While Kalle Freese was busy working a barista in Helsinki, a shop owner, and a competitor on the World Barista Championship stage he somehow found time to brainstorm an idea for a better instant coffee. In 2015, he decided to close his shop (named after himself) and take his dreams to San Francisco. There his plans for Sudden Coffee took off, and Kalle found himself surrounded by eager backers from the heart of Silicon Valley.
Investors like Jyri Engström (founder of Jaiku), Caterina Fake (co-founder at Flickr), and Joshua Zloof (who later became the co-founder after working at Groupon) took the project to the next level. Half a million dollars in funding later, the company hit the ground running.
(Top to Bottom: Kalle Freese, Josh Zloof, and Caterina Fake)
“What we do is so new that it can be hard to communicate,” explains Umeko Motoyoshi, Brewing and Quality Manager. “We are an instant coffee in form, but we also are a top quality specialty. So, one of the biggest challenges is communicating why our price is higher than traditional instant coffee.”
When people hear “instant coffee,” quality and specialty do not even cross their mind. So, the Sudden Coffee team is taking on that market and creating a bridge between the two industries. “We hope to encourage and push others and help to grow both industries as a whole – specialty and instant. We hope the instant coffee industry will produce some higher quality alternatives, using better coffees. And we hope the specialty coffee industry will work on making their products more accessible,” Motoyoshi says.
To create the best instant coffee, you have to start with the best specialty coffee. At Sudden Coffee, they only use coffee that is in the top 3% in quality. That’s coffee that is so good it would easily sell for $3-4 per cup in a shop. This is unheard of in the instant coffee world. Most instant coffee companies use beans in the bottom 30%. In terms of coffee, that means you’re getting the throwaway stuff, defective and even moldy. Which should explain a lot about why most people hate the taste of instant coffee. It tastes like crap because it’s made with crap.
“What I really hope to accomplish is to increase the demand for specialty coffee, which hopefully will drive up the price paid to farmers.” – Kalle Freese
Even Sudden Coffee’s processing of the coffee is an exception for the industry. Traditionally, instant coffee is brewed and essentially scalded with water so hot that the flavor is that of burned coffee. Sudden Coffee is carefully brewed before dehydration, leaving high quality coffee in powder form.
“The truth is, our product is much more comparable to a fresh brewed cup of coffee from a top café- and many people spend $3 per cup for that on a daily basis.” Check out this explanation of what the cost of a cup really is here, with a price breakdown for each cup.
The future for Sudden Coffee looks like product expansion, including different coffees and roasts, as well as decaf for those who love the flavor but not the jitters.
And how do the Sudden Coffee team take their coffee? “Josh always drinks his coffee with cream. Kalle and I both drink it black. And if I’m not in the mood for black coffee, I’m headed to Starbucks for a green tea Frappuccino!”
Currently, Sudden Coffee only has one buying option: $19.00 per month for 8 tubes (each tube makes an 8 ounce cup of coffee). Because of the company’s small size, they are only doing one single origin roast a month. This month it’s Biftu Gudina, and next month will be an Ethiopian coffee.
I wasn’t sure what to think of the coffee when I first received it in the mail. The packaging is cute and the tubes are single portion sizes, so each cup is fresh. I think the first thing you’re going to notice is that there isn’t that much coffee in each tube. Maybe around a tablespoon. However, I can tell you that that tablespoon packs a punch.
The instructions say that you can use it with both cold and hot water or milk. I tested this out by using a single tube and 8 ounces of cold milk. I’d say about ¾ of the coffee actually dissolved in the cold milk. I tasted it anyway just to see how the flavor was, and it was way more flavorful than I was expecting. It tasted like a rich, dark roast coffee with milk. Like an iced latte. So, I heated up the milk and, of course, the rest of the grounds dissolved right away and the coffee was actually really good. I think I could have gotten all the grounds to dissolve had I mixed the coffee a little longer in the milk but I wanted to try it in a time span (around 2 minutes) that I might use in the morning if I were just trying to grab my coffee and go. I essentially had the same experience when using cold and hot water. The only thing I think would make a difference was if I used room temperature water. I think that would help dissolve the grounds more easily.
Overall, I would say that if someone made this for me and gave it to me without saying where it was from, I would swear that it was from a coffee house. The coffee flavor is rich, with a slight dark chocolate undertone to it. Because of the price, I don’t feel like this is an everyday coffee. This is more like a monthly (8 cup) treat that’s great on-the-go.
Give Sudden Coffee a try with code ANDCOFFEE for 10% off your first order.