Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2015

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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new cold-brew domain—nitro, that is. It's all for the love of it. The now-wildly-popular program launched in 2013. "We infuse our original cold brew with nitrogen and pull it on a nitro tap system," says Diane Aylsworth, Stumptown's director of cold brew. "It creates a creamy, cascading stout- like effect." Diane says Stumptown experimented with car- bonating the cold brew with C0 2 , but dismissed the process because it didn't work well. The nitrogen coffee, on the other hand, actually makes it easier in terms of production by hav- ing a finished product the can be kegged and shipped to accounts. "It reduced labor dramatically from [our wholesale customers doing their] own cold-press process in-house," she says. "We provide great-tasting and consistent product for them to offer their consumers." In another Portland—this one in Maine—Bard Coffee began working with nitrogen after the success of the company's iced-beverage program in the summer. "We hoped that nitro would have wide appeal," says Bard's Kari Guddeck. "It's defi- nitely been a conversation starter, and customers have loved trying something different and unique." Kari and her husband, Bill, who is the roaster for Bard, are also home beer brew- ers, a commonality I found with most of the people willing to experiment with nitrogen. Bard Coffee focuses on using coffees that are also served at the brew bar, giving customers a taste of the same coffee prepared in very different ways. That's the thing about cold brew. At its core, the no-heat extraction process brings out a different flavor than hot- brewed coffee can, resulting in a sweeter taste and smooth finish. The real rewards and challenges begin with what you then do with the cold brew. For Bard Coffee, the challenges were the time and space cold brew and nitrogenation require. "With cold brew, you're always playing the time game due to the lengthy steep time," says Kari. "So at the beginning, it took us a couple of weeks to figure out how many kegs to have filled and on hand— same with nitrogen. We also had to rearrange a bit and give up some space to accommodate everything." For Highwire Coffee, the challenge was the unknown of kegging the cold brew with nitrogen. "Nitrogenation, as a process itself, is baffling because it's insoluble, so how do you make an insoluble gas soluble?" Cody of Highwire muses. "We're used to doing pourovers in open environments, but once it goes into a keg, you don't see it anymore, and your commitment to it and testing it takes a lot of product. Just one experiment takes multiple days." For one company though, the trial-and-error period is finally in the rearview. Forget about taking a breather though. While Mike McKim's been doing nitrogenized cold brew longer than anyone, he's still got one big problem to solve, and it's not going away: His company's nitro cold brew, Black and Blue from Cuvée Coffee in Austin, Texas, is just too popular. I met up with Mike and Cuvée's director of education, Lorenzo Perkins, at the company's retail location, and when they offered me a drink of the stuff I'd come to see, they didn't pull it from a keg: They poured it from a can. Before we get in to that, however, let's get a handle on how the process started for Mike and Cuvée: In the summer of 2011, Mike began experimenting with nitrogen in home beer-brewing kits. After hundreds of hours and thousands of gallons of test batches over a solid seven-month period, Mike felt he had a pretty great drink. He was ready to serve it to the public. It was going great. Everyone loved it. And then Mike had his a-ha moment. Sitting at a pub drinking a nitrogenized beer—Left Handed Brewery's Milk Stout Nitro, to be exact—he watched the way the drink cascaded in the glass. Next thing he knew, he was calling brewers to find out what canning nitrogenized coffee could entail. Aptly named for being black coffee in a blue can, Black and Blue is Cuvée's—and the coffee industry's—first nitroge- nized canned coffee, thanks to the help of a nitro widget in each can. The cans hit the streets in November of 2014, and debuted in Austin's Whole Foods in January 2015. "Cans were always the endgame for us," says Mike. "I don't want to bring a Chemex and a hand grinder and kettle when I go camping. So the idea of having a can of good coffee was "This whole thing is just getting started. Cold brew, nitro cold brew—this is just the beginning." —Matt Lounsbury, Stumptown Coffee Roasters 68 barista magazine

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