It’s been two years since we took our first sip of Soylent (meaning it’s been two years since a few thousand people started following me on Twitter because I was talking about farts). The liquid nutritional product has since gone through a number of iterations, including a premixed variety, but it’s essentially remained the same product: a beige liquid with an indeterminate flavor that claims to give your body everything it needs to survive. But today Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart announced that the company is going in a new direction: breakfast.
This morning’s announcement marks the release of Coffiest, Soylent’s first spin-off product. The new offering has the same ingredient makeup, nutrient mix, and 47/33/20 percent fat/carb/protein calorie distribution as the 2.0 premixed version, but it also adds coffee flavor, 150mg of caffeine per serving, and 75mg of the nootropic L-theanine. According to Rhinehart, a bottle of Coffiest provides the drinker with about 400 calories and about 20 percent of the daily recommended values for “all essential vitamins and minerals.” Soylent gave us a copy of the drink’s nutritional information sheet for those who want to take a look.
“A lot of people skip breakfast,” Rhinehart told Ars in a phone interview. “We wanted to provide a convenient and also very tasty option for them to enjoy in the morning.”
In addition, the company will also release a nutrition bar called the Soylent Bar. This provides 250 kilocalories per bar and has a macronutrient distribution of 38/43/19 percent fat/carbohydrates/protein.
Soylent’s taste has been a subject of controversy since its release. Early Soylent varieties had a taste best described as vaguely sweet bread with a tangy aftertaste from artificial sweeteners. Later iterations went for a more bland taste, the better for customers to flavor the drink themselves with vanilla or fruit or stranger things. Adding the right coffee flavor to the mix took quite a bit of work, with Rhinehart exercising tight control over the flavor profile.
“The taste of coffee is extremely complex,” he told us. “The direction I gave was a little bit darker, richer roast… so it’s a little bit darker coffee. A little bit of cocoa powder, a barely perceptible amount, but it rounds out the flavor nicely.”
“It was a huge challenge to develop a coffee flavor that would survive processing,” he continued. “You can’t take any chances with health or safety, so we have to eliminate all sources of contamination from the product, and that includes heat. So we got some great food scientists and flavor scientists to develop a flavor system that combines natural coffee extracts. with an artificial flavor system. And it worked out pretty well.”
Rhinehart also explained that Coffiest’s nootropic add-in is there to take the caffeine load off the drink. “L-theanine is often found in something like green tea,” he said. “[It] seems to smooth out the effect of caffeine. So we have two mild nootropics, all nutrition as 2.0, and a really good rich coffee flavor.”
When asked about the state of Soylent, Coffiest’s current nutritional information, and ingredient distribution, Rhinehart told us he’s pretty happy with how things are going overall right now. He said the latest reformulation is directly in line with the recommendations of the company’s nutrition consultant.
“It’s hard to know what could be perfect,” Rhinehart said. “Based on our expert opinion, this is a very appropriate macronutrient breakdown for most of the population.”
Early fears that Soylent could lead to malnutrition (or sudden death, according to a concerned reader who emailed me to demand that I immediately stop drinking Soylent) has not yet been matched by reality, even though the product has only been available for a few years. Despite a fear of heavy metals that appears to be misleading, evidence of any harm from Soylent consumption appears to be absent. Rhinehart said he hopes long-term studies will eventually dispel any doubts about the product’s health – which he wholeheartedly believes.
Ingredients and vegan powers
Both Coffiest and the Soylent Bar are vegan; Coffiest is essentially Soylent 2.0 with coffee and caffeine, so it uses the same ingredient set as the bottle formula. The bar uses similar ingredients and relies on algae sources for protein.
“The drinks use algal oil as a source of fat, and we do a lot of research into single-cell proteins, and eventually we incorporate that into the products — maybe sooner rather than later,” Rhinehart said when asked about sustainability in sourcing the product’s ingredients . “In the bar we use this great new ingredient, an algal meal, which not only provides protein, but also some fat and fiber…even with the bar we use a single cell ingredient which is great to work with, low cost, very sustainable and highly nutritious.”
And yes, I kind of teased it in the headline, so let’s go ahead and talk about shit gas briefly. Rhinehart assures us that the GI issues that myself and some other early Soylent users had have been completely resolved. According to its founder, neither Coffiest nor the Soylent Bar will cause consumers to erupt with what I once called “horse-killing farts.”
Not sure if this news brings joy or sorrow to many of you, but there you go. Still, the jury’s out until I can actually pour some Coffiest into my belly, and Rhinehart says monsters are on their way. Those of you who think my best work on Ars involves capturing the things my ass does, stand ready. Maybe I’m about to paint my masterpiece.
(OK, that metaphor ended up in a place I didn’t expect.)
The when and how much
Coffiest is on sale today on the Soylent site and should cost $39 for a 12-serving pack (or $37.05 with a recurring subscription). This works out to a cost per meal of about $3 with the subscription rate, which equates to a current cost per meal of about $1.92 for the lowest price Soylent powder. The Soylent Bar will launch later, availability has yet to be announced, and is expected to cost about $2 per bar.
We’ll have more on Coffiest once we have a sample available. I’m not sure it can replace my Baratza mill and French press, but I’m willing to try.
Frame image by Soylent / Rosa Labs