Better Coffee Through Chemistry?

Columbus Alive | May 5, 2005
Is there a spot on this entire continent that’s more than six to eight minutes away from a hot cup of coffee? I ask because the new self-heating can technology from a company called OnTech seems like a great idea that’s about 20 years too late. This is yesteryear’s beverage of the future. In the present, hot coffee—from Cup O’ Joe or Tim Hortons or Speedway—is always within reach.

The technology has been put to use in the Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Rich Mocha Latte ($9 for four), which is available only at Kroger. The contraption—sheathed in styrene and steel and heavy plastic—contains only 10 ounces of coffee, but it weighs more than a pound. The complicated activation instructions take up half the can, along with a series of dire warnings—do not microwave, do not pour out, in case of accidental skin or eye contact with heating materials flush with water for 15 minutes. You know, the kind of reassuring messages you like to read with your morning coffee.

The heat is produced through the reaction of water and a “natural mineral,” calcium oxide. (Chemistry buffs can find an explanation at Basically, you press a button to release the water inside the can, where it combines with the calcium oxide but not with the coffee; wait six to eight minutes; shake; and fiddle with the unwieldy cap to open the can. It really works—the coffee comes out steaming hot. But it tastes just like “gourmet latte” from a can—a little too sweet, with a stale aftertaste. In other words, those six to eight minutes would be better spent driving to Speedway.

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