In this episode, we talk with Jason Gershowitz from Coffee Counselor in Maryland. We learn about how Coffee Counselor got started, and their wild beginning when they were brewing and serving up to 30 different beans, roasts and origins. That’s all well and good, but the meat of the conversation turns to steps and processes that Jason and Coffee Counselor are taking in order to get their cold brew product FDA approved for up to a 90 day shelf life. There are many different options available out there and they could change based on your location, so Jason stresses the importance of working with a process authority in order to find the right steps and processes that will work for your company.
Highlights & Takeaways
Maintaining a “library” of cold brew coffee
Steps toward reaching a shelf stable product
Using a process authority to reach shelf stability and shelf life of 30, 60, 90 days
Episode 22 Transcript
Brendan: Hey there and welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson and today I will be joined by Jason Gershowitz from Coffee Counselor in Maryland. Jason and I will discuss how he got into cold brew coffee, how he started his business, and what it’s grown into. But more importantly, we are going to be discussing some of the steps that Jason and his company Coffee Counselor have taken in order to get FDA approval to serve cold brew, as well as the steps that he is working on and taking to get a shelf life approval of say 30, 60 or 90 days. I better stop talking about this before I butcher too many facts, so go ahead and wait and let Jason do some of the explaining on the steps and the processes that he is taking to get his coffees approved as being shelf stable.
So before we get into today’s episode with Jason from Coffee Counselor, let me take a minute to read a review. We’ve gotten a couple of more reviews both on ITunes and I also noticed we had a couple reviews on Stitcher radio. So, I figured I’d read one of the short ones that we got on Stitcher radio today. This one is from Java Jim and the title is, ‘Well needed.’ “Only a couple of episodes in but this is great, there is a need for this. Nitro and draft Coffee is so new and there are a lot of unanswered questions. Personally, I have been wanting to get into doing nitro coffee, but I have so many questions and not sure where to start. In just a couple of episodes I feel like I have a much better understanding of what I’ll need.” So thanks Java Jim we appreciate the support and certainly appreciate the review. Thanks for taking the time to hop online and leave us one. For the rest of you out there who haven’t left us a review yet, stop playing Pokémon Go, hop on the iTunes, write us a quick review, doesn’t take long, it’s not hard and it helps us out. Helps the show out and it helps nitro coffee out and we all like nitro coffee. So make it happen.
One more quick note before we get to today’s episode, The definitive guide to Draft Coffee is finally out. We’ll put a link in the show notes, but you can get to it by going to dripsanddraughts.com/draftebook, or dripsanddraughts.com/definitiveguide. While I’m slinging URLs at you guys, if you are looking for show notes for today’s episode, you can find those at dripsanddraughts.com/22. Now let’s get into today’s episode with Jason Gershowitz from Coffee Counselor.
Alright welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast, as always I am Brendan Hanson, and today I am joined by Jason Gershowitz from the Coffee Counselor. Is it Coffee Counselor or The Coffee Counselor Jason?
Jason: We go by Coffee Counselor; we have several coffee counselors on the team as it were.
Brendan: Got you, all right well if you won’t mind giving us a little background on yourself, who you are, what fuels you, what motivates, you and maybe how you got into coffee.
Jason: Sure absolutely. Well I appreciate having me on the podcast and I had an opportunity to listen to several other previous episodes, and they are all awesome and enlightening in their own way, so I hope we can contribute here and I’m with Coffee Counselor and we are from Baltimore Maryland, in the Maryland DC area. Maybe ten, eight years ago I started thinking about my pallet a little bit more closely and one of the things that really caught my attention was coffee. After a little bit of experimentation, I really discovered that, at least from my perspective, cold brew coffee gave me an opportunity to explore flavor profiles and tasting notes in a way that other beverages hadn’t. So I was really drawn to it.
Actually four summers ago I was supposed to have a beach vacation that went south. Our combination didn’t work and my wife suggested that we do something business oriented instead. So we ended up opening a pop-up cold brew coffee shop that week and which stayed open for two months and we served what, to my knowledge, was the world’s largest variety of single origin cold brews. We had 30 different single origins on tap and we did a lot of really cool fun stuff, we did some cold brew coffee and bourbon pairings. We did tasting flights with cold brew, and just had a blast with it. Coming out of that experience we figured there were a couple of origins that really popped the most. We’ve weaved them into our business as they grow as part of our summer classics line, which has three different single origins of some of our flavor profiles. And we’re currently moving into and working through some wholesaling to other retailers. Some online sales, no store front for us anymore that was fun maybe we will try that again in the future but I am really sticking towards production and then doing a lot of co-production as well for others that are seeking to launch their own cold brew initiatives.
Brendan: Awesome, so you got into this just on a whim it sounds like?
Jason: Well I really like to make things happen and I got really excited about cold brew and had been exploring different origins for quite a while and effectively ended up catering a couple of bachelor parties and folks were raving about the experience. So when I had some relationships in the restaurant space, that allowed us to open up a pop-up in the DC area and to be able to explore cold brew with the community, I decided to jump into that at first.
Brendan: That’s cool, cool story. So the fact that you are in the DC area, I’m assuming the name Coffee Counselor has something to do with your location and everything around DC.
Jason: Yes it’s actually an interesting coincidence as — I’ve never highlighted before and I think we have quite a few lawyers actually coming of K Street to test things out in the pop-up shop. But it actually came from our belief that we believe that we being a team: me and my brother and a couple of other folks that work with us, that everyone has their own flavor profile, and so it’s, “Teach their own, the science of taste,” is our motto. So we seek to help counsel folks in allowing them to explore their flavor profiles and taste things in different ways. So when we had the pop-up shop, we’d use the standard tasting we always annotated with our origins and someone will come and say, “I had number seven this Brazil Cerrado last week, I want to try something that’s going to be the opposite end of the spectrum.” We walk them through what those options might be, and they taste a couple of things that they’d walk out with a fresh cup.
Brendan: All right so slightly different counselor than I was referring to or thinking of.
Jason: Hopefully no legal issues.
Brendan: Yes hopefully not. That’s something we’ll probably start talking about a little bit as we get into FDA processes which is one of the reasons you are on the show. But going back to your pop-up, so you guys cold brewed 30 different origins of coffee and served at a single time or was that over a span of time?
Jason: It was over a span of time with a maximum of 24 different origins going at one time.
Brendan: So you guys had a lot of coffee on hand?
Jason: Yes it was a wild experience and learning about production and supply chain management and just the different aspects of managing an inventory that broad. I won’t lie, I’ll say that’s defiantly a huge challenge and if we did it again I would be surprised if we would as deep as we did in terms of the offering.
Brendan: Maybe dial it back a little bit?
Jason: Yes and we had some people tasted everything so [laughs] it was definitely worth the experience and it helped stand out as well. But I think the reality is there are probably most of the people that are drinking cold brew are able to find something they like within range or spectrum that’s captured by maybe four to six different origins. Having 30 gives you a lot of depths to explore there but-
Brendan: No kidding.
Jason: So it’s a challenge.
Brendan: So do you mind if we talk about that a little more? Just having all that on hand logistically that’s got to be tough, was that all on draught or how was that being served?
Jason: Yes we would brew regularly and maintain a refrigerated extract, and then we use some small batch catering equipment not on draught just with gravity flow taps to be able to serve as we went. We basically had a library feel to it. It was actually a really awesome location for us as a facility that’s now closed, that was called Science Club. So we pulled on that theme and had some scientific equipment, our tasting fleet was in a series of test tubes, in little test tubes holder. So we really build off of that and behind the bar, we had this couple of book shelves that ended up with our cold brew library available.
Brendan: Nice that’s awesome. I’ll have to see if you can send some pictures of that, that we can include in the show notes.
Jason: Yes for sure.
Brendan: So 30 different cold brews. I know some breweries you go visit, they’ll have a dozen maybe two dozen beers on taps so have 30 that’s just got to be a huge undertaking to just manage all that. But very cool for the consumer.
Jason: Yes it was a lot of fun and the way we managed on an inventory side and thinking about the different origins that we wanted to select to fill out the range of flavor profiles we wanted to have. We leveraged that be able to have greater depth and march what some of our community members wanted so we offered some really exclusive beans that were definitely awfully expensive compared to a more traditional cold brew, but they had specific flavor notes and people really drove to it, they loved it. So did I.
Brendan: That’s great. So would you mind talking about your cold brew systems and processes at the time? I’m assuming they’ve changed now since you’re going toward a different model slightly but would you mind talking about how you were brewing at the time? Maybe the lengths of time, specific temperature if there was any.
Jason: Yes, we have evolved dramatically. That experience was definitely a learning and pretty quick paced activity where we were doing small batch brews in five, ten gallon buckets. We were filtering out with cheesecloth, using it single use per time and we ended up with, probably a product that had a pretty high volume of particulates in the liquid but it gave it a lot of depth and flavor and left a really nice robust taste on the pallet so we liked that then.
And then of course moving out of that kind of offering and trying to brew batches that are going to meet needs for 40, 50, 100 gallons in a week. Those systems just aren’t going to be sufficient so we actually reached out to you and we got hold of some really nice, I would refer to as medium, largish batch cold brew equipment, and we’ve been able to roll through that to manage our production.
So things have definitely evolved a lot. Our temperature control approaches have changed, our production cycles have changed. Rather than producing four to six different origins overnight, per night for a week and keeping that rotation alive, it’s a lot different when we’re looking to brew the origins for our summer classics line which are three distinct origins. And then origins or blends that our other production or co-production partners bring with us.
Brendan: So you’ve simplified things in a way.
Jason: Absolutely. [laughs] Thank goodness. I think if we were trying to do 30 right now it would be an exciting experience but that’s part of the direction that Coffee Counselor is growing in, is the launch of our cold brewery here in the Mid-Atlantic area. And I hope that maybe next year we’ll be looking back and saying, “Wow we brewed 30 different origins in a month.” That would be pretty wild. Full circle.
Brendan: That would be wild. We’ve talked about having people open up cold breweries in the past and just always speculation because it’s obviously a pretty new thing, being able to open a cold brewery and just serve specifically coffee on draft. Is that going to be like a brewery type feel where people can walk into or is it just going to be purely for distribution?
Jason: The latter. We don’t have any plans in the works right now for a store front. I think I’d be lying if I said it didn’t entice me. I really enjoyed the in person experience and being able to work with my brother, Eric in the shop and other business partner, Eric, we’re all friends since we grew up in the Baltimore area.
It felt really deep and personal to be able to be there serving our family, friends in the DC community in person and we would love to open up a retailer in person opportunity in the Maryland area, probably Baltimore if we were to look at it. But I think our interests right now and where the business is driving is just towards production.
Brendan: And there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t know if you listened to our last show, I think it just aired yesterday with Gary Riccini from the Cold Brew Coffee Company, is his business name. He got into it just to produce it and distribute it so it seems like there’s a market there for it right now.
Jason: Yes, I didn’t get a chance to listen to that one yet, I missed that mark. I’ll have to dig into that and it sounds like Gary and Coffee Counselor have similar minds.
Brendan: Yes, absolutely. So moving ahead, one of the reasons you’re on the show is to talk about your production process and dealing with the FDA approval process and making sure that your cold brew is safe for packaging and distribution. Could you give us a little background and insight? You know just on the things that you go through there and things that cold brewers might need to consider, that they could look into?
Jason: Absolutely and I would just start with a huge caveat that I am by no means an expert and there’s actually a name for the experts that manage this kind of stuff. They are called, process authorities. And one of the first things that we ran into, as we were trying to figure out what the right formats were going to be for our Coffee Counselor branded offerings. And we wanted to have a bottled or canned product and we basically ran into a couple of production partners that indicated that there will be some difficulty in producing the way that we wanted to because cold brew would be classified as a acid canned food.
And that changes things a little bit because there are different requirements and how they can be produced and different quality control methods that the experts, the process authorities, look to help to identify and manage through a [sic] approved process. I’m not an FDA expert or a process authority expert but I have had my eye on the business and on the flavor profile and the impact of our cold brew is where I focus.
And it was really interesting to have a lot of conversations with folks that were in the know a little bit more about those processes to engage with our process authority to learn what may or may not work. And we’re currently actually at the stage where we’re updating our process authority match. Something that we feel will be stronger in terms of our flavor profile and offerings while giving us a little bit better control over quality and shelf life and things like that.
Brendan: Okay, so when you say process authority, is that somebody from the FDA or is that a local government board that comes in to check out your specific processes and your equipment and what you’re using and what you’re doing?
Jason: I think each state and probably even counties within states are going to be different so I can speak the little bit that I do know about the Maryland space and I encourage folks to do research to figure out what works best for them. I’m happy to send you over some links that you can include in the show notes on the low acid canned food guidance that the FDA shares and a list of process authorities that have been shared with us.
Brendan: Sure, that would be great because we get questions all the time and we’re not in the production side of things. We obviously make and sell equipment but I’m never the guy to answer these questions so just any experiences you could share I think would be helpful to anybody out there who’s looking to get started.
Jason: Absolutely. So we learned that we were going to be a low acid canned food product. However we were going to produce our format whether it was kegs, bottles, cans, you name it, it was going to fall under that category. What that meant is that the PH level of the coffee was going to be higher than 4.6 so it’s going to be low acid and there are two factors that process authorities use to gage the quality of products. There’s the PH levels and then the water activity levels. So for us the PH has been the driving factor to be assessing.
So what I did is started research, probably where many folks that are listening to the podcast or are in similar positions as us have been. I got handed a bunch of FDA documents and had an opportunity to review them in more detail. I tried to understand as much as I can and figured okay well it sounds like the FDA isn’t in an approval position, they’re in an inspection and regulatory capacity. So I tried to figure out who is in the approval position and that turned out to be the Maryland State Department of Health, who I then reached out to and they provided more information about their role and what will happen in terms of facility and product approvals. And they also had indicated that a process authority would be needed.
A process authority; I believe there are many different options for this. I think there are probably individuals that are out there that consult on a one-to-one basis that have this expertise. Perhaps some in the cold brew industry who I’d love to talk to if they’re out there. There are definitely also academic institutions, Cornell is great in terms of making available their process authorities. You submit a sample of your product and some paperwork and they get an opportunity to review it and engage in a dialogue with you to review that.
And then I know there are also some for-profit process authorities out there that can be a little bit more expensive but usually they’ll have shorter timelines and might be more flexible in terms of engaging with you in a dialogue about what your production is going to look like. And what is it that you can do within the production that will have minimal impact on the business but highest impact in terms of health and safety quality.
Brendan: So you are in fact submitting a sample of the end product to a lab for testing?
Brendan: Okay and in that they’ll take ingredients, they’re telling you what’s right and what could potentially go wrong and what you might need to change in some of your processes in order to fall within a specific range or criteria.
Jason: Yes, that was where things I think slowed down for us quite a bit. Was that when we submitted our sample and we knew where we’re going to be, the dialogue focused around the different pre-approved or expected processes that could work for, call it your production recipe as it were, your series of steps for cold brew. And some of those things were exciting to us and made sense because they would be either low impact or have low additional equipment requirements for us.
Others seemed great like providing a shelf stable product that wouldn’t require refrigeration but to be able to get to that degree of quality the access to production equipment wasn’t going to be workable for us. We’d have to partner again and it seemed odd as a cold brew coffee production company to partner with another production company to do kind of a big part of the load. So we came out of that with a couple of options that we thought were exciting.
And those ranged from pasteurization to different degrees of filtering, to different refrigeration or temperature brew requirements. So they present you with those different equations and we got to pick the ones that we thought were going to work for us and then have continued to work with the process. We are excited to get this approval under our belt so that we can really proceed with confidence and also with a better shelf life on our product. Now shelf life and taste, shelf life in terms of what we’ll like are going to be two different things.
So even if they can say, “If you filter down to one micron, you are going to get a 90-day shelf life,” for health and safety purposes, that doesn’t mean that your coffee is going to taste good for 90 days. There’s still a lot to consider on our end in terms of testing and refinement moving forward. The good part is that a lot of our production cycles and the folks that we partner with are moving through product within a couple of days or a week over an event. Kind of had the longest at two weeks, so we are usually in a good place that’s not a particular challenge.
Brendan: Sure. You mentioned filtration-
Jason: We did start with-
Brendan: Go ahead.
Jason: No, I was just going to say we — There’s a lot to learn in terms of the impact of the coffee. When the first response that we got was about pasteurization. That’s where we started and we were thinking, “Well this seems really strange.” Part of the reason we love flavor profile and the accessibility of the coffee taste was through the production process, so why would we heat up the coffee to be able to get in a position where it would taste great? We did a lot of research from the beer industry and discovered some equipment that would allow us to test out a pasteurization process that worked for us.
We did some flash pasteurization in a steam jacketed kettle where you have to get the liquid to reach a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. Then we quickly pulled it out of it and actually used sanitized jugs and large containers along with water chillers, to actually quickly cool the coffee in an ice bath. And we’re circulating cold water so that it would effectively little hack together our own flash pasteurization and cooling system to try and see what the impact to the flavors were going to be.
It wasn’t as scary as I thought. I was really concerned that once the coffee hit that temperature that the flavor was going to be completely off. It turned out there were a couple of ways to do that, and different extract ratios and mix ratios that would allow the flavor to still pop in the way we wanted to. But it’s really time consuming, it’s labor consuming, and the equipment, you need a large hundred gallon steam jacketed kettle which is not easy to come by if you don’t have access to that.
Brendan: Yes, you start talking, tens of thousands of dollars for stuff like that, I’m assuming if not more.
Jason: Yes, and we’ve grown our business incrementally so far, and that’s been a really exciting thing for us and we’re looking to make some of those bigger jumps. But the fact that we know now that there’s a process option out there that’s going to include filtering that we are moving towards that won’t require a large steam jacketed kettle changes the vision for what you need in a production facility.
Brendan: Sure. Yes, before I ask you about filtration I guess I should mention our last podcast episode. I think it was 19, when we talked to Gary Riccini from Cold Brew Coffee Company, he does what’s called high-pressure pasteurization. I don’t know if you’ve looked into this or heard it, but you basically brew your coffee, bottle it in plastic bottles and put it into this machine that you load up this carrier with fuller bottles and it goes in and fills with water around the bottles. It basically from my understanding, simulates the pressure that you would have at the bottom of the ocean, the deepest point of the ocean. It essentially kills anything that may have been toxic or living in there and just leaves you with a product. You are able to pasteurize without the heat that you might have through a normal pasteurization process. Definitely something interesting that you guys might want to check out.
Jason: Yes, that’s what I was referring to and talking about that really higher end equipment that’s going to give you a shelf stable product. The pressure based pasteurization systems, H.P.P.
Brendan: Got you.
Jason: High Pressure Pasteurization. It sounds awesome. I would love to experiment with different ratios and extracts and what flavors might be able — Or what the impact that pressure is on the flavors, if any. But we decided that that equipment, that infrastructure is out of our reach. We just took that box and pushed it to the side, maybe for a rainy day or when we grow big enough to work with folks like Gary.
Brendan: Sure. You’ve mentioned filtration a couple of times, and you did say the process authority said that one micron filtration could get you a 90-day certification label. Do you mind expanding on filtration a little bit?
Jason: Yes. It’s interesting and I — Well one thing that I think I’ve realized is that I bet if you talked to different process parties about your process in different ways and the level of information that they also have about it, they are probably different scientific opinions that would come forward. I think the deal is that once that process authority is saying, “This is the process that we are going to say is approved,” the state or the other inspector body, the one that’s going to be the enforcer on quality for health, is going to look to the process authority around the legal concerns about what you are doing. Unless you are varying from that process in your production.
We had to engage with them about, “Okay, so if high pressure pasteurization was going to be off the table for us, and if heat or anti-pasteurization was workable but going to provide some unique challenges, what are the things that we could do that might be easier on a smaller scale or would allow us to scale more quickly or differently? And also what will the real shelf like implications going to be? Just in terms of if we could dial it in from a flavor profiles to be able to last a little bit longer, what would it mean for our product?”
What we had learned, or what we heard back, was that there were a couple of different filtration levels that if we could get under, they would have different impacts to our shelf life. It might have been three or five microns was going to give us 30 days and then if we could get under one micron, we could get 90 days. We looked at it with the filter equipment processes look like and figured one micron seems reasonable and we can effectively pull out our extract, makes it go through the filtration process directly into bottling system and you are good to go from there.
Brendan: Okay. Let me ask you this, because I’ve never tried filtering my cold brew beyond like say a paper filter, which I don’t even know what the micron level of a paper filter would be considered. They probably fluctuate between the type of paper filters that you can get, but I typically just go straight out of our stainless cold brew system and drink it that way and obviously there are some fines in that. There’s maybe a little sediment at the end but does filtering it down to one micron, do you notice any changes in the overall taste and flavor?
Jason: Absolutely. That was one of the things that actually was a big question for our team and in particular. The Erics and I, when we opened up the shop and we we’re using cheesecloth. We obviously had a lot of fines in the final products, and we actually enjoyed letting those pass through and we thought that it really gave us a robust flavor. I think there are probably events that we would look into where we would still prefer a process like that, but when we think about what we’re looking for for a ready-to-drink market, we realize that filtration and shelf life and health concerns are going to be paramount.
What’s that going to mean for constraints on the flavors of the product and what we found since is that it does taste different and then what can we do to our mix ratios or our drop ratios to — By drop I mean the amount of coffee and water we put into the system and then we extract that out. How much water do we mix with the extract to create our final product? Those are two things that we can dial in along with the grind consistency. We looked at those variables and figured out a couple of tweaks that made sense for us that let that final filtered product still have some really good mouth feel, and really good depth that are the key tasting notes for the origins that we are currently working with.
Brendan: Okay. You guys actually changed up your processes quite a bit in order to in effect change the final product and after the filtration process.
Jason: Yes, that’s basically been this summer for us is experimenting around those different processes and what the impacts are and learning where all the variables are and the ones that we can change, because we have control over them and don’t have a health impact and the ones that we can change. It’s been a major learning experience and we’ve definitely had some batches that we’ve brewed that we were very unexcited about. But we’ve also been able to dial in a couple of different processes that are really exciting, whether that’s our keg process, or pasteurization process, depending on what some of our partner needs are. If we know we are going to be using it within 24 to 48 hours, we know what we can still prefer to do cheesecloth-oriented production. There’s nice to have those different options and understand what the impacts are, and then be able to make decisions based on what the end product need is in terms of quantity or lifespan.
Brendan: Sure. Yes, you mentioned you had some unexciting results and I find those — I usually learn the most from those. Like when my brother and I were experimenting with anything that we were doing, whether it’s cold brew or home brewing beer, we play with things, we mess with temperature. We change anything we can just to see what will happen, and it sometimes those unexciting results that teach you the most. I bet you guys did have an interesting summer.
Jason: I’m smirking just thinking about some of those tastes like didn’t hit the mark. I think our kind of core interest and what we are trying to reflect in the first popup and where we’d like to get to once we’ve fully understood all of these variables to the degree that we’re incredibly confident and really moving forward. Our kind of dream situation is to able to have solid production cycles that we can work through and then really let the beans shine. So when we did the popup shop, we did production the exact same way for every origin with no variation and that really let the flavor profiles of each of those origins come through as opposed to a change in terms of the drop time or the growing consistency. I think we want to get back to that place and we just kind of spend some time kind of adjusting what those variables are to figure out what the ideal production’s going to look like across a range of flavor profiles and bean origins and then we’ll carry that one torch forward.
Brendan: Got you. So with those 30 different beans you’re doing say the exact same thing, same cheese cloths, same steep in time, same steep in temperature?
Brendan: Wow, okay. I guess that simplifies some things a little bit for when you’re dealing with 30 different beans in [unintelligible 00:3:51]
Jason: Yes. I’d like to say that we hit the time on the mark every production cycle and that was part of the challenge when you have 30 origins that you’re trying to maintain an inventory and you’re looking at staff availability for when a drop can happen or a poll that [unintelligible 00:32:05]
Brendan: Need more hands.
Jason: -in there at 5 AM trying to do a poll and I poll at 5:15 instead of 5:00 and I’d be frustrated with myself because frankly I really wanted to hit that mark and you definitely got better over time and we learned a lot from that. That’s part of the reason why 30 seems — and looking back like a crazy thing.
Brendan: Yes, no kidding trying to manage all that. I think that’s one area of cold brewing that is going to grow over the next few years it’s just doing the specifics and maintaining the specifics. As a home brewer you know, getting heating temperatures just on the head and adding hops at specific times during the boil, all playing to the end result of the beer. So I think cold brewing, I see it going that way at least where you’re brewing at X-temperature for 12 hours then maybe you’re changing the temperature up and down for the remaining 12 hours. I think there’s just so much experimentation that can still happen with cold brewing. I think it’s got a long way to go and I think it’s going to change a lot over the coming years.
Jason: Absolutely, and I think from my perspective, I’d like to figure out what those changes are going to be early and understand what they are. And then really try to settle and let the beans shine as much as possible because I think that’s something that we’ve realized that we like to think we’re really good at producing cold brew coffee and that’s the one thing we’re really good at. We don’t roast, that sounds exciting and I would love to get into that more but the reality is we have lots of great local roasting partners that are roasting in micro or small batches. They’re experts in figuring out what the best roast of that bean is going to be. We let others go and find those origins, we get to do some experimenting and tasting what they’re going to be locking with the roaster. And then we just do what we do the same way every time for those beans to let those flavor profiles shine the most as opposed to something we decided to change to even it out and have everything have a more traditional coffee taste.
Brendan: Nice, yes I imagined it, trying to add roasting on top of all that would obviously require a lot more man power and a lot more knowledge as well just learning something entirely new.
Jason: I think it’s important to know what you know and what you don’t know. I don’t know much about roasting.
Brendan: Use the professionals when you can.
Brendan: You mentioned you worked with a number of local roasters, is it a dozen, you’ve got quite a few, couple? Do you mind mentioning any of those roasters?
Jason: There’s probably four or five in the Maryland or DC area that we like working with and it all frankly started around trying to flash out what 30 origins were going to look like, it’s how we struck these relationships. We ran around local roasters, we got their bean offerings and we profiled them out and matched them on a flavor to figure out where we’re going to have the right diversity and tasting notes. And we ended up pulling some origins from some of the roasters and other origins form other roasters to be able to get the breadth that we were looking for. And obviously you learn a lot in working with partners in that time. And there were quite a few roasters that really we matched their approach to the coffee, we matched their kind of approach and interest in business and kind of personalities, and we’ve been able to continue to partner with those folks moving forward.
I think at some point in time there’re additional aspects of kind of supply that were going to come into play for us but right now I’m really excited about working with these folks that are in the DC area. There’s a really hot coffee scene here in DC and Baltimore and it’s just incredible to be a minimum on the sidelines watching and if we’re really lucky kind of in the middle of it the presence of cold brew here in the local geography.
Brendan: Yes, I imagine it’s a pretty happening coffee scene just with the you know Capitol Hill and you’ve got a lot of people there that need to be awake and on point.
Jason: Well, let’s hope so.
Brendan: Yes, let’s hope so. They’re running our country, right?
Brendan: Alright, Jason. Well, anything else in particular that you’d like to talk about or mention? I think we’ve kind of hit all the points that I had noted here.
Jason: Yes, I think we hit a lot of the notes that I’d like to — huge thank you to having me on the podcast and thank you for an opportunity to share the little bit that I do know about this stuff. It would be great to learn and hear more and maybe for other folks to reach out to other food research labs and regulatory authorities like the FDA or States to hear how they’re handling the rise of cold brew. I’ve heard some cool comparisons between cold brew and kombucha and how kombucha was largely under regulated and it’s perceived to be now overregulated. And what that balance looks like.
I’m anxious to continue learning what are other regulatory requirement around is going to like. And frankly I just think it’s wonderful for folks that never really thought that they would be coffee drinkers when they get that first nitro or they get that origin that really masters their interest. And you see their eyes either light up or their face kind of go wide thinking, “This isn’t coffee, I don’t know what’s going on.” That experience is really special. So we just want to bring to as many people as possible and we hope that everybody out there finds the taste that they like. If Coffee Counselor can be part of that solution, then that’s wonderful. If we get to watch, that’s wonderful too.
Brendan: So speaking of being part of that solution, are you guys — you’re looking to distribute, are you distributing yet?
Jason: We have a couple of pilots underway that were for dialing in right now. So Coffee Counselor label products are just starting to appear on shelves now and a couple of stores in the Baltimore area, and in Maryland, a little bit on the Eastern shore as well. And we’re excited to really grow that presence as we dial in this last process of 30 piece.
Brendan: Awesome, congrats on that. Any chance I can get you to ship some to California?
Jason: As long as it’s not 30 origins, I’m happy to.
Brendan: Yes, that’s not a cheap shipping bill. We’ll send those giant cold brew systems all over the country, all over the world actually and they are not cheap to ship, I’ll tell you that much.
Jason: I know, I think we hit a scaling bench mark in our production needs maybe a month or so ago. I remember reaching to you and asking what you had in the inventory and how quickly we could get it and I think we ended up pushing back on our production partners because the shipping costs were crazy to try to get that in two or three days.
Brendan: Oh, yes. I think I sent — myself or Carrie sent you the shipping rates for overnight two day, three day and yes, it’s enough to make you crazy.
Jason: Absolutely, well thanks for providing equipment that lets us get into cold brew incrementally, I’m sure many others are taking advantage of that. If not, they should. I hope we can all just continue to learn together in a wonderful community of caffeinated citizens.
Brendan: Highly caffeinated if you’re serving 30 coffees.
Jason: Don’t drink them at once.
Brendan: Well, thanks for being on the show. Thanks for sharing as you were mentioning that the FDA process towards the end there. I’m going to have to reach out to Elijah from the Redhead Coffee in Santiago. I know he was going through some FDA stuff and get him back on the show and talk about maybe what the difference is/are if there’re any because he’s down in Santiago county, California. I know there’s a lot of other people out there wondering, asking, just curious about it in general. Definitely thanks for sharing, I know that thank you is on behalf of probably 90% of our listeners too because I get questions that I can’t answer half the time.
Jason: I’m just trying to answer our own questions and share and yes, absolutely. I hope to continue learning from others that you’ll bring on the podcast. So keep rolling with the great show.
Brendan: Awesome, thanks Jason. Where can people find you if they want to look you up?
Jason: Check us out on www.coffeecounselor.com currently have a webstar up and we’d be launching our new website in the next week so excited about that too.
Brendan: Great, any social media accounts?
Jason: We are on twitter @coffeecounselorDC and instagram as well @coffeecounselor.
Brendan: All right, sounds good. Well, thanks again Jason. Appreciate all the info and as I said I’m sure the fans will as well.
Jason: Thanks, Brendan. I appreciate you having us on the show.
Brendan: Big thanks to Jason for joining me today. He was able to answer a lot of questions that I frequently get asked and that a lot of people are curious about, but with cold brew being so new there’s really not a lot of people out there with a lot experience in the topic. So thanks again to Jason and the team at Coffee Counselor for sharing your experiences and some of the steps that you’ve taken to get where you are today.
Well that’s going to about do it for today’s show. As always thanks for listening, make sure you go check out the new ebook The Definitive Guide To Draft Coffee you can get to that by going to dripsanddraughts.com/definitiveguide or /draftebook. If you’ve got any questions regarding bottling or canning or shelf life for cold brew shoot us an email at [email protected] or try leaving us a voicemail. You can call us at 888620brew that’s 8886202739 Extension 6. Leave us a voicemail with a question we’ll read it on the air and we’ll try to answer it, and actually if we can’t answer it we’ll try to get somebody on the show who can. How’s that for a deal? All right that’s it show notes for this episode can be found at dripsanddraughtss.com/22. I’m Brendan Hanson thanks for joining me today hope to see again next Friday on the next episode of the Drips & Draughts podcast.