Should You Offer Cold Brew Coffee?

Sept. 9, 2015

Cold brew continues to be a popular drink among consumers. At retail coffee shops, cold brew has been a way to slow the seasonal decline brought on by warm weather. Peet’s Coffee & Tea, one of the nation’s biggest coffee chains, claims cold brew beat last year’s iced coffee sales by as much as 70 percent. Even equipment supplier BUNN is talking about cold brew sales, citing research that overall cold brew coffee consumption has increased 5 percent over the last two years and is now 20 percent of non-hot coffee orders at coffeehouses.

It has made its entrance into office coffee service (OCS) as well with kegs being delivered to offices across the U.S. In this year’s SOCI, 25 percent of respondents indicated that cold brew was part of their OCS line up of products and services.

While cold brew is a trendy offering, there are some considerations with preparing and handling this type of drink on a large scale. Truebrew Outfitters, an OCS and vending company in the Chicago, IL, area, has been offering cold brew for more than a year and developed an internal process of delivering it to customers. According to the company’s chief operating officer Jim Carbone, the first concern about cold brew is pasteurization. Homemade and locally made cold brew will typically last seven to 10 days. A roaster working with brewers with coffee in pony kegs can generally stretch the shelf life of cold brew upwards to around 30 days. With the addition of pasteurization of the coffee, the expiration date is around 90 days.

Cold temperatures are a must

Another consideration is maintaining a constant, cool temperature during storage and delivery, indicated Carbone. If the cold brew gets warm, it can have a bitter or sour taste. Additionally, if a nitro infused cold brew gets warm, the liquid and nitrogen begin to separate and the nitro brew loses its creamy, smooth texture.

The idea of adding nitro to cold brew is an even more recent trend that produces a chocolatey-creamy smooth beverage. Actually, all kegged cold brew is pressurized with nitrogen, says Carbone. All cold brew whether regular, single origin or nitro is pushed with nitrogen to force the liquid out of the keg. The difference with nitrogen infused coffee, sometimes called nitro brew, is that it is infused with nitrogen prior to being pressurized in the keg. When the nitro brew is poured into the glass you can see the nitrogen and liquid separate causing a beautiful cascade. This is best seen in a wine glass. The nitro brew also requires an aerating tap faucet. This is the faucet that has a long black piece where the liquid is dispensed. The purpose of this faucet is to cause the liquid to pass through at a higher rate to help create the creamy top.

Large batches need professional prep

The last consideration is consistency. There are lots of variables that go into a batch of cold brew coffee. The grind, steep and dilution percentages all affect the taste. According to Carbone, it takes professional and scientific attention to detail and process to ensure a uniform product with a taste the customer can count on.