CSU alumni brewing up bean-less coffee

Riley at AtomoSeveral Colorado State University alumni are involved in an innovative new company changing the way consumers get their morning caffeine – through the development of a new coffee brewed without the beans. Riley Erekson, who graduated from CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition in 2017, is currently a research and development scientist at Atomo Coffee in Seattle, Washington.

One of the cofounders of the company, Jarret Stopforth, is also an alumnus of CSU, graduating with a M.S. and Ph.D. in food microbiology housed in the Department of Animal Sciences. Two of Riley’s colleagues are also affiliated with CSU, Brandon Bishop, a 2017 fermentation science and technology alumnus, and Rob Yemm, a former animal sciences faculty member. In a company of only 25 employees, it is amazing that four of them have CSU connections.

Finding a nutrition and food science

Erekson is from Haines, Alaska, and came to CSU in 2013 not knowing what she wanted to study. “When I started my freshman year at CSU, I was more than 2,000 miles away from home with no idea what degree I would pursue,” said Erekson. “I enrolled in Introduction to Nutrition during my sophomore year and after the first week of the class I knew I wanted to study nutrition and food science. The intriguing curriculum, approachable faculty, and abundant resources the department offered helped me define a clear path for my future and build the groundwork for a successful career post-graduation.”

During her time at CSU, she served as a mentor in the FSHN peer mentor program and volunteered with Elderhaus and B.A.S.E. camp. Since graduation, Erekson has worked as a product development technologist with Fuerst Day Lawson out of Seattle and joined Atomo Coffee in 2019.

Coffee with fewer carbon emissions

Atomo CoffeeAtomo Coffee launched its first coffee this year, a molecular cold brew in two flavors, Classic and Ultra Smooth. A recent press release from the company announced that the molecular cold brew is making history as the first coffee brewed without beans to be sold online in the U.S. marketplace in an effort to combat climate change by preventing deforestation and using less water. Atomo has partnered with local U.S. farmers in order to use upcycled ingredients and give plant waste a second life. They have analyzed and recreated the compounds of conventional coffee to produce the new brew.

According to the Atomo website, “By reverse-engineering the coffee bean, we have created a naturally-derived and sustainable coffee with the same caffeine you’d expect and no harsh acid or bitterness.”

Erekson is enthusiastic about her role in the startup coffee company: “Atomo is a great place to work not only because of what we’re doing, but the team we have here is absolutely amazing,” said Erekson. “Working for a startup requires everyone to wear many hats and I feel very fortunate to be able to learn about all sides of the business. It’s really exciting to be a part of something that has never been done before and combining my degree with my love of coffee is just icing on the cake.”

Alumni of the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition can be found all over the nation making an impact on how society relates to food, science, nutrition, fermentation and hospitality.

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences