Coffee Innovation of the Non-RTD Variety, Part 1: “Bulletproof Coffee”

Bulletproof Coffee CupSure, cold-brew coffee has captured headlines as “the next big thing” in ready-to-drink versions of the beverage. Outside of packaged coffee, however, Java enthusiasts have embraced a few new and innovative formulations and preparation methods that have yet to make it into a bottle or can.

One of the buzziest trends in coffee involves mixing the liquid with a well-known, dairy-based product. Hearing it described like that, the combination seems like a relatively common and benign pairing. The familiar ingredient, however, is none other than butter. Yes, butter.

The beverage, which along with coffee and butter calls for the addition of oil, certainly has the makings of a stomach-inducing concoction: the ingredients are blended until they become a light brown, frothy fusion. (We can hear your insides churning.)

The drink first made its mark in Silicon Valley, an area well-known to tech entrepreneur and self-described “professional biohacker” Dave Asprey, who spent years in the region working as a start-up specialist. The genesis of Asprey’s recipe came from a butter-infused tea that he consumed while on a trip to Tibet. He quickly became a devotee of the drink and introduced a version in the U.S., albeit one made with coffee.

Amid the Silicon Valley’s legion of free-spending, trend-setting consumers, Asprey’s concoction, which he dubbed “Bulletproof Coffee,” elicited booming interest for its purported benefits: the blend is said to stimulate weight loss (the drink’s lack of carbohydrates prompts greater fat-burning capabilities) and improved brain function.

Bulletproof Coffee beansAsprey shares introductions on how to prepare a textbook cup of Bulletproof coffee via his website,, which doubles as a profitable porthole for the entrepreneur. Hawking a diverse array of specially roasted coffee beans and descriptively named add-ons such as “Brain Octane Oil” and “Grass-fed Collagen Protein,” Asprey has reportedly built a thriving direct-to-consumer business under the Bulletproof Coffee banner. The products are also sold in a handful of coffee shops across the U.S.

As might be expected when it comes to novel food and beverage trends, celebrities are leading the way for mass market appeal. Jeremy Piven was said to have Bulletproof coffee prepared for him on the “Entourage” movie set, while actress Shailene Woodley took to Twitter to herald the beverage, calling it “one of the greatest of human achievements.” However, it’s Asprey himself that plays perhaps the most powerful role endorsing the drink.

Part showman, part evangelist, Asprey promotes Bulletproof coffee on his popular health podcast and claims that his Bulletproof blog, which also covers current topics on nutrition and dieting trends, attracts more than two million visitors a month. He describes the blog as distilling “the knowledge of more than 120 world-class MDs, biochemists, Olympic nutritionists, meditation experts, and more than $300,000 spent on personal self-experiments.”

While Asprey has yet to debut a ready-to-drink formulation of his coffee, he is planning to open a Bulletproof café in Los Angeles next year. It’s a prudent destination; the city has long been a beacon and incubation breeding ground for emerging beverage trends, including one that is still going strong: pour-over coffee.

Popular among third-wave coffee companies like Stumptown and Blue Bottle, pour-over versions of the drink have seen a rise in at-home preparation, in which near-boiling water is gently decanted over a filter loaded with coffee grounds until fully saturated.

And while the preparation of pour-over coffee would appear to be defined as a manual process, new counter-top appliances would suggest otherwise…

Read part two of our look at non-RTD coffee innovation here.