Every morning for two weeks, I take a tiny aluminum capsule out of my freezer. Inside is a small puck of frozen coffee, which I put in a glass and pour in a few tablespoons of boiling water from my kettle. As a Bostonian, I’ll drink iced coffee on the tundra, so I add ice cubes, fill the glass with almond milk and water, and throw the capsule in the recycling bin. And that’s the beauty of Cometeer.
The new company sells frozen brewed coffee capsules in K-cup format, which are stored in your freezer and reconstituted with hot water. They can also chill in your fridge or counter (or on the go, as the company points out, the capsules are TSA-compliant) for up to 24 hours and added to cold water (or ice cream). for the affogato) once it melts. The capsules won’t explode or spoil if thawed, but the brand claims the 24-hour window is when “total complexity” is at its peak.
I call Cometeer “new” because their story began in 2015. Still, it didn’t really take off until co-founder and CEO Matthew Roberts sought advice from his fellow coffee-based entrepreneur. in Boston, George Howell, to improve his offerings. The brand now partners with 10 premium specialty roasters – including Howell’s eponymous brand, Durham’s Counter Culture and LA’s Go Get Em Tiger (GGET) – offering light, medium and dark roasts with varying levels of caffeine. Today, the company operates out of a cleaned-up frozen fish facility once owned by Clarence Birdseye in Gloucester, MA, a city that Roberts proudly notes as a former center of frozen food innovation. Cometeer reinvented the blast freeze plant into a 70,000 square foot coffee lab and production headquarters, with the backing of a total fundraising of $100 million across multiple towers. The list of investors is almost comically stacked like a coffee who’s who, including a former Nespresso president, Keurig founder Green Mountain, Blue Bottle top investors and a former Starbucks R&D director. The product became available to consumers in October 2021.
Is it cheap? Not really. The company ships the product in boxes of 32 for $64, or $2 per capsule. (Compared to the $26 bottle of Jot, a coffee concentrate that makes 14 cups and takes up much less space.) But as with most of these convenience-focused coffee brands, it costs cheaper than your average cafe latte. The difference for Cometeer is that it tastes the same, if not better, than most cafe takeaways I’ve had. During lockdown and the heightened days of the pandemic, I missed my coffee rituals but likened it to an attempt to perfect my brews at home. And I’m not alone; Last March, the National Coffee Association reported that a third of Americans had attempted to replicate their coffee experience at home during the pandemic in their 2022 Trends Report.
The concept also comes at the right time. With craft coffee becoming a fast-growing category, worth an estimated $85 billion by 2025, consumers (and investors) are developing more refined palettes for craft roasts and are more concerned with traceable origins. That same NCA report noted that 40% of Americans venture outside of their daily routine to try new brands and specialty roasts, with a quarter of the country testing new homebrew formats. Cometeer says it uses a meticulously refined extraction process to get the maximum taste out of each coffee at 10 times the strength of an average cup before soaking the capsules in a liquid nitrogen bath at minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve the freshness. All that remains is for the consumer to add water and their favorite extras (cream, sugar, etc.) to taste.
At the moment, Cometeer is accessible to a direct-to-consumer market, shipping 32 packs of their coffee capsules on a subscription basis. Because the product itself is quite small – they come packaged in pencil case-sized boxes wrapped in butcher paper – the packaging is minimal, but the added weight of dry ice holding the frozen pods adds to the carbon footprint of the shipment. Roberts said the plan is for the brand to expand into new distribution channels this year, noting that Cometeer will soon be available for retail. “We know not everyone is going to want to test a can of coffee online,” he says. Offices are also a target consumer for the brand, with easy-to-access enterprise offerings on their website and subscription options for remote, in-person and hybrid teams.
Cometeer has an added element to its cool factor. The company has dabbled in rare blends, releasing limited quantity packs containing award-winning beans at a slightly higher price ($3-5 per capsule). Beans from Equator Coffees owner Helen Russell’s Panama coffee farm, Finca Sophia, sold for $1,300.50 a pound at auction. Equator is one of Cometeer’s roasting partners, but Russell sent varietals from the batch to the brand for limited-edition packs priced at $99 for 20 that quickly sold out. Roberts says this was the first in a series of Stellar Series drops that will debut in the future.