in their beverages. According to Cana, most drinks are just 90% water with various other flavoring agents, so they are getting that extra 10% from the molecular carts.
In lieu of purchasing replacement cartridges, Cana will automatically send you free ones when you run out. But there’s a catch. You pay by the drink with the Cana One. Each beverage will cost anywhere between $.29 and $3, with Cana claiming that “the average price will be lower than bottled beverages at retailers.” How exactly you pay for each drink and if they are in fact cheaper than store-bought options remains to be seen.
And because no molecular drink can come out without some circuitous claims of environmentalism, the Cana One states that is can “reduce waste and associated emissions by helping people avoid bottled and canned drinks” while also “[reducing] water waste that’s needed to grow ingredients for things like orange juice and wine.”
Currently on pre-order, the Cana One can be reserved via their official website for $99, with the first 10,000 units being sold for $499; the price goes up to $799 after that. Per Engadget, the company expects to begin shipping out units in early 2023.
I have to admit, this whole molecular drinks thing is like that one Dirty Projectors album where they tried to recreate a Black Flag album entirely from memory after not hearing it for over a decade. It’s like, wow, what an interesting concept, I’d listen to that once. But after that, when I want Black Flag, I’ll listen to Black Flag. It’s cool that a bunch of science types are trying to recreate coffee—though some might argue this is the least interesting thing you could have done after breaking down the flavor and aroma on a molecular level—but when I want a drink, I’ll have that drink. We’re not yet in the sci-fi post-apocalyptic era of human history such that I need a soylent green simulacra to remember the taste of the before times.