In episode 15, we talk with Elaine and David Krazer of Pacific Tradewinds Coffee – home of TexaKona Brands. TexaKona is a unique roastery operating in out of Texas that brings in Kona coffee from Hawaii and focuses on only Kona and Kona blends and they also offer a Kona cold brew.
Highlights & Takeaways
What make Kona Coffee? Can any coffee be considered Kona?
790 coffee farms on the big island of Hawaii – only a small percentage of those are Kona coffee producers.
The right blend of coffee can make a huge difference in your final cold brew.
TexaKona does a post-roast blend using a minimum of 10% Kona coffee.
Episode 15 Transcript
Brendan: Alright. Welcome back to the Drips and Draughts Podcast, as always I’m Brendan Hanson. And today I’m joined by Elaine and David Krazer from Pacific Tradewinds Coffee Company, home of TexaKona brand’s coffee. That’s a mouthful Elaine, would you mind giving us a little background on what Pacific Tradewinds Coffee Company is as well as TexaKona brands.
Elaine: [chuckles] I’d be happy to. Thank you Brendan. Yes, we are a wholesaler and producer, which is a little bit different. We have a coffee farm in Kona, Hawaii. And we bring the beans into Texas and we produce Kona and Kona blends, under the name of TexaKona. And so it’s a little kitschy, there’s a little story to every bean, we take some really good origins. And move that in with our Kona to create these great blends and Kona infused products as well. Its interesting little story how we got here. [laughs]
Brendan: No kidding. So you’ve got the coffee farm in Kona?
Elaine: Yes. So our farm in Kona is been around for more than 20 years, about 14 years ago we took over management of it. My partner Colonel David Bateman runs the farm and has been running it for quite some time. And we met him about four or five years ago. And I’m a Project Manager, have been for many years, I travel about 80% of the time. And one of my travels was a group of people putting together some projects that I helped him out. And he liked my work and he said, “Hey, I’m Kona Coffee and I’m on an island and I’ve been doing really well, I’m the most award winning Kona. However, I really would love to find out what you would think about, what I should do to expand.” And so I gave him a large proposal on process improvement and also on some a whole new division that he should grow. And he called me back and said, “Not only do I want to do this but I want you and David to come and do it with me.” And so we did.
We did this about- It was on April 4th of 14 was when we started our company. And we spent the next two years just learning and figuring out what we were going to do and where we are going to be and what our plan was. And then we opened up the roastery in August of last year. So we’re just about a year old at the roastery here in Texas. But the farm, it’s been around for more than 14 years under our management.
Brendan: Wow. That’s really cool. So you guys bring in raw beans from Kona and you roast them there?
Elaine: That’s right. And that’s all we offer is Kona and Kona blends and the products that we make from that.
Brendan: That’s great. And would you mind before we jump into anything else, could you tell us a little bit about Kona coffee itself, what makes going to coffee different?
Elaine: Sure. Kona is interesting because when you first made it, and you first taste it, you’ve likely standing there on the island in your favorite bathing suit, with your favorite people, looking at this great view. And it’s all of those flavors and senses in a bag. So it feels like you’re on vacation but it tastes like home. So the greatest thing about Kona is that it has two properties to it that people look for. One, it’s very balanced and aromatic and it has no bitterness to it. And the greatest thing that we found with it is, when we make a good blend and we do it right, then the Kona not only brings out the flavors of the origin that we’re putting into it. But it also smoothes it out. So low acidity is always our end result, no matter how we get there. So a nice aromatic and low acidity with whatever flavors or the notes of the origin in there are all enhanced. So it’s like magic potion.
Brendan: Yes. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times and I’ve enjoyed plenty of cups of Kona coffee. We actually had a local shop here called Java Kai, I think they might have been based out of Kauai. But there was one here, and I remember he used to sell Kona coffee and I always had a hard time ponying up the $6 per glass for it. But I would do it on occasion, as compared to the dollar 50 cup of just regular black coffee, it was definitely a treat. And like you said, it does remind you of the islands when you taste it, there’s something different about it.
Elaine: Yes. And that’s one of the things that we really loved about it, is that yes, it is the champagne of coffee if you will. And there are champagne drinkers out there that won’t do anything less. We have are rabid fans that who are on our monthly subscription that want nothing but the pure Kona and that’s great. But I also think that there’s a lot of value in these other blends that we’re doing and the products that we’re doing from the Kona. Because even with champagne, you do love it and you love it for certain times of the year certainly. But then most every morning, you’re looking for your good Cabernet.[laughs] So I would say that we are that option that allows you to have all of the good things that Kona brings you. The caramel, the sweet, the aroma and the low acidity but you can have that on a daily basis without the six bucks a cup as you said.
Brendan: Sure. Yes. And if it enhances other coffees and beans and origins, then why not?
Elaine: Yes. And I think that’s why the reputation has gone down over the last few years because there was a lot of people that got into the coffee business and fancied themselves as artisans and they probably are. But they either don’t know how to roast Kona or they don’t know how to treat it. And there’s a lot of Kona blends out there that aren’t certified and ours are certified. And there’s a lot of them that don’t meet the rules of how to do Kona right. And so I really hope that- yes, you’re going to pay a dollar more for coffee but it’s because it’s got that great Kona in it. So you take a good Kenyan that has the plum fruit and it’s going to have some dark chocolate notes. And you put Kona into it, it takes out all the bitter, all the acid and it goes straight to the dark chocolate and then ends on a nice plum fruit. You’ve got it right, if you do that.
Brendan: Sounds amazing. Sounds amazing. So Kona, the price- I’m gathering, I haven’t really done a whole lot of research but we had somebody from Jamaica, I don’t know if you’ve listened to all our podcast but in one of our first episodes, we had Blake from Death Can Coffee in Jamaica. We talked about Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, which is very briefly in terms of, its price compared to everything else on the market. And we mentioned Kona coffee as well. What is it that makes Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee so pricey relative to other coffees that are out there?
Elaine: Well, the limitations about being able to call yourself either Jamaican or calling yourself Hawaiian are obviously that it’s on an island, for one thing, you don’t have [crosstalk] [laughs]
Brendan: Yes, there’s only so much real estate, right?
Elaine: Yes, that’s right. So that makes it a premium immediately. And then when you look at Jamaica- Jamaican Blue lovers and Kona lovers are after the same thing. They want that low acidity that balance, they want a little slight sweetness, but also other flavors. And Jamaican does do that, Jamaicans going to have more vanilla and it’s certainly on the same level as a good Kona. And the Kona is going to go more caramels and honey. So there are some differences in just the flavor itself. Both have their place certainly.
Then you look at, there’s about 790 farms on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is where Kona is. So it’s one side of one volcano on one island in the Pacific. And when you look at that, the rarity is big for Kona. There’s 40 farms on other islands. So when you think about 790 farms being on Hawaii and then 40 on other islands, that’s really huge. And the average farm over there is a six acre farm. So for us to have 38 acres on one farm and then we have a second farm, we are one of the larger ones. But even as big as you are, we still produce about 1400 pounds per acre and then you get 25% of that being waste.
We can compare that over to what I’m know of Jamaica and I’m certainly let me say not the expert on Jamaican Blue, but each tree in both locations does produce two pounds. However, in Jamaica you have 500 trees per acre and so you’re getting a thousand pounds per acre out of Jamaican. And you’re getting 1400 pounds per acre on a good farm in Hawaii. But in Jamaica, there’s also 30% waste. So they get more ways, they have fewer trees per acre, [phone rings] they have fewer acres overall.
Fewer acres overall, fewer pounds per acre, same amount of pounds per acre. It’s just you’re on an island and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Now I will also say the other significant difference is the farming practices of course.
Brendan: Yes. I would imagine, there’s different rules and regulations, obviously being in the USA versus any other country. I’m sure there’s a- [crosstalk]
Elaine: Yes. And I’m very glad you said that. Because we have to remember and people just don’t think of it this way, Hawaiian, either Maui or Kauai coffee or Kona Coffee, it’s the only American ground coffee. If it’s from Hawaii, it’s the only American ground coffee, which means it’s the only one that is under all these worldwide rules, such as, it has a different set of sustainability rules, it has a different set of fair trade rules, it has a different set of export and import. Completely different than any other coffee. And Jamaican joins the rest of the world with all of those same points.
So anything out of Hawaii is just unique in the way that we’re growing and exporting and using it. And our partner was Vetrepreneur of the Year because he’s a veteran and he was also Exporter of the Year in the last two years. So he’s found a way to take it to take Kona to the masses that’s really nice. People ask me all the time, “Where’s your Fairtrade symbol?” Well, I love that people are being conscientious buyers. But what they need to know is they need to educate themselves about Fairtrade. I’m not allowed to be a Fairtrade coffee because I’m an American coffee. I pay minimum wage just like you or McDonald’s or anybody else. [laughs] So I am as fair as they get.
Sustainability, we have to deal with FDA, with the agriculture rules and regulations. So we have to be a traditional farmer on the island of Hawaii, the biggest export of them and the biggest economic boost that they have is tourism. And one of the things that really makes it a special place to go is the bugs. No bugs and no anything else. Because they grow other things there like sugarcane and pineapple. The rules have evolved to the point that you are required to use some type of fertilization because they claim that that is sustainability for them and it is.
When you’re on an island sustainability is a different idea than it is in a third world country or smaller countries or anything like that. We can’t play along the same rules because we’re American.
Brenden: Sure. Yes, well, we’ve got to adhere to all the guidelines set forth by the government, right?
Elaine: That’s right. We have to do that and we do. Now I will say, we are very conscientious, we don’t use fertilizer when we don’t have to, we use aloe vera in most of the locations that we can. But if the rust or anything else starts to take off, we can’t kill the other farmers and what they’re doing. We have to nip it at the bud [chuckles] literally and see if we can produce what we can. That’s exactly right. We’ve got to nip it, we’ve got to take care it, as soon as we smell it. [laughs]
Brenden: Oh Geez. So wow, that’s very interesting. I’m new to the whole background of coffee. I’ve obviously had it in my cup plenty, but it’s very interesting learning about the production and where it comes from and everything else. So you mentioned that on Kona or on the Big Island, there are 790 coffee farms, is that correct?
Elaine: You did cut out. So how many?
Brenden: 790, was that correct?
Elaine: Yes, that’s right. And that sounds like a lot of farms but you think about the average size being six acres, it’s an island. [laughs]
Brenden: Now of those 790, those are all Kona farms or only a small percentage of those are Kona?
Elaine: No, that’s a great question. To be called Kona, you have to be from a certain district and so if you think about here on the mainland, we have counties, it’s very similar to a county over there. So it has to be that area, a certain elevation and higher. And it has to be certified by the state to be called Kona. So we are certified by the state, we always have been and you will look on the back of any package. And if it just says Kona blends but there’s no certification or if it says Kona blends but their address is not Kona or it’s not Kahlua Kona, then- and I’m sure I misspelled that. I’m sure I say that wrong all the time. But if it’s not from that specific district of the Big Island, then it is not allowed to be sold as Kona. And it’s not allowed to be sold as a Kona Blend, unless It contains at least 10% and that’s a weight volume of Kona along with any other origin.
Brenden: Got you. That’s really cool. So being labeled Kona Coffee, it’s prestigious in a way.
Elaine: Absolutely. Years ago, same thing happened in wine. They said, “You can’t call it Burgundy, unless it’s from Burgundy, France.” And so a lot of those burgundies were renamed Pinot Noir, they were called Pinot Noir after that date.
Brenden: Got you. Wow, that’s incredible, that’s cool little bit of history about going Kona and Kona Coffee. So moving on from the beans, the production, let’s get into cold brewing, cold brew coffee and how you guys are using your Kona Coffee your Kona Blends to produce cold brew.
Elaine: Yes, cold brew is fun, isn’t it? My husband roaster David is here and he loves this techno speak about cold brew. [chuckles] So let’s talk about cold brew a bit.
Brenden: All right. So I guess what got you guys into cold brew, when you have something like Kona Coffee, there’s obviously the coffee aficionados who are going to say, “Oh, no this has to be made and served hot, what drew you guys into cold brew, especially with Kona Coffee?
Elaine: Well, let me just tell you, I was a member of that club. When someone said to me, “Hey, let’s do cold coffee.” I’d say, “Wait a minute, when my coffee gets cold, that’s when I either end that cup and start a new hot one or [chuckles] no thanks.” And so I was never a fan of a cold served coffee and I’m going to make that difference because there is an education that happened- let me answer your question first, you asked me, how we got into it. Well, TexaKona Brands and Pacific Tradewinds Coffee Company is entering a part of the fourth wave of coffee that we have those guys that are on every corner and we have their competitors and then we have the local guy that does it well and we all have our place. So how does someone enter the industry now, how do we do that? Well, you’ve got to be different somehow, you’ve got to have a laser focus on why you’re doing it and who your audience is and what you’re offering. So we entered in with the whole idea of, we’re going to be ahead of the curve and we’re going to be different. So we focused on Kona and Kona Blends, that’s all we do and we started making products out of it that we didn’t see elsewhere. And one of the products that we were beginning to hear the words cold brewed, so we started and I think there’s a difference between cold brew and cold brewed.
We started really seeking that was going to be one of the things we’re going to offer. Secondarily, we’re in Texas. It’s hot. [laughs] It’s hot. So we would either make ourselves too seasonal or we really needed to offer something in the more of a cold served. So on our cold served, what we did with the cold brew, is we actually knew people that were some of those national brands that you do know and we ask them, “How do you do it? Are you thinking about getting into it?” And they were. And so we knew, it was probably a good idea, so we used their shirt tails only to discover that there was a market, if they felt there was a market, we thought there was a market.
Now let me also say, I grew up overseas and I know that things happen over there in coffee before they happen here. So watching trends overseas really told us that there’s not only a market here, but it is elsewhere. And so the first thing we did is, we took some of the recipes that were shared with us and the processes and we tried to do our coffee that way. Of course we started with Kona, we thought, “Hey, let’s make the champagne of cold brew.” And it was terrible. [laughs] It just wasn’t good, because that process just doesn’t lend itself to that bean and so we started working with our blends. And what’s interesting is, some blends really lend themselves to the cold brewed process and others really do not. And we got one bean in that had a very high- they said, it said herbal notes but when we made cold brew out of it, you could have poured it out of a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can. It was exactly like tomato soup. And I thought no one’s going to want to drink cold tomato soup, unless, it’s in a Bloody Mary. [laughs]
That was very interesting.
And then we took that recipe and we thought that some of the things they were going for, a lot of cold brews really wanted to concentrate or they really are headed towards a dark and deep and more stout like drink. And we really are all about low acidity and aroma. So we thought to be true to our bean, we’re going to back off and not do a concentrate, we’re going to find out what kind of process is going to really work with our Kona. And keep that slightly sweet, little bit of caramel, little bit of honey. Plus we wanted to take the plum fruit out of the Kenyan and the chocolate notes as well and just give this real refreshing but light and balanced. The first couple of people that were really deep, bold and dark drinkers, looked at the color of our cold brew and said, “Wow, it’s too light, it’s too tea like.” But when they taste it, they say, “You know what, there’s nothing missing.”
Brendan: You’re on to something?
Elaine: Yes. So we knew we were on to something, you can’t judge us by our color. All those others or many of the others, let me say are made from that concentrate and so their color is going to be a little different. And yet, everything we do is true to our bean. I’m going to let David talk in here, because I want him to talk to you about our roasting process. Lot of people just roast the way they want to roast and they try to go towards those bold. And let’s talk about bold. Bolt beans it has all the flavors, but it also has a bite. And to get to that bite, you almost have to go just a little past Full City on your roast. And it does give you consistency, but it also kills nuances that are in your bean. And then when people blend, they sometimes throw their green together and then roast it all together. Well, every good cook knows who put small potatoes in a pot with big potatoes, those small ones are going to turn to mush before the big ones are even done. So we roast each bean, the way it needs to be. And our Kona is usually on the Full City side, because then it’s going to start- it still has the caramels, it still appropriately roasted. Let me David talk to you about our different beans and how we roast them and why we go there.
Brendan: Sounds good.
David: Hello Brenden.
Brendan: Hey David, how are you?
David: I’m doing fine.
Brendan: Good, good. So you’re the man behind the roasting machine?
David: [laughs] Yes. I really am. And it’s been a labor of love since I’ve gotten into this. And I’ve really had an interesting time getting to- you get to know each particular bean. There’s the type of roast that we do, getting the nuances out of the bean as much as we possibly can, getting those good flavored notes out of there and not going too far with it, to get that bitterness in that bite that we don’t like on the back of our palate.
I’m still working on each individual roast, making sure that it’s the way that it is, to bring out the best possible flavors, in the best possible notes out of each particular origin that we use.
One of the things, that’s really interesting about the cold brew, if we go back to the cold brew, is the fact that by- if you roast it the way that we’ve been roasting it, it lends itself very well to the cold brew, along with also doing your pour overs and things like this, which is a very interesting. Some of- by roasting toward, you want to roast to an espresso, if you’re going to be using it for an espresso. But I found that some of the roast that we’re doing now, lends itself very well for an espresso, you have a very smooth, sweet, espresso drink. Whereas, if you go too dark with it, then you start getting that bitterness and light.
Brendan: Okay. So Elaine alluded to the fact that you guys are roasting each different bean individually and then blending after everything’s been roasted [crosstalk] individual process.
Brendan: So I’ve got to imagine that’s- [crosstalk] you guys probably. I’m sorry, go ahead.
David: Well, we do a post blend roast, our post roast blend, I’m sorry. Because the Kona is such a large bean and like she had mentioned earlier, is the fact that we have a 19 screen bean, which is a huge bean, it’s almost the size of a peanut. Whereas some of these others are considerably smaller. So we roast each individual origin first and then we blend it with the Kona to be able to do this correctly. And that’s where a lot of times that I’ve- I’ve tried doing that. I’ve tried roasting doing the blend first on a sample roast and it just doesn’t work out very well. You under roast the Kona which gives you some very citrusy notes that you don’t care for and you may over roast the other origin which brings out the bitterness. On one end, you’ve got a real strong citrusy, acidity and then on the other end, you’ve got a very strong bitterness and the mouth feel is just horrible on those kinds of things.
Brendan: So that’s awesome that you can control that individually with the bean and then obviously going beyond that you can obviously play with the percentages of Kona versus the other bean or beans that you’re combining together after they’ve been roasted, correct?
David: Exactly. The interesting thing about the Kona is, we’ve worked on our formulation and things like this, some of we found that if you add too much Kona to a bean, to a particular origin, it will flatten it completely out. It will make a very dull cup of coffee. If you add to little to it, then of course you’re not bringing out those good notes that you have in the other. So all of our blends have at least the 10% which is recommended by the Department of Agriculture in the Island of Hawaii. Some of them actually have more because we found that we had to add more to it, in order to just bring out those good notes in that particular origin.
Brendan: That’s got to be quite a fun process doing the test batches and combining all the beans and obviously tasting, [chuckles] that’s got to be fun.
David: Well, I put it this way, whenever I’m doing that I’m usually wired for sound, when [laughter] I’ve been doing a lot of sample tasting and doing a lot of cupping. And we cup up every batch that we roast, that’s what you need to be doing. Because sometimes you may actually- because of how long the bean has been sitting, we have a climate controlled room, we have a evolved per se that we have our bean in, we try to keep that green bean in, as much of a climate controlled environment as we can. We try to keep the humidity level correct, about 65%, we try to keep the temperature level between 65 and 70 degrees, so that the humidity- the amount of moisture that is in that bean stays consistent, so that your roast will stay consistent.
So whenever you’re roasting, you don’t want to have your roast all over the map because of the amount of humidity or the amount of moisture that’s in the bean.
Brendan: Right. I imagine a bean could change a lot if the temperature or the humidity, especially is fluctuating because obviously it’s becoming more hydrated and then less is the room might dry out. So, I could imagine that way- [crosstalk]
David: Yes, that’s true too. Even the humidity of the room- as you’re roasting or the humidity of the day, as you’re roasting can change some of the- how far you push the roast, how warm you get the bean before you pull them. And those are all worked end of the situation as you doing your roast.
I’m learning more about this every day and I guarantee you that if you have a roaster that you talk to, this been doing this for years, they’ll say the same thing, it’s a daily learning process. And this is one of the things that I love about the process, is that it is a – I’m kind of a chemistry geek, kind of a nerd- the frustrated chemistry teacher. So this is just a big chemistry experiment for me. And it’s a lot of fun. I have a sample roaster that I use to whenever we get a new bean in, this first thing I’ll do, is I’ll go in there and I’ll roast on that and I’ll cup that and see where we’re at as far as everything else. Because the bean- I mean even the same origins from the same regions, depending on when you harvest that that bean will change, our Kona will change from the first of the harvest, to the end of the harvest. Those are the other factors that go into roasting also.
Brendan: Sure. It’s got to be likened to, I guess grapes in wine, correct? [crosstalk]
David: Oh, yes. By far.
Brendan: I don’t particularly know a bunch about the production of coffee or roasting but obviously I’m learning more every day, because interviewing people like you. But yes, it’s amazing just to think of all those small minutia that can go into- not only every roast but just every final cup, there’s a lot that went into it, all along the way.
David: Oh exactly. And it’s truly amazing how that something just- this crazy seed that we take out of our fruit and we basically throw the fruit away and we use the seed, how that – that somebody- many, many years ago came- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Figured this out.
David: Figured this out and figured out how to make this luscious drink out of it. And for centuries we’ve been drinking it, albeit different ways of brewing it. But we’ve made this wonderful, wonderful beverage out of this stuff and it’s a worldwide phenomenon.
Brendan: Yes, it absolutely is. I think one of our previous guest said, it’s the second most consumed beverage in the world, besides water or maybe third after water and beer. But whatever it is, it’s- [crosstalk]
David: Well, not only that but it’s the second largest commodity traded, it’s only second only to oil. That mean something.
Brendan: That’s incredible.
Elaine: It just been fluctuations, that’s what it is, its fluctuations.
David: Yes, but it truly is- it really is amazing how that you think coffee is coffee, well no, it’s not, because just the area where the coffee is grown, how you treat the trees, even in the same area, even in the area of Kona, there’s good Kona, there’s good Kona beans and there’s also not so good Kona beans in the same area.
Brendan: Yes. I compare my neighbor’s garden to mine.
He does a much better job.
David: Yes. Exactly, that’s exactly how it is. But getting back to the cold brew, the thing that we’ve really- we enjoyed about this and Elaine alluded to this too, is the fact that she said that she wasn’t really into cold coffee or anything like this. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, when they first start talking about this, I said, “You’re out of your mind.” But as we started doing the cold brew and getting our processes down and in figuring out what to recipes going to be, I’ll tell you that it is amazing what this will do and then you can also use the cold brew as an ingredient for cooking, whether it’s for making – just for instance for making shakes or for making a candy or we’ve had people use it in- making cakes, poured- rather using water in cakes, you use the cold brew in the cake and it adds- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Oh my Gosh.
David: -it adds an interesting flavor to the cakes.
Brendan: I bet. Yes, it’s very versatile, I can attest to that if you’ve listened to the podcast before. We’re home brewers and we use cold brew concentrate to add to beer after its fermented.
David: Yes, well that is one of the things- [crosstalk]
Brendan: It’s definitely an interesting product.
David: Yes, that is one of the things we’re working with the local brewery here to- he’s wanting us to help him develop a- either a cold brew or a coffee stout with him. And somebody is going to have to taste that stuff and I have volunteered to do that.
David: It’s a tough job but somebody has got to do it.
Elaine: And our cold brew in fact is featured at Growler USA locations nationwide. So they have a Growler USA features local brews on each location at least has a 100 taps but the hundredth tap at all locations are going to be our cold brew. And so we’re very excited to hear that same audience you want to go out with your guys, but either you’re the designated driver or beer is just not your thing, you can still enjoy that evening, even enjoy the foamy head of a nitro experience and even go home with a liter of cold brew.
Brendan: That’s awesome. We actually- Carrie and I, hosted the 13th episode, we talked about serving cold brew at [unintelligible 00:34:25] it’s not something we see a lot yet but I imagine that as we get to the end of this year and into 2017, and seventeen that’s going to be something that we see a lot more of- [crosstalk]
David: Oh, yes.
Elaine: I agree.
David: By adding the nitrogen into it and serving it with the stout nozzle and getting the froth and the foam in there, it adds a sweetness to it that is just truly surprising that a lot of people just don’t- they don’t truly understand until they actually tasted and they kind of turn their nose up at cold coffee and then you give them a nitro and they just look at you, “I’ve never even thought that this was even coffee.”
Brendan: Yes, and black coffee.
Elaine: Exactly. Let’s educate them on that. So let’s talk through the differences that we’re talking about here. If you brew your coffee in a coffee maker using hot water and it arrives hot and then you pour it over ice, that’s iced coffee. If you take your same beans and grind it specifically for this use, you take your good ground coffee and you put it in with cold water or room temperature water and you leave it overnight at a minimum of 12 hours and it can be much longer than that. And you come back to it and you take the grains out or you filter those grains out, when it has the flavor you want. Now it’s cold brewed coffee. And you can drink it cold, which is cold brew or you can heat it up and have cold brewed coffee served hot. Then you take your cold brew and you put it through a nitrogen infused tap, so a stout tap with nitrogen gas behind it. Not beer gas because beer gas has CO2 and we all know that anything with an O is going to ruin your coffee. So you don’t want oxygen against your coffee. So you take that and you take that same cold brew, you put it through that tap, now it’s nitro. So there’s your differences.
Brendan: Exactly. Yes, the nitro coffee is the buzz right now, all the buzz right now. That nitrogen infusion and how people talking about the coffee.
Elaine: And it’s funny because we’ve- [chuckles] we’ve threatened to put two cameras in our roastery. So when people come up to the bar and they try our Award Winning Coffee Infused Macadamia Nut Brittle Candy, their eyes roll back in their head, they make an unbelievable face that they’re not aware they’re making. They usually moan, a low moan and the faces are just- they’re hilarious, we would love to put it just like a Snapchat filter there and just constantly catch video of these guys tasting our candy for the first time. [crosstalk]
Brendan: Yes, you should that. It’s like a Splash Mountain in Disneyland.
Elaine: Exactly. It is some kind of amusement ride. And you do the same thing with people who have just tried your cold brew and they’ve just tried your hot coffee and then you take them over to the nitro tap and pull a nice big foamy head and give it to them and their face again has a whole another response that’s very different than just the cold brew. And incidentally our nitro is the same as our Kenya Kona Blend that we use in our cold brew. And it’s a completely different experience.
Brendan: Oh yes, I can attest to that. I’ve got a kegerator at home and I’ve got a stout faucet that I serve nitro coffee on and I have a regular faucet right next to it that I serve- usually the same coffee just flat and even pouring those side by side and taste them the nitrogen infused coffee, just gets so much more rich, it gets a lot more body obviously because of the nitrogen bubbles in there. But it entirely changes the coffee, it’s amazing. [crosstalk]
David: It does. It really does.
Elaine: Yes. And we even find a difference, as I said before, we don’t do a concentrate. But I can tell, when I drink one that is a concentrate versus a pure cold brewed, it’s very interesting, I can tell the difference. Adding pure water after it’s already been through that process is very different. And I think there’s differences between those who choose to brew theirs at cold temperatures or even in a fridge, very different then room temperature. I think there’s a difference between starting with room temp water and starting with- [crosstalk]
Brendan: Cold water.
Elaine: Or a cold water, exactly. And I would say that water, face it, 2% of every cup is going to be your coffee, the rest of it is the water. And I think we’re finally catching on, I think part of the fourth wave, is that we’re discovering that it’s up till now, it’s not the brewer necessarily, although that helps. It’s not the coffee necessarily, although that’s a huge part of it. The best thing you can do for your cup of coffee is to grind it right and use the right water. So cold brew very much about the grind and the water.
Brendan: Yes, absolutely and that parallels brewing beer, that water in general is something that brewers take a lot of time and pride is adjusting their water to make sure it’s got the work right chemistry. A book that I will mention real quick, it’s just called Water it’s from the American Home Brewers Association, might be of interest to coffee brewers as well. So I figure I throw that out there, put it like in the show notes. [crosstalk] But yes, if your water doesn’t taste good, why would you mix it- why would you brew beer with it or why would you brew coffee with it?
Elaine: [laughs] And it’s funny because I believe that by adjusting your grind, you can make even a bad cup of coffee or a bad bean taste pretty decent, you can get a good hot cup of coffee by adjusting the amount of grind and the way it’s ground. So that’s always been my belief. And I suspected that there’s lots of things about water that could really alter it. And I’m proven true, every time we have to make coffee in a different location, so we recently were at a Coffee Fest and we had preordered sparklets to come around. This is nothing against sparklets but when we made the coffee, the exact same way, we were making it back at the roastery, but the only difference was sparklets, we had to adjust our grind, we had to adjust our amounts, we had to completely start over on how do you make a good cup of coffee.
Brendan: Yes, different water chemistry, it’s extracting- obviously different reaction with the coffee grounds.
Elaine: That’s exactly right.
Brendan: Yes, it’s amazing, all of the little things that can go into the final product.
Elaine: That’s right. And that’s one of the reasons when we were first negotiating with Growler USA to carry our cold brew, we had long discussions about, well, do we just ship them the grind and tell them how to do it and we were really adamant. And I’m really glad, we were because we’re able to offer it consistently. We make it here, using the same water every time and the same processes every time. And we’ve trained them and taught them, exactly how to treat the keg once it arrives on their end. And we’re really able to do that. More consistently and offer that quality every time. Because we adjust on our end, because we’re the ones educated about coffee.
The other thing is that it’s really hard for a brewery to maintain anything that it could be 12 to 20 hours. Well that means you’ve got to taste it every 20 minutes, between the hours 12 and 20. So if you lay it down at 10:00 at night, you’ve got to be back there at 10:00 the next morning to start tasting and it may not be right, may not be right. So now you have a staffing issue, you have a training issue, you have to have someone with a pallet. It was very difficult to do that. So there’s a lot of companies out there that are even offering their grind and saying it’s good for cold brew. Well, I would say that cold brew, it’s the process do- the process and the water.
Brendan: Absolutely. Process with anything you do, it’s got to be dialed in.
Elaine: And Brendan let me give you a little plug here. We have always used your Keg Outlet Brewers. [laughs]
Elaine: So, talk about process, we got that down.
Brendan: Well, that’s good to hear. We’re getting deep into this podcast but I have a couple more questions for you guys that maybe we could touch on. The cold brewing process, are you guys comfortable talking about ratios, steeping times that’s something that I ask most of the roasters that we have on here, if not, we don’t have to get into it?
Elaine: Yes, without giving away the recipe, I’ll tell you the experiences we had. I will tell you that nine out of ten of the people that we asked, we do our process nothing like. We took pieces of the tenth person we talked to and the pieces we took from them were, the start tasting it 12 hours and then see how long it goes and it may change each time. That’s really all we got from anybody else. And so this is a process that we’ve been through hundreds and hundreds of these kegs, trying to figure out or even liters that we have, trying to figure out the right way to use our bean. I think that you have to do it for what your bean is and what your audience is going to want. So when they hear Kona, they have an expectation. So I’m just going to say that.
And then I would say the other thing is, we weren’t able to use anybody else’s ratio. Now what’s interesting about that is that cold brewed coffee has more caffeine than most coffees, than a hot brewed process because heat is what takes caffeine out of a bean. So interesting fact, if you’re buying French roast, you’re buying espresso roast, you’re buying past second crack, you’re buying anything that’s dark roasted, it’s the least caffeine you can have. The most caffeine is going to be in your breakfast blend in your blonde because heat is what takes the caffeine out or roasting process.
So when you look at the caffeine content in a cold brew, it’s higher. And we weren’t going for that caffeine punch so much, we wanted it to be refreshing. And the ratios that we found that worked for us were- we do use cold water in our process, we don’t use room temp. And then we also found that our ratios were considerably less than other people because the way we roast, the flavors are enhanced. So it just didn’t take as much grind. We’re also not going after a concentrate.
Brendan: Right. So you guys are brewing a ready to drink coffee solution?
Elaine: We are. Ours is ready to drink, that’s right. And we ship it in five gallon kegs or liter bottles.
Brendan: Awesome. Yes. And you mentioned- [crosstalk]
Elaine: And then we have a French top, you know the French top liter bottles like you would get coffee at a French restaurant or a carbonated water.
Brendan: You have a flip top-
Elaine: That’s what ours come in.
David: Yes, the first one flip top like a Grolsch.
Brendan: Nice. Yes, those are cool bottles, I actually filled a couple of those up with some of the cold brew, my brother and I made to take down to Grampa yesterday.
Elaine: Take it to Grampa.
Brendan: Yes. I think he was expecting a beer when he saw the bottles but-
David: Disappointed him. “Dang kids, you call this beer?”
Brendan: Yes. You do the ready to drink, have you guys compared- have you done a concentrate with your beans and then compared diluting a concentrate versus the ready to drink and taste it side by side?
Elaine: We haven’t yet. We keep being asked that and we’re trying to figure out why you’d ever want that. I guess if you’re going to want to put it into a string of retails that are going to then add their own water. But here’s the thing, I think you’re giving away the quality at that point. Kona is known for its quality and I think that once we give a concentrate to someone, now we’re back to the water decision. What if they use the wrong water? What if they use the wrong ratio? You put it in their hands, our consistency goes down. And I think we owe it to the franchises that are carrying our cold brew, for us to be in charge of that consistency instead of them, just so that their clients are always getting the best stuff. Not that we do it better, I’m just saying, you’re leaving a lot of the risk on their end. And whatever water they have or whatever ratio they use, it may be up to the guy doing it.
David: It’s just like having computer controlled profiling. It’s replicable, you can replicate it, you’re taking as many of the variables out of it as you possibly can, so your quality can stay there.
Brendan: Yes, exactly. Because you don’t know, if you give them a concentrate, you don’t know if they’re going to be adding filtered water or hose water to it to make the final product.
Elaine: Right. They’ll look at the color and they’ll say, “Oh, I need more,” they’ll put it in there and if you add more, it gets bitter fast and then they say, “Well, that’s a bitter Kona.” Well, that’s not fair.
Brendan: Yes. And then that changes somebodies perception on Kona. So as much as you guys can control, I’m all for that.
Elaine: Not that we’re control freaks. It lets eliminate the variables.
Brendan: And on that same topic, it was interesting speaking with Daniel Browning from Browning Beverage Company last week. He mentioned that he used to do concentrates but he now does all ready to drink because he said, when he dilutes the concentrate, he’s able to taste the water in there, it’s just-
Elaine: Yes, exactly.
Brendan: The coffee tastes a little bit more shallow and you get some more of the water profile which makes 100% sense. Once he said it, I said, “Oh okay that makes sense to me.”
Elaine: The whole point of coffee is infusion. Let’s get as much as the bean in water to spend quality time together. If at the last minute some water is splashed in, I think you’re just speed dating.
Brendan: That’s a great analogy.
Brendan: So last question or last direction I’d like to go is, you guys mentioned, you have a roastery that you serve at. And when we were talking before the show started, I kind of said, “That sounds like a brewery, I’d go to taste beer and take a tour of- how’s this beer being made.”
Elaine: Yes. That’s right. I’m just a weirdo, I grew up overseas, I grew up on a coffee plantation in Nairobi, Kenya. And then I spent a great deal of time in the Middle East. And so coffee was always core to what I was doing and where I was. Then I went to college, of course you can’t get through college without coffee. So I have had coffee all over the world. And so I had a very different view of what we needed to do. I didn’t think that a coffee shop is what we needed to do. I think that we set out to be a warehouse and that’s where we roasted. So we called it a Roastery. And then I thought, “What else is unique?” Because we wanted to be different and I thought, I looked around and I couldn’t find a coffee museum. So we put in a coffee museum because I have stuff from all over the world. And then we thought, okay, now what we do is, we’re going to use the beer industry’s best- the best practices they have and wine as well and say, okay, the next beverage is coffee, what do they enjoy? Well, they get to go for tastings and they get to spend time where it’s actually made and they get to be educated and they get to spend time with the roaster or the wine or the Beer Meister. And so that’s what I wanted to do.
Secondarily, I think that America has really missed the boat, on where we get our coffee. We go to strip malls to get our coffee and I think that’s just crazy. It should be like it is in Europe, it should be like it is in Britain, where you go to a pub, because coffee has always created community. It has always enhanced communications. It used to be the way that things were traded was in a coffee house over a cup of coffee. That’s how you did business, politics, trade and we’ve lost it. Now we do a run by, a drive by, in our own little cup and take our SUV over to the soccer field and we don’t talk to a soul. And I think we’re wrong, I think that in the Roastery, people come in and they look around, they say, “Wow, this is great, can I look around? Yes, you can. Here’s a tour of our process. Look this is where we do this and what can I teach you about it? I make an okay cup at home but sometimes it takes like this. Well, let’s walk you through that process.” And then they say, “Oh look at this museum and they walk through the museum.” And then yes we serve them a cold brew, we serve them the candy that we make, we serve our chocolate covered pea berries which are amazing and we serve them a nitro. And all of that is for free because they’ve come for a tour.
And they find out that it’s an experience and they talk to us. And they don’t stand there on their phone while I check them out and it’s amazing. We’ve had great, deep conversations, we know- anyone who’s been there twice, we know them. And I think that’s really what we were after, the roastery is a great place for that.
David: And mysteriously whenever they come in and they start going through things, mysteriously somehow they end up buying something.
Elaine: [laughs] Yes.
Elaine: I know you’ve probably heard this before, we really believe in it and we just like every good drug dealer that first hit is free
Brendan: Yes. Get them hooked.
David: That’s right.
Elaine: Yes. And it’s true because once they taste it and they realize, “Why there’s no bitterness?” Most people say, “Oh I need creamer and sugar,” and we say, “Please try it without it.” And when they do they say, “Oh, this doesn’t need cream and sugar.” Even on their cold brew they say, “Does this have milk in it? No, it does not. Does this have sugar in it? No, it’s just coffee, its zero calorie fun.”
Brendan: Yes, coffee and water.
Elaine: They’re just thrilled with that idea. “Yes, it’s coffee.”
Brendan: So, is the roastery, the museum, do you guys have seats and tables and chairs there where people can come in and order a cup of coffee and hang out?
Elaine: Yes. We do, we just have a nice hangout and it’s available for rent or you can come in, we have open houses once a month that we call Brouhahas and we do about ten minutes of education, we do a tour. We usually have something fun and something to eat, we have games, anything that you want to do. We’ve got a pool table there. We want you to hang out. We want you to spend time with your coffee.
Brendan: That’s cool, that’s really cool. And I hope more places like this start popping up to be honest.
Elaine: Yes, we do too. We’ve been asked to franchise out because people are looking for that sense of community again. We really don’t want to sit there with our Apple and our earphones and our drive throughs anymore. I think we’re looking for a place to talk. And I think coffee shops should be in neighborhoods. I really, really do.
Brendan: Yes. I absolutely agree. I brought this up a couple episodes back, we were down in San Diego and my daughters wanted to go get some Starbucks and I said, “There’s a small coffee shop across the street, let’s go there.” They didn’t want hear about it. [laughs]
Elaine: Yes, I think it’s a great place to meet the neighbors and chat about, “Hey, have you seen Frank’s lawn, it’s really lousy.” [laughs]
Brendan: Or Brendan’s garden.
Elaine: Yes, “Brendan’s garden really needs some help and but he’s got a good looking wife,” so there you go.
Brendan: Well, awesome you guys. I think that about does it for me today with questions. Do you guys have anything else you want to add or I’d actually like to get you guys back on another episode and talk about maybe the certification process of Kona. There’s obviously many more avenues we could go down and explore.
Elaine: Sure. And we can always bring in or we can call Hawaii and phone him in and get our farmer on the line because he was Vetrepreneur of the Year, he’s Exporter of the Year, he’s a smart guy, he was a JAG officer and just really, really intense about the way he grows his bean. And he has his- on the farm, we have not only where we roast but and we dry mill and we have the wet mill process and then we have all these things that he’s been experimenting with. But he even graphs his own plants there on site-
David: On the farm, yes.
Brendan: Oh, that would be cool.
Elaine: He knows a lot and he’s been around for a long time, he’s a [unintelligible [00:55:35] grader, he’s been involved in the SCAA. He’s really into it and knows a lot about the industry and he speaks well. So I think you’d really enjoy hearing what he has to say.
David: He was an attorney so.
Elaine: He was an attorney but don’t let that- [laughter] dampen your ideas of what he is.
Brendan: Oh, yes, that would be- make for a very, very fun episode, so we’ll have to-
Elaine: Yes, okay. We’re a fun-bun.
Brendan: -plan that. Yes. So I will add all the links to your guys’ websites, your social profiles but if there was one primary one that you guys monitor the most, where could people find you, what would you prefer?
Elaine: I’d say Instagram is really a fan base right now. We do post a lot there. There is always great photos and great sayings. But our website is pretty decent, we’re about to redo it but I would say that texakonacoffee.com is a great place to start.
Brendan: All right, sounds good. Well, Elaine, David, thank you so much for joining me today and can’t wait to do this again.
David: Thanks Brendan.
Elaine: Oh, you’re welcome. Thanks Brendan.
Mentioned in this Show
Keg Outlet | Cold Brew Systems