April 16, 2020

How Café Owners Can Tap Into The Cold Brew Market


If you operate a café, you’ll want to keep up with the specialty coffee trends that apply to your business and find a way to offer them to your customers. Cold brew is one of these trends, and as it’s such a profitable and popular drink, it’s well suited to any café menu. 

Lee este artículo en español Cómo Iniciar tu Tienda de Café en el Mercado Del Cold Brew

With so many methods of cold brew preparation and delivery available, you’ll need to decide which one best suits your business – and will keep your customers happy.

Here are the many ways that your business can get involved in offering specialty cold brew.

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Options For Offering Cold Brew 

There are many ways to offer customers cold brew. However, each option could have distinct advantages and disadvantages for your business, depending on its capacity and resources. Here are the most common ones.

Offering It Freshly Brewed

The simplest way to prepare cold brew for customers is through steeping ground coffee in a container of room temperature water over several days or hours. This option is more affordable as it requires no special equipment. However, it will require a significant time and labour investment. There’s also a safety risk associated with serving drinks that haven’t been heated during preparation, as the lack of heat could make it easier for pathogens and contaminants to survive. In addition, if air reaches the coffee it could oxidise it, negatively impacting its flavour and shortening its shelf life. 

This option is great for businesses just beginning to experiment with offering cold brew, or ones where demand hasn’t been tested yet. Trevor Ogborn is the Creative Manager at Durango Joes Coffee in Durango, Colorado. He says that “We’re considering [using] empty, sanitized milk jugs at smaller locations and installing a kegerator at larger locations.”

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Offering Nitro On Tap

This will involve installing a kegerator or a draft system that operates similarly to the ones used to dispense beer in bars. Here, the cold brew is prepared and stored in large kegs, with gas pressure forcing it through food-safe lines when the tap is opened. As the kegs can be airtight, it keeps the cold brew fresh and flavorful for longer. It also makes serving the drink more efficient and reduces the amount of packaging and storage required.

An added benefit of offering cold brew on tap is that it can also be infused with nitrogen gas, creating a Nitro Brew. This drink is characterised by the creamy head it develops which resembles the one on a pint of beer and is caused by the bubbles that have been infused in the drink under pressure. 

When considering a draft system, it’s worth remembering that it will require an investment in specialised equipment. It will also require ongoing maintenance to ensure the system is regularly sanitised and maintained. In addition, all team members will have to be trained on how to use and clean it.

Offering Ready To Drink (RTD) Options

One way that cafés can start to grow the market for their cold brew or nitro cold brew is by bottling it or canning it as an RTD option, or preparing their cold brew concentrate for customers to use to prepare their own drinks at home. These methods will preserve the drink for longer without compromising on its flavour and can be sold individually or even in bulk to a reseller, such as a local restaurant or gym. Trevor says that “I’ve seen it served in bulk with growlers (diluted or as a concentrate), or as a prepared beverage.”

Alex Maes is the Director of Coffee Operations at Revelator Coffee in Atlanta, Georgia, and did something similar. He says, “The cans are much less expensive to produce than the glass bottles were, and our distributors were asking for the cans, so we figured we’d give it a shot.” However, he mentions that the cost of the gas itself and additional labour must be considered and that depending on how much you’re planning to brew, you might need more space to store the dry and refrigerated kegs.

While this option might be suitable for smaller cafés, those wanting to expand to selling their RTD cold brew at convenience stores or through other distribution channels will need to consider several factors. They might need to partner with a bottling company to manage the manufacturing of their beverage and ensure it can undergo the production and pasteurization required to become shelf-stable. They’ll also need to invest in branding and physically distributing their products – which can be costly.

Offering Concentrates

For a café that has little storage and preparation space and doesn’t want to invest in major equipment set up just yet, using cold brew concentrate is a possible solution. This involves making an extremely concentrated cold brew mix that can be served over ice, allowing the café to customise the drink’s exact strength, or served with milk and other additives without diluting it. Daniel Hobbs is the owner of Aussie Coffee Brasil, an espresso brand and bar in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He says “I do a 100ml concentrate over ice in a 200ml glass cup. No plastic whatsoever. Small batches, nothing over 3 days old. 7:1 ratio.” 

By doing this, he can market the same strength, dosage, and cost for each drink. He adds that “With ice in the cup, I can pour the cold brew to the lip and it always hits 100ml, so I have some sort of control of my serving size without weighing. People who find the cold brew concentrate too strong just let the ice melt and dilute it further.” Cafés looking to offer this could invest in a specialised dispenser. For example, Marco Beverage Systems have created the FRIIA system, which can dispense hot, cold, and sparkling beverages from an undercounter system. 

Credit: Manuel Cartagena

Offering Cocktails & Infusions 

Cafés wanting to offer customers cold brew could consider going one step further and experimenting with hard coffee – or coffee that’s been combined with alcohol. It’s thought that cold brew’s natural sweetness, high caffeine levels, and low acidity make it a natural pair for spirits like vodka, whiskey, and rum. Unlike many common coffee and alcohol combinations that customers might be familiar with (like Irish Coffees and White Russians), cold brew cocktail options won’t necessarily need to involve dairy milk and cream or ice. 

Nikolai Fürst is the owner of Desarrolladores De Café in Medellín, Colombia, as well as a former German Cup Tasting Champion. He uses cold brew in his café to create cocktails that contain less familiar ingredients and says, “We do a couple of coffee-based cocktails like cold brew with tropical fruits and spices, tonic water, soda and stuff.” He adds that these drinks are growing in popularity in his area.

Credit: Sara Árboleda

Tapping into the specialty coffee’s cold brew market means making careful decisions concerning what your café can currently handle. Gemma Kiernan is the Global Marketing Manager at Marco Beverage Systems, which delivers coffee delivery systems to businesses around the globe. She says, “cold brew can be a tricky beverage to produce in that it’s time-consuming and slightly messy. I would advise coffee shops to consider their supply chain and approach to cold brew brewing: do they want to brew on-site? Do any local coffee roasters provide a cold brew concentrate or RTD offering?”

By adding cold brew to their menus, cafés open the door to offering other popular beverages that could experience increased demand in the future. For example, Gemma says that “cold drinks, in general, will continue to evolve and coffee shops will seek to differentiate with different natural flavourings or additions. Iced teas, cascara and kombucha will also continue to grow.”

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Written by Janice Kanniah. Featured photo credit: Perfect Daily Grind

Perfect Daily Grind

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