Part 2 of our interview with Barista Magazine founder, Sarah Allen. We change gears in our discussion with Sarah to discuss and define cold brew. As a magazine owner, Sarah has watched the popularity of cold brew skyrocket over the past decade and we chat about many of the changes she’s seen while at the helm of Barista Magazine.
Highlights & Takeaways
We define “cold brew”…. again
Cold Brew: Coffee that was brewed with the specific intent to be consumed cold
Signature cold brew cocktails are a great way for shops & cafes to increase revenue
Episode 98 Transcript
Brendan: Hey there. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Drips & Draughts podcast. Today is part two of our episode where we’re joined by Sarah Allen, the founder of Barista Magazine. If you didn’t hear part one of the episode, you can go back and check that out, that was episode 96. You can find links and show notes from that episode at dripsanddraughts.com/96. We decided to split the interview up into two episodes because we had a pretty big change of topic. We talked about growth in the industry in general as well as challenges for startups in the first half of the episode. We really switched gears and really focused on cold brew and that’s going to be today’s episode.
Before we get into today’s episode, just a quick mention. If you’ve ever got any questions for the show go hop on our website. There’s a link up there that says ‘questions for the show’, click on that, you can record a question. If we play it on air you’ll win a t-shirt. How great is that? Winning prizes for asking questions? I would have been a much better student if my teachers would have implemented something like that, but yes, we’ve got all of our show notes on the website and links to all the guests and everybody we’ve ever had on the show. If you haven’t checked it out, go to our website dripsanddraughts.com, check that out and hey, maybe you will click the link to pop on over and leave us a review on iTunes as well.
One more thing I should mention; it’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally started working on our cold brew cocktail e-book again. The idea behind the cold brew cocktail e-book is a collaborative e-book that we’re going to put together. We’re asking for submissions from you guys, our listeners, and we’re basically going to compile all those into a book and I think we might actually even print some copies. If you’re interested in getting a cold brew cocktail recipe in our e-book, it doesn’t matter if it’s alcoholic, non-alcoholic, feel free to submit one.
We are accepting those through the Drips & Draughts website, you can go to dripsanddraughts.com/coldbrewcocktails. That will pop up a form for you to fill out and, yes, it’s that easy. If you’ve got a cold brew cocktail recipe that you wouldn’t mind sharing, hop on over to the website dripsanddraughts.com/coldbrewcocktails.
All right. With that, let’s get into today’s interview with Sarah Allen from Barista Magazine.
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Brendan: Well, let’s change gears into cold brew a little bit, that’s the focus of this podcast oftentimes and I know you guys have probably seen a lot more cold brew just in your dealings over the past 10 years. One question that we always get and we don’t have a definitive answer but could you give us your definition of cold brew? We get asked this question all the time and we ask a lot of our guests to try to define it.
Sarah Allen: Oh my gosh. That’s a really good question because you guys know that there are so many different ways to make cold coffee, flash brew, toddy style, so many different ways and I don’t know. I guess I would define that by saying that it’s brewed to be consumed cold because not everyone does it where you soak the grounds. There are so many different brew methods. If you’re going to give an overarching definition, I would say coffee that was brewed for the specific intent to be consumed cold.
Brendan: That’s probably a new one. I don’t think anybody’s ever told or described it in that way.
Sarah: How would you describe it? I would love to hear your definition.
Brendan: You know what? We typically say coffee that’s brewed without heat and typically for an extended period of time. But I know that you can do like flash brews where you introduce hot water and then you immediately chill it and then let it rest. It is definitely hard to define but I like your definition that coffee brewed– yes, intended to be served cold. I think that’s a great definition, actually.
How about cold brew coffee and then nitro coffee or nitro cold brew? You hear a lot about those two things right now and do you think those should be considered kind of different beverages? Should they each be given their own category maybe?
Sarah: That is a very good question. The Coffee Fest Trade Show they have a cold brew competition and I think that they did maybe one installment of it before they changed it completely so that cold brew and nitro were different categories completely. They just did not see a way that you could judge them against each other because they are so different.
Brendan: They are side by side.
Sarah: I would agree that it might be a little cart before the horse to tell customers that at this point that– the simple answer that I would tell my grandmother would be that nitro is the one that’s like Guinness and cold brew. You have to still explain it in simplistic terms for a lot of consumers, which is fine because relatively speaking, cold brew is still brand new on the market, but I would like to see them occupy completely separate categories.
Brendan: Right. We actually went down to that Anaheim Coffee Fest and went through and sampled a bunch. One of our main concerns was we tasted a flat cold brew and then the next one we had was a nitro coffee. It’s just really hard to compare the two because you get a totally different texture and mouthfeel with the nitro coffee.
Sarah: Well, yes, and especially for you understanding the process so intimately of creating one or the other and knowing how different that is. They’re just completely different beverages, in my opinion.
Brendan: Yes, absolutely.
Sarah: One thing I think is really cool is that more and more cafes are integrating taps into their design just from the outset and that is because cold brew and nitro are no longer– I mean they would trend for a very short period of time now that cold brew at least is already very much its own category.
Brendan: I love seeing tap handles in coffee shops now. I think it’s awesome.
Sarah: I do too, it’s cool and I think you’re going to see a lot more cafes in coming years that have more than one cold brew on tap, that have more than one nitro on tap because consumers are realizing that they’re not all the same. If you want to equate it with something they’re familiar with like soda, all sodas taste different.
Brendan: Yes. We’ve had guests on the show one particular started a pop-up car where they had 32 different cold brews, not on tap, but they had different cold brews for people to sample so that they could explain the differences in regions and why one tastes this way and why one tastes another way.
Sarah: That is so cool.
Brendan: Yes. We’ve got another company who’s been on the show a couple times. They have 12 nitro taps. It’s basically a cold brewery. That’s all they do. They’re all nitro taps, all different flavors, all brewed differently. Yes, I think you’re right, I think we’re definitely going to see more and more of that as time goes by.
Sarah: You’re giving me good ideas for a regular column that we have called New adventures in cold brew. When we first realized that it wasn’t a trend that it was something that was here to stay, we started this column and it comes out periodically with different topics but you might have to put me in touch with your multi handle nitro friend.
Brendan: Yes, I will.
Sarah: That’s very, very cool.
Brendan: Absolutely. When did you see maybe cold brew going, you mentioned that it was a trend briefly, when did you see cold brew go from a trend to a permanent category and why do you think you think it made that jump so quickly?
Sarah: Well, some of our longest coffee friends are right in our backyard, Stumptown Coffee. They really did pave the way for the category. Back when they started– I’m going to try and remember the year– maybe 2012 perhaps was when, just sort of on a luck the owner decided to make some cold brew and they were they were making it in tabs and doing the bottling by hand and it was a very hot summer in Portland and New York where they have just opened a very busy retail spot. They just could not keep it in stock.
That was the turning point where they bought the URL, coldbrew.com at around that point. People thought, “Why would you ever want that? Where’s that going to go?” It’s the way that these things come about and one of those things like, “Why haven’t we’d been doing this all time?” Once it takes off, you are like, “Oh, this is crazy popular.”
Sarah: I think Stumptown led the charge with that. They were– one thing I think is interesting is Illy and other retailers rosters had bottled– Starbucks had bottled cold coffee more like thin milkshakes at that time but Stumptown was the first that made cold brew bottled that just tasted like coffee that wasn’t flavored in any way.
Sarah: That was when it really took off. That was, as I understand, a lot of the reason for these big investment firms like JBS getting interested in buying majority shares in some of the boutique coffee restos like Stumptown [unintelligible 00:12:24] because they saw the potential of the bottling operation.
Brendan: Yes, just hitting a much, much broader market beyond the individual cafes?
Brendan: It makes sense. How about speaking kind of in the future, what are some more trends that you think we might see this coming year and then the next couple of years with the cold brew?
Sarah: One that I think I had mentioned to you was colors, which I’m really– I think has so much fun. Mike MacKim of Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas is the one who pioneered colors for coffee which were seeing colors getting more and more popular, for beer-glass colors are more expensive. If you’re going to spend $25 on a glass color then you’re not going to want a– you going to make sure you always have it with you when you get it refilled. The color you’re going to spend a dollar on the can and you can recycle the cans. It’s a pretty cool thing. You can get there some high-end convenience stores here in Portland that will bottle cold brew in colors here.
Brendan: No way.
Sarah: That’s cold as [crosstalk]
Brendan: That’s awesome.
Sarah: I think that that’s a trend. I don’t know how big that will get, but I think it’s a pretty cool thing. You’re also seeing a lot of the RTD cold brews coming out in flavors. We’ve seen once with milk and sugar already, but there are ginger cold brew or saffron cold brew or vanilla cold brew coming out in cans and bottles. It’s pretty much any mid-size roaster these days has their own cold brew because it’s not a difficult thing to brew it and bottle it yourself. Customers like to see that in a grab-and-go case in any cafe.
I was in a small one in Portland the other day called Good Coffee. They are a micro-micro roaster. They have two shops and they have their own cold brew on their shelves now. Just because it’s easy enough to do and their customers like to have that option.
Brendan: That’s great. I’m so jealous, by the way, of all these coffee shops you keep mentioning there in Portland or more or less coffee dead zone, I would say, where we’re situated down here in Southern California we’ve got to drive at least 30-45 minutes before we could find some roasters or anything like that.
Sarah: Oh, my gosh. Well, it’s good that you guys have all the coolest equipment [laughs]-
Brendan: Yes. It helps.
Sarah: -that you can be brewing your own.
Brendan: Absolutely helps. With all these cold brew cans and bottles and colors and growlers that we are seeing on the shelves becoming more mainstream, what are some things that you think that cold brew maybe could be used for that were not seen as fully being used yet in [unintelligible 00:15:50]?
Sarah: There were– one thing I just love seeing– and I’m not trying to rub it in about Portland having all these options but I’m just using it as an example [laughs]– I think it was maybe two summers ago where I noticed that all the quality cafes in Portland had summer signature drink menus. There would be Lavender Iced Latte, White Chocolate Mint Iced mocha or something like that were– Okay, I’ll going to go back a couple of clicks just to say it was maybe five years ago, six or seven that cafes– these high-end cafes started introducing signature drinks to their hot coffee menus, which is a really good way to showcase local flavors to create a drink that belongs all to your shop.
In Oregon, for example, hazelnuts are really big, merry and berries are really big, so making a drink that might be the signature drink of your shop. Of course, it makes sense that they would then start doing that with cold coffees. One reason why this is really cool besides giving customers another option is that, usually, you can batch-brew these in advance, like pre-make pretty much the entire drink when you’re using cold brew, not cold espresso, and put the drinks together really quickly and upcharge for them substantially. It’s a good money maker for a cafe.
Sarah: There has existed for 10 years on competitions internationally called the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championships, which is a coffee cocktails competition essentially. While the US doesn’t participate in it for centuries, it’s been really interesting to see how many competitors from other countries have been using cold brew in their performances where they didn’t use to at all. The applications, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic are endless.
Brendan: We’ve had a quite few people call us. Some of our customers say that they’re now kegging their signature cocktails whether be alcoholic or not. They basically put these cocktails on draughts, so they’re saving all this time of manually mixing each drink and they’re able to just get a couple of vice or straight martini glass and pour it straight out of a tap. Then, just garnish it with whatever they might use to garnish that particular cocktail.
Sarah: That is so cool. I haven’t heard anything about kegging the drinks beforehand. That’s such a great idea because you get the bases of the drink out into the cup and then you do some personal flourish on it that makes the drink feel special or look cool. Customers do not mind paying a high price for those drinks.
Brendan: Yes, very true. You mentioned batch brewing beforehand and I immediately thought of that one. I’ll put it in a keg and have it ready to go.
Sarah: That’s a great idea.
Brendan: Well, I think we’ve talked about the other new trends. You mentioned brewing with natural ingredients. We’ve got a lot of people who seem to do their cold brew with a little chicory root in there, you mentioned the vanilla beans. We’ve even heard of people brewing with coconut water versus just using regular water.
Sarah: There is one other thing I wanted to mention which is not going to be something new to your listeners because they’re experts in beer and coffee but coffee beer and beers that are made with cold brews specifically. That is such a fun thing, I think, for cafe owners to do as a collaboration with the craft brewery down the street like, “Why don’t you taste a bunch of our coffees and we’ll taste a bunch of your beers and will figure out a way that we can collaborate into a limited run of a coffee stout or an IPA with cold brew?” That has been such a cool thing to see, those kinds of collaborations.
Brendan: I agree. Such a great way to cross-pollinate, maybe introduce beer people to a local roastery or coffee shop or vice versa.
Sarah: It’s so smart. It’s a win-win-win because you’re expanding your market, you’re having fun and getting to know your retail neighbors, something that’s great.
Brendan: Yes, it is a win-win. All right, Sarah. A couple of more questions for you. If you weren’t working in Coffee at Barista Magazine right now, what do you think you would be doing? Do you think you’d still be a journalist or would you be off doing something crazy?
Sarah: Well, you know, as an independent business owner, that you are kind of ruined for working for anyone else.
Until you’ve worked for yourself. I think I really don’t know what– This is really something that my husband, Ken, and I, have– It’s been our life for all these years and it affords us opportunities to travel all over the world. Sometimes a little more traveling than we even want to be doing but pretty cool experiences. I don’t think that I would want to not– I think that the coffee part of it is more important to me than the writing part of it, if that makes sense. I would-
Brendan: You’d be doing something in the coffee industry.
Sarah: Yes, and it’s so weird for me to say that because I have only ever had one job; my failed attempt at a bartender. It wasn’t writing. I love this industry so much and I think that it still is in its infancy in a lot of ways. There is a lot of work to be done as far as organizational efforts in origin countries, development of new products. Yes, I would definitely still be doing coffee if Barista Magazine wasn’t in the picture.
Brendan: Not to ruin that answer, but if we take it one step further and say, if there were no coffee at all, what do you think you might be doing? Sleeping mart?
Sarah: Sleeping mart? The dream since I was a kid was to have some sort of– “If I win the lottery, I’m going to have an animal shelter.”
Brendan: That’s nice.
Sarah: Yes, that is my– I’m all about rescuing.
Brendan: Good. I’ve rescued both my most recent dogs. I appreciate that and support that. Cool. I think most people will know how to find you. They can probably just punch ‘Barista Magazine’ into Google. Is there anything else or any other way somebody might want to find you?
Sarah: Yes. We are on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @baristamagazine. Just like with the website, we try and stay in touch with our friends and followers on a daily, if not multi-time-a-day basis. Through those channels, you can read entire issues of Barista Magazine on our website, www.baristamagazine.com or, as I mentioned, you can download our app for free and read it wherever you want in the world. I’m also very available to our readers and to people who are interested in seeing different stuff in coffee. I’m always open to receiving emails from folks who have an idea for us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan: Great. We’ll put links to all these in the show notes, and yes, it’s been fun, Sarah. Thanks for joining us today.
Sarah: It’s been great. Thank you so much for having me. You’ve gotten me thinking about a lot of stuff that we might be seeing in future issues of the magazine.
Brendan: Great. All right. Well, thanks again.
Sarah: Thank you.
Brendan: If you are looking to learn more about cold brew or draught coffee, make sure you check out Keg Outlet’s Ultimate Guide to Cold Brewed Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft. Hey, don’t just take my word for it. Here’s Daniel Browning from the Browning Beverage Company in Moffat, Texas.
Daniel Browning: As I got on the internet and started looking around, I found Keg Outlet’s Ultimate Guide to Cold Brewed Coffee and read it a couple more times. I’ve never read anything in my life, that was pretty much all the research I needed.
Brendan: If you are looking to start your journey with cold brew or draught coffee, check out the Ultimate Guide to Cold Brewed Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft. A free 34-page ebook offered at www.kegoutlet.com. You can get there through the Drips & Draughts website, by going to www.dripsanddraughts.com/ultimateguide.
All right. Thanks to Sarah Allen for taking the time to join us today. Thanks to you for tuning in and listening to another episode of the Drips & Draughts Podcast.
Once again, if you are looking for links or show notes from this episode, you can find those by going to dripsanddraughts.com/98. As you heard in that episode, Sarah mentioned signature cocktails. Signature cold brew cocktails are a great way for cafes and coffee shops to increase their revenues. We are making cold brew cocktails a great way for you to get your name out there.
We are doing the collaborative ebook. If you’ve got a cocktail recipe that you’d like to be a part of it, just hop on over to www.dripsanddraughts.com/coldbrewcocktails and submit your recipe. We might feature it in the ebook. Like everything we do here, we like community involvement. Don’t be shy, hop on over to www.dripsanddraughts.com/coldbrewcocktails and share your favorite cold brew cocktail recipe with the world.
All right guys, that’s going to do it for today. If you like what you hear on the Drips & Draughts podcast, hope on over to iTunes and leave us a quick review. We’d appreciate it. Again, links and show notes for this episode can be found at www.driftsanddraughts.com/98. One final thank you to Sarah Allen for joining me today. I’m Brendan Hanson, I’ll see you again next week.