In today’s episode we talk with Brian Mitchell from the Max Restaurant Group which owns and manages 11 different restaurants. Brian is the beverage manager and oversees product selection and creating drinks for the beverage program within those restaurants. Gary Riccinni is the owner and founder of The Cold Brew Coffee Company and uses some unique processes to pack, store and process his cold brew coffees to chains such as Brian’s restaurants.
Highlights & Takeaways
The Definitive Guide to Draft Coffee is now available!
Making cocktails with Cold Brew Coffee
High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP) as a means to cold processing and pasteurizing cold brew coffee
What we mentioned on during this show
Episode 19 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Hey there! Welcome back to the Drips and Draughts podcast, as always I’m Brendan Hanson and I’ll be your host.
Pretty exciting day for us today here at the office; one, we just put in about 12 gallons of our cold brew that that we’re making to have around here so, pretty stoked for that and two, we finally finished our new e-book The Definitive Guide to Draft Coffee. This episode won’t be for a week or two from the day I’m recording this but when this comes out when you hear it, the e-book will actually be online and available to download so we’re pretty stoked about that.
It’s been about, eight, nine, ten months in the making now but it’s finally done. We’re excited to get this out there. A couple more things before we get into this episode; one, we’ve got a couple more reviews, so I’d like to take a minute to read one. This one is from Up Bay Coffee Peddlers, the title of the review is so informative and they say “My partner and I are starting up a tricycle nitro cold brew coffee business and I found this podcast to be most helpful. I’ve downloaded the e-book as well, I feel better armed with information I need to get started. Thank you”.
Thank you guys for the review, we appreciate it and glad that we’ve helped out get you going. I think these coffee trikes are awesome; they’re a great idea, especially when you live in a beach city or bay or on a lakefront, just an awesome place to have a mobile cold brew or nitro coffee cart. So, best of luck with your business guys or girls, could be girls. Anyway, thanks again for the review, we definitely appreciate it.
Today’s episode is a good one; this is going to be very interesting, very informative, I think, for a lot of you. I’ve got two guests on today Brian Mitchell and Gary Riccini and these two guys come from entirely different backgrounds as you’ll learn but they basically have come together because of cold brew, so kind of a cool story there, just a quick intro bio on each guy before we get going.
One is Brian Mitchell, he works for the Max Restaurant Group, he’s the corporate beverage director and the Max Restaurant Group has 11 different restaurants throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida. So, along the eastern seaboard I guess and our other guest is Gary Riccini who basically got into coffee, I wouldn’t say on a whim, you’ll learn the story but he got into coffee, started the cold brew company and established a relationship with Brian very early on in the company’s existence, kind of a cools story there. I’ll stop boring you with my hacked up version of their histories and bios and let you hear it straight from the guys themselves.
If you’re looking for show notes for this episode you can find those by going to dripsanddraughts.com/19
One final note before we jump into today’s episode, we did have some technical difficulties while recording, for some reason Brian got kicked out of the call halfway through as of right now I haven’t listened to everything to see if we have it all, but if there’s any blank spots or anything seems like it might be missing or not quite right that’s why, technical difficulties. We can always blame computers and tech, right? Right.
Let’s get into today’s episode with Brian Mitchell and Gary Riccinni from the Cold Brew Coffee Company.
All right, welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast, today I’ve got two guests on the show who come from a– who come a cold brew from two different perspectives and it’s going to be a great episode where we have the potential to learn a lot. I’m joined by Brian Mitchell from the Max Restaurant Group and I’m also joined by Gary Riccinni from Cold Brew Coffee Company.
I’ll let Brian to introduce himself and give a little background and then we’ll do the same with Gary and we’ll see where this goes.
Brian Mitchell: All right, Thanks. I work for a restaurant group we a number of different restaurants, about 11 restaurants in the northeast and actually down Florida as well and we cover a spectrum of styles, from steak houses and seafood and whatnot. The group itself has been around for about 30 years; we have full service bars cover, you know, the spectrum of cuisines and styles and cocktails, wines and all that, you know, everything that I think anybody is looking for and fine dining. My job is to, kind of oversee and corral and training and product selection and pricing and everything that goes along in the back side of the beverage program for those restaurants.
Brendan Hanson: Okay, great. That’s how you were introduced to Gary.
Brian: Yes, Gary kind of approached us one day out of the blue and had mentioned that he was doing a new company with cold brew coffee. I had been working out on my own, a little bit using cold brew and cocktails for the past couple of years, making my own brew and figuring out how is going to do it in the restaurants and seeing it as a product that was starting to really emerge, I think, in other parts of the country may have come on much earlier but, you know, cold brew really only in the last year or two has hit the northeast or at least in slightly more suburban or mainstream type of restaurants, not just specially coffee shops for us.
So, I started messing around with it and make it on my own and I was working on a program to implement it into our restaurants on regular basis and offer it on a– as a regular menu item about the same time that Gary had sort of approached and basically what ended up happening was, he solved the problem for me which was– I had an issue and was hesitant about just being able to produce a consistent product from restaurant to restaurant on a daily basis and Gary had a program that he was working out of a production method, that he was working out with his company where he was basically going to solve that problem by making a consistent product at a price point that I could actually put it out there and hit my targets and whatnot with.
It was a good point in time where I needed a little bit of an answer and he provided one.
Brendan: Right on, so with that maybe Gary why don’t you give us a little background on that? Where you came from, how you reached out to Brian and how you got into cold brew?
Gary Riccinni: Yes, totally. So, historically I am not in the beverage and/or restaurant business in any way, shape or form. Historically, I’m actually in the investment world and about two summers ago is really when my journey into cold brew started. August of 2014 I actually found myself having– We’ll just call it a little bit of health crisis; one day I was healthy, one day I wasn’t and that actually, in that period of time I actually had to exit the workforce and try to just get things back together and while I was really not working, I got very deep into coffee. Single-origin coffees, different organic coffees, if you’d see my kitchen at the time it looked like I was running a little coffee shop.
I had every utensil and device known to men and one day I was sitting there with a Sidamo, an Ethiopian coffee and I was sitting there and I was like– I ran into the idea of cold brewing it just online and into Brian’s point, it’s not really– it’s in the northeast but it’s not truly mainstream yet. So, I was like “Oh, this is easy. Water, coffee” and I made it, and I got to tell you, the finished product that was like “Oh my God! This is amazing. I want this stuff, I want it all the time” and when I came back into getting myself back together.
I was starting to look cold brew, because I got that passion about it and the only place that I could find it was either at Starbucks at the time or at Whole Foods in the area that I live in. Neither– I mean, Starbucks is somewhat convenient; Whole Foods isn’t and just said “You know what? I want everyone to drink this and I need to find a way to get into this business” and that’s where the really– the genesis of the idea came from and then, you know, really from there it was looking at names, I wanted to get this company going and one day hit me.
I was walking through the and I started saying “Cold Brew Coffee Company” I ran to a computer, no one owns that LLC and I immediately locked it in and I will tell you, this is where it comes leads to Brian, I said “you know what? I’m new at this, I have production capabilities which we can talk about, but ultimately I need to get a name recognition and one of the first restaurant groups to come to mind was the Max Restaurant Group. If you live in the Greater Hartford area you know that there’s eight or nine restaurants and they’re all pretty recognizable in terms of the name, so I had sent an email to actually one of the stores directly.
I just used the internet, I found an email address and I got an email from Brian back saying “We’re working on something and ultimately, you know, at this point we’re not that interested.” and rightfully so I really came to him out of the blue, I’ve no name and I just said “I would like to make cold brew coffee for you”
Brendan: But you just registered your LLC, that’s enough, right?
Gary: Oh yes, sure go for it. That same day I met with a liquor distributor who is a second cousin of mine just to understand distribution more. I said, “Hey, I emailed Max Restaurant Group. They said no.” “So take another run at them.” So I came back to Brian and I said in the email something similar to the idea that if you’re looking to do cold brew in all of your restaurants, you must be a coffee guy. I’d love to pick your brain. I said before I make 300 gallons of this stuff, I’d love someone else to taste it. I think on all fronts that kind of piqued his interest and was one– identify that he’s a coffee person and I probably put in 300 gallons didn’t hurt the scenario there either. Brian and I got together shortly thereafter and really we’ve been talking ever since and obviously he’s one of my first sales. I’m in all nine of his restaurants here in Connecticut in Western Massachusetts.
Brendan: That’s awesome. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with going in big like that maybe we can talk a little bit, Brian, about how you are currently using Gary’s coffees in your restaurants.
Brian: Yes, definitely. We just started like Gary’s company is not that old. Meaning like we’re maybe four, five, six months into it and so we started integrating it into the restaurants. One of the first– everybody had a little bit of a concept of it, and I think ultimately what the challenge for me was, our group is about 30-years-old and every two, three years a new restaurant is opened up and so we have a group of partners that own and manage the restaurants individually.
My initial conversations with them about cold brew were really at the base level of explaining exactly what cold brew was, and what’s the difference between cold brew and ice coffee? But when I got and so– I don’t want to say these guys are sort of they’re coming out from a different point of view. They drink coffee every day. But when I got down to the staff who are for the most part a little bit younger, they were like, “Yes, we drink cold brew every day.” So the conversation when I got to the staff level was much easier because they all understood it, they all knew it, and we don’t really talk too much about how Gary and I ultimately ended up working together on the production side a little bit, but when I got that product out to my staff, they all felt that it was some of the best cold brew that they had ever tasted. So we were immediately able to kind of ingratiate them into the product and they were all for putting it out there. So what we do is we sell straight cold brew in cold brew over ice service. We do it to go and we also integrated it into a cocktail program. So I’ve got it on to menus.
I think from my point of view, I’ve got regular full service restaurants that the opportunity for cold brew is around lunchtime because we do busy lunch service and so I make sure the first thing I do is get on all of the lunch menus all and specials and the take-out menus and things like that so that people during the day would get a chance to see it because that was the opportunity point that I saw for good sales and it’s in its ultimately been that way.
The other part that I saw as an opportunity was using the cold brew coffee as a cocktail ingredient and so we’ve been mixing into various cocktails and developing different programs which I had already been doing. Some of the first things that I’d done with cold brews was simply make ice cubes out of it and make that sort of a base of some drinks. But then we’ve been working– I have a bar manager in each of my locations that we sort of work together to produce seasonal cocktails and a rotation of recipes and we’ve been integrating cold brews into pretty much anything we can because of the great flavor base it’s easy to work with and people enjoy it.
Brendan: So right now are you guys using draft coffee, draft cold brew, or are you basically using bottles that you get from Gary, because Gary I know you have a unique process as far as pasteurization goes which I hope to get into in a little bit but for the cocktails-
Brian: We’re using a straight-out-of-the-bottles. Gary supplies it to us in the bottle format which we use. I explore the draft process a lot, and in my restaurants that are established it’s hard to retrofit a little bit to using– I actually explored this with wine as well. It’s hard to retrofit into our existing units. I have a new unit that’s going to be opening up in the fall, and I’ve already designated and put into the plan for building the draft system to have a line dedicated to draft cold brew.
Brendan: Coffee. Got you. I know that we’re interrupting you. We’re doing this podcast while you’re on vacation and you’ve talked about cold brew cocktails a little bit. Why don’t you give us maybe one or two of your favorites or some popular ones for the summer?
Brian: Sure. One of the first ones I created, and we do we do a farm-to-dinner series, a chef-to-farm, a series where we actually go out to farms in our area and everything we do is local ingredients. I like to make the cocktail nice and light and refreshing as it’s July to August its hot and what not, and I take cold brew and freeze it into an ice cube and we have a local limoncello producer just a town over from where we are, make a great product and simply pouring a little limoncello over a cold brew ice cube and serving it in a in a cocktail glass. It’s clean, it’s refreshing. You get just a little jolt of caffeine after a meal not to have any alcohol. But that sort of composition and balance of that tot lemon against the coffee flavor is really nice. That’s something super simple super easy and delicious. There’s all-
Brendan: I’m going to have to try that. I actually made some limoncello over the holidays and I think I’ve got some left in my freezer, so I’m definitely going to have to try that.
Brian: Yes. Super easy. Just get ice cube tray obviously and fill it, up throw it in the freezer and pour a little lemoncello over the over the cubes. We do some other cocktails where cold brew and tonic, again in summer, we’ve been doing a lot this summer because we just started introducing at the beginning of the warm season cold brew and tonic it’s just refreshing. People don’t really think of that as something that might work together because you get kind of two bitter-ish elements with coffee and with tonic, but it’s a nice flavor composition.
The other thing we do is I put it very basic. It’s like recreating almost like a latte where we just put a little bit of sugar or simple syrup and some cream in the cold brew and put it in a cocktail tin and shake it up. Some of my guys have got into putting in things like Irish cream or some of the other flavoring of course. You just shake it up it creates a nice frothy head you pull out the oils from the cold brew almost recreate the creamer and pour that over that into a martini type glass. It’s a really nice variation on what a lot of people get is a popular cocktail which is the espresso martini. This is cold brew martini. We do a lot of that kind of stuff as well.
Brendan: Awesome. You said you’re doing this with and without alcohol. So like you said, you can serve these at the lunch hour and they’re probably very popular.
Brian: Yes. One of the things that I like to do is actually have– you can take shaken cold brew and just do it on its own and it’s a nice frothy– we do that to go a lot and it just creates a nice frothy cool drink, but then have the adaptability to putting in some ice cream, or putting in some extra kalu, or putting in some other flavor whether it’ll be orange or something like that. It blends itself from a recipe point of view, from a production point of view very easily to other elements. Coffee’s something that’s used in a lot of cocktails because it’s bitter. I use it and look at it in replacement of say an actual bitters, or amaro or something that might go into a traditional cocktail and we sort that out and swap it for its adaptability, it makes it easy.
Brendan: Definitely. That’s awesome. I’m sure people’s wheels are going to be spinning when they’re listening to this episode just another way to use cold brew.
Brian: Yes. I’ve got one of my bar managers that started to use it in a cocktail where she takes a barrelage negroni which we do a lot of. We do variations on negroni with barrel aging and we swap out. We don’t actually barrel age the coffee itself, we just do the liquors or the liquor and the spirits in the barrels, but then we mix a little bit of cold brew in with that when it comes out and you make this really nice dark intense barrel-age Negroni with these coffee elements adding to the to the bitterness. It’s great. So there’s all kinds of things.
Brendan: Sounds amazing. I got to tell you one since your name is Brian. I’ve got a buddy who loves my cold brew and not a huge fan of cocktails, but one night I poured some kalu in a cup, basically one part kalu and then went out to my kegorator and put nitro coffee, one part nitro coffee, one part Kaluha, and he absolutely loved it, so we call it the “Brian special.”
Brian: There you go. I’m going to write that one down.
Brendan: Yes. Try it. If you ever get the nitro coffee installed in one of your restaurants. It mixes well with a lot of stuff so you can have some fun with that as well. All right moving along with– go head.
Brian: I was going to say is, this is a plan for our new places to take Gary’s coffee and put it in the kegs and the nitros that’s how we’re going to service it. So we will be experimenting with different element and different service technique with the nitro coming up shortly.
Brendan: Absolutely all right. Well so getting back to Gary you mentioned you were going through a bunch of coffee in your kitchen, you were trying this. What made you — what was that ‘aha’ moment where you were like, okay I’m just going to jump in and do this? Was it the taste of the cold brew; was it just coffee in general?
Gary: I like coffee in general but something about the cold brew, and then part of what I was doing is really try and get healthier with some of the trials and tribulations I was having. It just hit me the flavor profile, everything about it just seems cleaner, smoother, better, and in that moment all things–it was like an epiphany. I was like this is the ultimate expression of coffee that I’m ever going to have or the cold brew method, and I was just really hooked.
The amount of coffee that I was making I was mixing different coffees after that it got pretty; I mean it was like a little mad scientist at home with this stuff. It was really that and I just said every — and it was my opinion that I got so passionate about it, I’m like everyone needs to drink it. I became a broken record. Part of the funny thing around my house is really this, my wife doesn’t like coffee at all. So as I’m going through this adventure and she is a small business owner herself, so as I open this small business and I am passionate about it, and I am going to people like Brian that runs nine restaurants, those are the first people I’m calling.
She didn’t understand the passion behind it and still doesn’t she’s like, “I can’t stand the taste of coffee,” and I’m running around this cold brew is amazing. That was it just in terms of saying, “Hey I want to do this.” In the North East I came to the realization as then I started looking for it more and more. There is also an open spot in the market place along with my passion, there is not really anyone making this in any great volumes.
Certainly there is if you can find a really good coffee shop that might be using commercial tardy type system things of that nature, they’re out there. They certainly are but there is no one making them in any volume to supply restaurants or retail or things like that that’s made locally, and that’s what my aspirations went to. I didn’t want to be a mum and pap coffee shop or a high end coffee shop, my aspirations were I want to make a cold brew that everyone is drinking across the board around the state.
That’s really where this started in less than– I’m going to say 100 days to just use the number; I’m going to say in about 100 days. I would assume at this point that my small company is certainly producing probably the most cold brew in this state at the moment.
Brendan: Wow, so you jumped in with aspirations of larger scale production and distribution not so much opening a coffee shop per say?
Gary: Yes exactly, opening a coffee shop or a store front I hear about it quite a bit, but no that was never really a thought in my mind. It was, I want to build the brand that’s recognizable around the area, and is it there yet? No, but I think in really it surmounts to three, four, five months on the high end done a pretty good job. I really said hey I’m going to jump into this thing. I’m going, I’m doing it I’m going to actually think less and act more and really just move the needle forward, and that’s exactly what I have been doing.
Brendan: Okay. Well I know I want to get in and ask you some questions about HPP because that’s a process that you use, correct?
Gary: It is, so one of the things that how this all came about was when you start looking at creating a beverage company, it takes a serious amount of capital if you want to start your own beverage business. On that front I was like,” Oh man” when you start looking at that then the regulations and the code you need like, hey yeah how does anyone do this without a serous backing? It turns out I’m fortunate enough that my in-laws are in the high pressure pasteurization business.
They are in the really what I like to think of it as a really healthy preservation business. It turns out that they have the facility and the tools that I need to take my idea from production to fruition, with being able to add shelf life. That’s really where the high pressure pasteurization part of this comes in. I’m very lucky that I happen to know people that do it.
Brendan: Right, so maybe can we talk about your production process a little bit and then maybe if Brian wants to chime in anywhere from — because you’re doing the production and then Brian is obviously serving the end product. Brian if you have any comments that you want to make as a restaurant owner, what you guys might be looking for from a product that you’re going to be serving at the end of the day feel free to chime in, but Gary would you mind talking a bit about your production process?
Gary: I will and I think I actually start with this and this is something that I learned. Brian and I, I think we’ve developed kind of a friendship via this whole process. What I would tell anyone that’s looking to get into this talk with your restaurants and see what they want. Brian has been instrumental in helping me find my roster, in helping develop the blend. There are things that restaurants want and if they have someone that is into cold brew they might have ideas and be able to point you in the right direction of this.
A lot of the beginning of this business really starts with Brian’s help, so that’s probably the first lesson. I had my own product developed but that was through testing. Talk to your clients, understand what they’re looking for, and then you can back into your blend and things of that nature. Moving on to the actual production side the truth is there is not a lot of we’ll call it, production cold brew systems out there. There certainly is in the sense of you can go by a tardy or something like that but I’m way beyond those volumes starting.
What I really did was in that side I basically bought a lot of 50 gallon beer kettles, and I actually ended off — you remember we even spoke because I bought one of your solutions that you have for cold brew, the 30 gallon tank with the filter basket? I started getting all of this equipment and what I determined was I took what really what you guys have at Keg Outlet, and then I started buying 50 gallon kettles from there.
I happen to know some people in manufacturing and I brought the concept of creating custom 50 gallon filter baskets to some manufacturing folks I know, and they actually help me out with that. What I basically own is power packet eight to 10, 50 gallon beer kettles. I own your solution as well that I use for some smaller back runs, and I actually will when I do this, I basically will fill up each kettle with power pack 30 to 40 pounds of coffee.
I have my water ratio, so in the facility you have on skids it’s a funny little production, but I like it to keep it small batch if possible. You have 8 to 10 beer kettles that have been retro fitted with this custom filter basket, and I brew them for 24 hours. I’m a stickler for this, 24 hours is the number not a minute sooner not a minute later. This is part of being able to work with family. Everything is in a controlled environment. When we say cold brewing my facility is cold, its 40 degrees at all times. I’m not doing room temperature cold brew, I’m doing kind of cold its cold.
Brendan: No kidding.
Gary: Yes it’s a temperature controlled commercial facility. From that point forward these filter baskets are actually squeezed, because this is more of the technical part of it. The grinds do a lot of water, so you need to squeeze them as much as possible depending on how that each batch brew is slightly different. It seems like you might add some water back in. From that point I filter it again through a commercial filtration system. Then that actually will go into about a 300 gallon tank that feeds into a bottling unit.
For the purpose of what I do for the restaurant for Brian’s group, I currently were using half gallon bottles. I do have a retail bottle that’s 10 ounces but the same thing, it goes into the bottling line it gets bottled, and from there immediately that’s where the high pressure pasteurization comes at is the final step in the production.
Brendan: Okay, so you’ve got quite a production process, is this something you’ve built or you’re using external facility that you rent space from time to time?
Gary: This is kind of how it works is this is really — so the company I am using in Connecticut is owned by my father in-law and also my brother and sister in-law.
Brendan: Okay so you’ve got some good connections?
Gary: Yes I do I’m very fortunate, I’ll be the first to say it and what they do is high pressure pasteurization. There’s a couple places in the state of Connecticut that does it, they were one of the first and so I utilize their facility. Now, when I utilize it, I pay for it, because it’s either you put your capital towards paying them to help you with the process or you need to find some investors that can get you–that can help you really put up or outfit a facility that is up to code, has all the necessary equipment and all those things so if you want to start a beverage company, I looked at the numbers there’s a significant cash outlay that frankly, if you’re just starting up might not be feasible.
Then you get to this high-pressure pasteurization side, you might find someone out there that’s willing to do to work really on a co-packing arrangement. It’s my recipe, it’s my equipment, it’s my–the water to coffee ratios, I dictate all of that. At the end of the day, all be it is it happens to be family, it could be any co-packer, they work with you really to kind of get that process down and really help take the idea from really idea stage to production phase.
Brendan: Yes, that’s obviously a great way to do it if you don’t have to outlay all the capital to get all the equipment, make sure everything’s in place, that’s awesome that you’re able to do it that way.
Gary: Yes and I think the other thing is really this and this is one of the conversations. I’ve certainly had this conversation with Brian in the beginning and he knew what high pressure pasteurization was. I talked to restaurants that don’t know what it is really in the same manner. Cold brew goes bad fast, unpasteurized in any way shape or form, you’re probably looking at a week to two weeks on the high side and in a restaurant environment, it’s going to be in and out of the cold and there’s a really high, you can really grow mold easily and ultimately last thing any restaurant wants to do is get someone sick. So what this process allows me to do is–my cold brew has a shelf life, on the bottles I put 60 days from the date of production but right now, I’m starting, I’m really getting closer to 90 in terms of shelf life—with further shelf life testing. The high-pressure pasteurization process and if you need me to, I can explain the basics of what that is.
Brendan: Let’s get into that but before we go there, going back to your production a little bit. You said you’re doing about 300 gallons, how frequently are you doing that?
Gary: I’m probably making coffee right now every, depends a little bit on what’s going on. I would say every couple weeks, it seems that right now and part of that is a little bit because of the amount of brewing production I can make at one time and part of it is coming at this new and doing this high-pressure pasteurization thing is your little wary to make so much at one time because you don’t want to go 30 days and all of a sudden find out that your product is gone bad when you start doing delivery. So there’s multiple factors in terms of doing that but I would say, like actually today right before I came here, I picked up a hundred and fifty pounds of coffee. I’m going to pick another hundred and fifty pounds up next week so bi-weekly, ballpark it, we’re doing around between my retail and then the wholesale through the restaurants we’re starting to make anywhere between two to three hundred pounds every couple weeks it seems like.
Brendan: So you’re really starting to run through it?
Gary: Yes, Brian’s group was the first to say yes which was a huge for my name and then I decided I want to start doing some retail and I got into one of the larger farmers markets in the area called The Coventry Farmers Market. I kind of harassed a bunch of people until they finally decided to call me back. Brian’s been up there, it’s pretty, it’s the biggest one in New England and so I started for them, I started coming out with my retail products and in that time, I’ve picked up, it’s not huge but between the farmers market, I have four folks retailing it in their small shops and then in the fitness community, I’ve been someone that’s been kind of done cross-fit on and off for six or seven years. It is a healthy product, we use organic coffee and out of nowhere about five gyms have reached out to me and next thing you know, I’m selling my retail product into five gyms, some retail outlets so it’s been pretty significant growth, fairly quick probably quicker than I would have imagined.
Brendan: Yes, no kidding, that’s awesome and it’s amazing to see just cold brew coffee as big as it is in the health and fitness space. It seems to be very common and getting more common especially in cross-fits.
Gary: Yes and I didn’t want to pitch to that crowd frankly because it’s what everyone does, if you get a healthy–what’s deemed a healthy product, everyone goes to that community first because they have disposable income, they want quality, they’re willing to spend the money and I shied away from it really because everyone is doing it. So I wanted to be a little different and the one thing I’ve probably learned about cold brew more than anything else, I think what I make is phenomenal, I drink a lot of cold brews to test and hopefully Brian feels the same way because he helped develop this in large part.
I really think it’s one of the better tasting ones at least in the area that we are in and the truth though is it’s not going to go sell itself. You do need to go out there and talk about it. It was great running into Brian and meeting him because he’s on the forefront of this. He was already interested in it but when you go out to restaurants, you really need to talk about the benefit to the restaurant, what this stuff is, why it’s better, how it could impact really their bottom line to some degree. So I have to say when we talk about all the places I’ve been able to get into in the last 90 days, there’s not one of them that came to me. You do need to reach out and you need to go really put the product front and center or else it’s not going to happen.
Brendan: Absolutely, all right. Well moving on, we’ve mentioned this a few times, we’ve mentioned HPP and actually before I get into that, we did have Brian drop off for a minute. Brian your back, correct?
Brian: I think I am, yes. Can you hear me?
Brendan: Yes, I can hear you. I’m hoping that the system was still able to record what we talked about earlier, if not, I might have to see about getting you on later as a follow-up or finished the first part of this episode because it may have dropped off because I saw you leave and then come back but we’ll see, that’s never happened on here before.
Brian: I didn’t move, sorry.
Brendan: [laughs] All right, so anyways, getting back into HPP, we’ve mentioned it a couple times, would you mind explaining what HPP is for people who might not know about it.
Gary: Yes, I’m going to really keep it simple because ultimately it is a simple process, it’s probably harder to actually build the machine so H-P-P stands for High Pressure Pasteurization. Basically, all that happen is when my product is bottled and complete, the product basically goes into really what amounts to a very large cylinder, the cylinder will close and it’ll essentially fill with cold water and once it gets filled with water it will then start applying external pressure to my bottles. I think it’s about 87,000 PSI. It’s basically supposed to replicate what is the deepest part of the ocean where nothing can live and it applies so much pressure that if we as people went into that machine, we would literally come out looking like pancakes and that with cold water and extremely high pressure, it kills any bacteria that might exist within the product and therefore it can give this — it can help give that shelf life.
Brendan: That’s incredible. So obviously, people would turn into pancakes in there. How did the bottles maintain?
Gary: That’s the thing beside with high pressure pasteurization, you do need to use plastic. I’ve gotten quite frankly a few people that want glass and things to that nature. You need plastic because plastic is pliable so it starts forming and trying to squeeze the liquid inside, in this case the coffee so that’s ultimately what you have to use. There are certain plastic bottles that are rated for this, plenty of companies out there sell them and that’s really how it’s done. Everything is plastic-based, you can do this in very large format bags, even you can put this in five gallon bags if you wanted to but it has to be something that’s pliable, that will move and try to form itself around in coffee.
Brendan: So these pliable containers don’t explode just because they’re getting pressurized equally from all sides, is that it?
Gary: Exactly, exactly.
Brendan: Excuse me for asking this questions but I’m sure we’ll get some people email asking how are these things not exploding so?
Gary: It’s not really a system that’s new.
Brendan: That’s very interesting so basically you’re killing off HPP is not.
Gary: I don’t think it’s not very new by any means. I think it becomes a capital issue I don’t want to know what these machines cost but I’m going to tell you that it’s in the seven figures and you’ll see a lot of juice companies doing them. Some food manufacturers use them, so it’s somewhat common place in terms of its use in production. I think what’s happened now is it’s starting to work itself where you could find it a little bit more ready available within a co-packer that might help create a product.
Brendan: Okay so they’ll put the capital forward in order to start packing and selling these products more.
Gary: Yes because really when you look at high pressure pasteurization, folks that do some things similar to know who I utilize. They charge for it, there’s a charge to use high-pressure pasteurization. It’s certainly not free, I wish it was every day when I see the bills come through but it’s a phenomenal technique because the other way to preserve coffee is to put some additives or heat it up. What I wanted to do with my product specific is, I can say this with absolute certainty because someone asked me actually why I do this the other day I was talking with someone. Its cold brewed, it’s literally brewed cold. It’s bottled it’s still cold and the method of killing bacteria is using cold water and high pressure. That’s for me is everything about my process, I can say the idea of it being cold that that word is a very prevalent throughout everything from the production process to the final end product that come out of a bottle.
Brendan: Which is awesome for the cold brew because you’re not getting temperature fluctuations, which obviously if you get temperature fluctuations in beer you could have a skunky or nasty beer at the end of the day. But yes that’s great that you can say that about your product. So the benefits of HPP versus other methods of pasteurization, which I’m really only thinking of heat as the only other method,
Brian: I think from my point that’s really in an important aspect of this because heat pasteurization traditionally is the way to do it. But I have been using other products. We have a with a mixer juice company that we buy some product from and they use HPP process to preserve their product. So you get the benefit of the freshness, without either a flash pasteurization or slow lower heat pasteurization, and you’re not killing in the fruit juices you don’t kill any of that fresh aspect of it, but you do extend the shelf life.
With Gary’s coffee the whole point of cold brew is that its cold brewed. You’re not cooking any of the oils or any of the bitterness into the coffee. By using the HPP system you’re preserving that cold aspect of it and all the nuances in the coffee. So that was one of the things that once we got talking and he explained what he’s got going on in the process and everything else, that’s really part of what allowed me to go down the path with him a little bit more and figure this all out and why we ended up working together. Because it really was a better way to make it and preserve that and be able to bring it into my restaurants and actually have it stored and not worry about it going bad in a week or two and having to throw out expensive products. So that’s really what made the difference for me.
Brendan: Yes and I’m sure as a restaurant owner it gives you a little bit of a peace of mind as well as you’re serving a product that’s a stable and not going to make anybody sick.
Brian: Yes totally.
Brendan: Right on, so one of the questions I had here to ask was is HPP feasible for any or all cold brew companies? Which we’ve hinted on there is a cost behind it but I assume you’ve got to have some level of production to make it feasible. It’s not going to be somebody who’s running off. Maybe several dozen bottles a week maybe might not make sense for.
Gary: Now if you’re going to do this you have to make a commitment to you’re either all in or not. Even though I know the people that run the facility, truthfully if you’re going to use someone like that or a co-packer and you have that type of arrangement, they’re not going to want to work with you if you’re going to make 100 bottles, 200 bottles. At least we are talking and when I say that we’re talking more like the 10 ounce variety, the retail product. If you’re going to do it there’s a cost associated with them, with labor, with the brewing. Obviously you need to pay specifically for the high-pressure pasteurization process itself. They’re looking for folks that want to make a couple thousand bottles at a click.
Brendan: So they’re going to want a contract, they’re going to want to know that they’re servicing X amount of bottles per week or per-
Gary: Sure. Absolutely and you there’s the other thing I mean certainly it’s that the cash outlay is not there where you’re opening a facility, but there’s certainly is still a cash outlay. Because I own all the brewing equipment in there, and you know what the costs are on 50 gallon beer kettles and things like that when you own 10 of them. There are certainly some upfront costs, there are cost at first of course to making it and getting your feet under you, in terms of just getting the product out there. So it’s a risk so if you’re going to do it like that’s kind of the thing you need to look at it a little bit and evaluate. If you can find the right co-packer the good part is this, they might be willing to take an opportunity to let you grow your business.
That’s the situation I’m in and truthfully is there of now other folks that see my growth that have asked me,” Hey would you be willing to switch co-packers?” This conversations have happened recently. So it’s interesting you just need to have a plan and like I said you do need to go all in with it though. But there are ways to do it, if you can get into a great farmers market in your area, I got to tell you that’s a very quick way to go through a lot of bottles of coffee. Very quick and it’s also good for helping build some name recognition and attracting other folks.
Brendan: Yes I agree with that. I don’t do it personally but we’ve got a lot of customers and clients who have great success at farmer’s markets both in selling the product and building their name. So definitely a good suggestion. Well guys I don’t think I have too much more I’m really hoping that Brian’s original audio is still there, if not I might have to give you a call back Brian and go back through and discuss some cold brew cocktails and some of the stuff that we talked about early on before he dropped, but anything else you guys would like to mention? Gary?
Gary: I would just tell anyone that I’m certainly getting my social media out there so if anyone wants to look up “the cold brew coffee company” on Instagram that’s where we do a lot of our postings and things like that. The cold brew is very visual so that’s the medium that seems to be best. Other than that that’s just me plugging a little bit but other than that I’m good I appreciate you’re having us on.
Brendan: Absolutely and again for those looking its instagram.com/thecoldbrewcoffee company or just the cold brew coffee company if you’re on your phone. Then how about you Brian any-
Brian: Well I guess from my point of view, I think you know I’m always looking for places to increase sales, increase my ability to get my customers a new product or something they are going to be interested in, and cold brew is that item that’s come on the last year or two and allowed me to increase sales and bring them a product that they’re familiar with but maybe they haven’t necessarily tried or maybe they have and they enjoyed it so it’s an easy transition. But the younger staff members I find all know what cold brew is, so we do a ton of training. This was an easier item to get out there and work with than I anticipated because of that and it’s something that we’ve had some help with the bigger companies marketing their own cold brews and sort of getting it out into the public domain a little bit more, but it’s a good way for a restaurant or a bar to increase an added sale particularly during the day and we’re always looking for that place. So find a good quality manufacturer or a process that you can use on your own and put cold brew out there it’s an easy product as everybody basically knows and drinks coffee.
Brendan: Yes absolutely anywhere people can go to find you and or your restaurants Brian?
Brian: Well the restaurants maxrestaurantgroup.com and we have a home landing page that can take you to any of the restaurants. Personally I have a blog and a page that I run called CT somm S-O-M-M.com so ctsom.com and do some occasional blogging and posting about beverages and in the world, in Connecticut that has to do with the beverage service. So I do on the side when I have a little time.
Brendan: Yes, I was actually checking out that site before we got on. I’m going to have to have you put a link to the podcast on there.
Brendan: There’s a little podcast thing under your resources tab, so-
Brian: Yes, we can do that. Definitely. Absolutely.
Brendan: All good, guys. Great talking with both of you. Some great information on both fronts. I’m going to have to try some of those cocktails we mentioned earlier and, Gary, might have some more questions for you in the future regarding HPP and that process, because I’m sure I will get some questions through this podcast.
Brendan: A big thank you to both Brian and Gary for joining me today. I thought that was very interesting, being able to hear both sides of the story. The end user, the restaurant, who’s actually selling and serving the cold brew, as well as the side of the cold brewer. We’ve had plenty people on the show before, but all of them have been on the coffee side, pretty much, producing the cold brew, or even producing the coffee itself. So it was nice to hear both sides of that, and how they’re working together.
Hopefully all you other cold brewers out there, got some ideas, as far as distribution, and serving your product, getting it out there more. I also was very interested to hear about some of Brian’s drink recipes. The limoncello over cold brew coffee ice cube sounds, I’m not going to lie, it sounds scary, but I’ve got some of both at home, so I think that’s something I might give a go tonight, give it a shot. And if you do have access to nitro coffee, I highly suggest throw in a little Kalu at the bottom of a glass, and pour in nitro coffee on top. That is amazing. The old Brian special.
Well I think I’ve about hit my limit for today, so we’re going to sign it off here. If you’re looking for show notes for this episode, you can go to dripsanddraughts.com/19. Thank again to Brian Mitchell from the Max restaurant group, and Gary Rijini, from the cold brew coffee company. I’m Brendan Hanson, and we’ll see you next week on the Drips & Draughts podcast.
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