So far, “the future” hasn’t really delivered on its pie-eyed promises. Our hoverboards burst into flames. Our robot maids only do floors. And our Soylent is disappointingly people-free. So, I am understandably skeptical of Go Cubes, a cup of cold brew in chewable form that boasts to be “the future of coffee.” But not everyone shares my skepticism. Having been successfully funded on Indiegogo late last year, these gummy coffee bites are now selling out in just three days on Amazon Launchpad, a platform that showcases innovative start-up products. Not the biggest miracle to occur in three days time, but impressive enough to make me want to try them.
Go Cubes are the brainchild of a San Francisco tech company, Nootrobox, which specializes in supplements called Nootropics. For those of you who aren’t currently coding your life away in some Silicon Valley think tank, “Nootropics” are the name given to a broad class of so-called cognitive-enhancing drugs designed to turn you into three-fourths of a Daft Punk song, boosting brain performance, sharpening focus and increasing productivity so you can work harder, better and faster. By this definition, coffee could be considered a Nootropic; not the way some people drink it, with so much sugar and milk it’s more of a diabetes-ensurer than cognitive-enhancer, but you get the idea.
Go Cubes mark a departure from Nootrobox’s successful pill-pushing business model, an attempt to market Nootropics to a wider audience than the Silicon Valley elite via that other great equalizer – the cup o’ joe. Go Cubes aren’t just coffee-flavored. They’re made with actual cold brew coffee and premium ingredients to “craft a unique taste, texture, and experience.” But unlike your local barista’s brew, which has who-knows–how-much caffeine in each life-giving sip, every gelatinous cube contains exactly 50mg of caffeine. According to the label, a single serving is 100mg or two cubes. Also according to the label, there are three flavors per pack – mocha, pure drip and latte.
Go Cubes come packaged in individually sealed four-packs, meaning you’ll get an extra cube of one of the flavors. Which flavor is a mystery. Ostensibly the different colors – light caramel for latte, dark chocolate for mocha, and somewhere in-between for pure drip – should clue you in to the flavor, but in actuality they all look the same shade of brown. Unless you’re a tetrachromat, prepare yourself for an edible game of Russian Roulette.
Which brings us to how they taste, an extremely divisive topic. When you open a pack of Go Cubes, the first thing you’ll notice is that they smell like coffee! The cubes are the size and shape of a large gourmet marshmallow with the texture and consistency of a Haribo gummy bear. They’re coated in a layer of crystalized sugar, so the outside tastes like a sweet coffee candy, but that quickly gives way to a sour center. As you chew – and trust me, you will chew – the flavor becomes less sour and more bitter. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either. Intense is the best descriptor. I have been eating these for the past week, and honestly don’t know if I love them or hate them. So, I turned to friends for a second and third opinion. Jeff, whose collection of coffee brewing accoutrements would make a Starbucks barista blush, hated it. He spit it in the trash and spent the next 10 minutes meticulously washing his tongue. And Pati, whose job as a professional chef gives her taste buds extra credibility, loved it. She said it tasted like the first sip of super strong Cuban coffee; a “punch in the tongue,” but in a good way.
What we all agreed on was that the pure drip tasted the same as the mocha, which tasted the same as the latte. If all three flavors taste the same, what’s the point of having three flavors? They should just offer pure drip; it would probably save them money on production costs, which could be passed on to the caffeine-craving consumer, making Go Cubes more attractive to people not sold on the idea of chewable coffee. Even though the flavors are not distinguishable, the taste of Go Cubes is certainly distinctive. I found if I ate two in a row, the recommended serving, it left a chemical aftertaste that lingered on the back of my tongue. This could be because, in addition to coffee, sugar and caffeine, Go Cubes are packed with B-complex vitamins and L-theanine – a brain booster and jitter reducer, respectively. These Nootropic staples are great for your brain, but they taste like crap.
Sorta like the first time you tried coffee, Go Cubes are an acquired taste. I did find myself craving them at the end of my week of testing, more for their effect than their flavor; they definitely gave me a more balanced boost than my usual 3 0’clock cappuccino. After 25-35 minutes, all those brain enhancing chemicals kicked in and I felt more alert, more focused, but without that wired feeling I sometimes get from a doubleshot. The fact that Go Cubes are more portable and precise than a thermos full of the black brew is their strongest selling point. But the fact that they lose the flavor and the ritual of coffee is their greatest weakness.
The overall experience of eating Go Cubes falls somewhere between nibbling on a couple NoDoz tablets and drinking a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. I just wish it was a little closer to the latter than the former. Cold brew coffee is supposed to be smoother, as the point of the cold brewing process is to extract the flavor but not the bitter oils and biting acids. In adding caffeine, B-complex vitamins and L-theanine amino acids, Go Cubes have also added back that bitter bite, making them more like chewable espresso. If that sounds tasty, you can order 6 four-packs for $23 or 20 four-packs for $59 from Nootrobox. Signing up for a monthly subscription gets you a 10% discount, but I recommend trying them before you commit. I definitely see the appeal of taking Go Cubes to the gym, on a plane, before a test or during a marathon coding session – places and situations where you want a boost of energy or brain power without the full bladder. As for me, I’m sticking with my vanilla lattes and caffè macchiatos, even if it mean enjoying them at the table nearest the toilet.
This product was provided for review by Nootrobox.
Not the future, but definitely futuristic
Go Cubes are not going to replace coffee. No way. No how. But if you are a fan of both coffee and energy drinks, this is the perfect marriage between the two. All the bitter flavor of a coffee without the warmth. All the chemical zing of an energy drink without the wet.