Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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H O W D I D W E G E T H E R E ? For most in the world of specialty coffee, the mere mention of "in- stant-coffee" has probably long evoked an eye roll and a prompt dismiss- al of the idea that such a beverage could possibly be worth consuming. Instant-coffee has existed in the United States since the late 1800s or early 1900s—depending on whom you ask—but it helped reach omni- presence, eventually becoming your grandmother's preferred coffee drink, when Nescafé started in 1938 and brought it to a wider audience. The specialty world fi rst saw instant-coffee reinvented with Star- bucks' 2009 release of its "Ready Brew" product, VIA. Though afi cio- nados could debate the quality merits of Starbucks' contribution to in- stant-coffee, it was made from Arabica—rather than the Robusta coffee favored in traditional instant-coffee—and was determined by many to taste head and shoulders better than grandma's instant. VIA became and continues to be a staple of Starbucks' offerings. Who can say whether it was the arrival of VIA or the continued growth of specialty-coffee culture, but a demand began to grow for even better-quality coffee available in instant form. The appeal is somewhat undeniable, after all: Who would say no to the option of having their exquisite-tasting coffee within seconds in an airplane, camping, or other on-the-go situation? "As soon as I had the thought, 'What if instant-cof- fee could be good?' it set a fi re within me to relentlessly follow the pur- suit of creating Voilà," says Kent Sheridan, who founded the specialty instant company Voilà in 2016. H O W , S I T M A D E ? Burgeoning instant-coffee pioneers like Voilà, the aforementioned Swift Cup, and others then went about turning specialty instant from idea to great-tasting reality. While all instant-coffee manufacturers are pro- tective about their exact methodology, development techniques usually involve a preferred brewing method followed by a round of freeze-dry- ing to turn the coffee into its instant form. When Sudden Coffee, a San Francisco–based instant-coffee company, launched in 2015, the company was pulling espresso shots by hand and then freeze-drying them. "It was fun but not sustainable—it cost us $5 to make one serving," says Umeko Motoyoshi, Sudden's VP of coffee product. Umeko says Sudden shifted to a brew method that mimics how coffee is brewed in a café, but with improved water effi ciency, zero coffee waste, and at a larger scale. Once the coffee is brewed, it's lyophilized— or freeze-dried—in small batches. "Lyophilization is a really delicious method for dehydrating coffee because everything happens at subzero temperatures," says Umeko. "In other de- hydration methods, high heat is applied, which dramatically degrades fl avor. But freeze-drying is incredibly sensitive to even the most fragile compounds." Sudden isn't the only specialty-instant purveyor that uses subzero temps to retain the coffee's fl avor via freeze-drying. Nate at Swift Cup says the company's instant is made by brewing coffee to high-extraction concentrates through a proprietary process. "From there, the coffee concentrate is frozen to subzero temperatures and, under a deep vacuum, slowly dehydrated through freeze-drying," he says. Voilà volunteers even less about its process, offering that it partners with incredible roasters and follows an in-house process to brew and freeze-dry coffee to preserve as many desirables as possible. "We want- ed to create a cup that was clean like a fi lter profi le, showcasing the full expression of each coffee used," says Kent. W H O , G A M E ? While these specialty instant companies offer their product directly to consumers via their websites and other channels, they've also been seizing opportunities to partner with coffee-roasting companies to reach additional coffee drinkers. Austin Amento, for one, was into it. The former United States Cup Tasters Champion and owner of Southern California's celebrated Augie's Coffee was eager to take specialty coffee on the road in this new format. "We were intrigued how our coffee and roasting style would translate over to instant," he says. After playing around with making their own version, Augie's turned to specialty instant companies to see if they preferred their interpretation of Augie's Coffee. They did: Augie's Coffee decided to go with Voilà as a partner for their new instant prod- uct. "Each company seemed to have a different technique in brewing, providing different cup profi les as well as mouthfeel," Austin says. "We found that Voilà was the best." Up the coast, San Francisco Bay Area–based Equator Coffees & Teas wasn't planning on entering the instant-coffee market until its team tasted Sudden Coffee's product. "We realized how good an instant-coffee can taste when high-quality coffee is used and the extraction process is as meticulous as when we carefully brew a pourover," says Ted Stachura, Equator's director of coffee. Equator and Sudden recently released a cobranded instant-coffee; the product, available at Equator's stores, 66 barista magazine

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