Today we talk with Katy Stevens from N7 Cafe in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In this episode, we discuss the ever popular “Pumpkin Spice” coffee, but this version is nitro rather than latte. We also discuss the potential to create a Christmas time flavored nitro coffee using peppermint and candy canes.
Highlights & Takeaways
Nitro coffee can be changed/enhanced by adding flavors
Decorate the “head” on the coffee with a sprinkle of spice(s)
Episode 30 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Today we get festive for fall. We’re talking Pumpkin Spice Nitro Coffee.
Welcome to the Drips & Draughts podcast where we help you bring your craft to draught. From soda to beer and from coffee to kombucha, we’ll discuss making your favorite craft beverage in small or large batches and how to best serve it on draught. Hey there, welcome to the Drips & Draughts Podcast. I’m Brendan Hanson, I’ll be your host today. Now that we are into fall, we thought it’d be a good idea to showcase some more holiday spirited beverages. On today’s episode, I’m going to be joined by Katy Stevens from N7 Café, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Katy and I discuss her Mobile café, the benefits of being mobile, and then of course, we get into the topic of today’s show, and that is Pumpkin Spice Nitro Coffee.
We also get into and discuss shared kitchens and how shared kitchens can benefit a mobile café because you’re not having to pay monthly rent on a building or a space. Getting into the topic of shared kitchens is something we’re going to look to do on a future episode. I’m looking to have Katy back on the show in the future, potentially with the owner of the space that she rents from. I’m also looking to get maybe Matty and Andrea from Café Mulé back on the show, who were on the show in episode 26, because they do the same thing, they share a kitchen in order to have a food safe environment to produce their cold brew, so stay tuned for that. I think that will be an episode that really benefits a lot of the new cold brewers out there.
I see so many mobile carts popping up, even Crocky’s Cold Brew, down in New Zealand. They’re entirely mobile, as is Café Mulé, as is N7 café. It’s a really interesting area to get into because these people are creating businesses without having a physical address or a location. We’re definitely going to explore that more in a future episode. I think that’s about going to do it for the intro here. One thing I forgot to ask Katy in our interview was where you guys could go to find her on the internet. I’m going to mention that right now. You can find her basically any social network at N7 café, letter N number 7 cafe. Facebook.com/n7cafe, instagram.com, Twitter, and they also have a website, it’s www.n7cafe.com. With that, let’s get into today’s episode, with Katy Stevens from N7 café in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Brendan: All right, welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson, and today I’m joined by Katy Stevens from N7 café, in– you’re in Eau Claire, Washington?
Katy Stevens: [laughs] Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Brendan: Wisconsin. I’m so sorry [laughs]. I have notes in front of me, I have family in Wisconsin, I can’t believe I just called that Washington. They’re going to kill me.
Katy: [laughs] That’s all right, they both start with W’s.
Brendan: I guess. It’s early for me here. I’ve only had a half a cup of coffee, running a little behind.
Katy: Oh, boy.
Brendan: Tell us a little bit about N7 café, Katy.
Katy: First of all, thanks for inviting me. I’ve been listening to your podcast, and they’re very informative and also entertaining, so that’s been great.
Brendan: Good, good.
Katy: Short story, I was born in Minnesota, so I’m naturally Mid-western. I went to grade school out your direction, in California. In the ’90s my family decided to move back to the Midwest. Since high school, I’ve had an interest in business and entrepreneurship. I went to college for marketing and business education. I was a high school teacher for a few years, and then I branched off to marketing consulting.
Brendan: Wow, so you’ve bounced around a little bit.
Katy: Yes, a little bit. But always around that business marketing theme. Then came the kids, and for the last 10 years I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. That’s been an awesome experience, I feel lucky to be able to do that. That’s my little short story there. As far as my experience with coffee goes, since I was little, when my mom would turn her back, I would steal her coffee and drink it [laughs].
Brendan: You liked coffee at a young age?
Katy: I did, yes.
Brendan: That’s not too common.
Katy: Well, I do have some Finnish blood in me, I think that’s part of it. I laugh now because my five-year-old daughter is doing the same thing to me.
Brendan: [laughs]. What goes around comes around.
Katy: Right, exactly. Starting in college, I started to drink coffee more, and then after I became a mom I started really drinking coffee a lot, I could keep the pace.
Brendan: Needing coffee.
Katy: Yes, it’s a necessity. The business part of the coffee came into my life after the kids grew up a little. They are now ten, eight, and five, and I had an open mind for something that I wanted to do because they were going to be in school full-time. I was always looking for opportunities and after heading off in your direction again in California, and a few trips I was inspired because I tried nitro coffee for the first time. It was at a coffee shop/bookstore. I think those are the best kind of coffee shops.
Brendan: Yes, where you can just go sit down, interact, read, hang out.
Katy: I’m not much if a reader, but I love to have some coffee and just browse the titles. This coffee shop/bookstore was in San Rafael. You’ve ever been up that direction?
Brendan: Up in the bay area, right?
Brendan: Carrie and I are going to be heading up there in a couple of weeks to go meet some clients. Definitely a cool area.
Katy: It is. My brother lives there so I have an excuse to go there once in a while. I tried the nitro coffee there and it wasn’t just the taste that captured me, it was more the experience. I feel like there was a story behind it because it’s such a unique product that there’s a story. Every shop or person making or selling the nitro or cold brew has a story behind it, kind of history, it’s cool to think about that. Then I just thought, “How can I bring this back to Eau Claire, and share it with everybody that I know?”
Brendan: That was where your business idea was born? Trying that coffee at that coffee shop or bookstore, all right?
Katy: Yes, and I came home and I just scoured the internet, and I came across you guys, your website, [unintelligible 00:07:39] I joined the forum, started talking to people on the forum, and I read your Cold Brew Coffee Guide which was like a Bible to me for a while.
Brendan: We might have to rename that.
Katy: Yes, right.
Katy: That’s how it all started up.
Brendan: Awesome. N7 café, you are basically focused around nitro coffee and cold brew coffee?
Brendan: I know I made notes of this, do you have a café, or are you totally mobile?
Katy: Yes, we’re totally mobile, and that was the goal, to begin with. I feel it just creates more flexibility for us, and there’s so many coffee shops around Eau Claire that I just felt being mobile allowed me to go out to where the crowds are, to where the people are. We have a lot of fests in town, and I’ve been able to go to many of those, and farmers’ markets, and that kind of thing.
Brendan: Nice. We’ve got a lot of clients who are interested in serving at farmers’ markets and mobile events, would you mind telling us a little bit about how you’re set up, how you go to these events, how you serve there, and maybe just a little bit about your thoughts and just the general kind of being mobile I guess.
Katy: Yes, definitely. Before this all started, I happened to have a suburban, I had plenty of room to pack up my truck with all my stuff. For the farmers’ market, we have a typical farmers’ market set up, with a table and I found an electrical spool, I don’t know if you’ve seen those before, in construction sites they usually have empty ones. I found a little mini version of one and I painted it with chalkboard paint and that makes a nice serving table. We do that, and then I have– it’s a kegerator type unit and it has two drafts systems, two spigots- one’s for the cold brew and one’s for nitro. It’s really easy to carry in and out. It weighs about 90 pounds without a Keg.
Brendan: That’s not too bad.
Katy: Yes, it’s easy to move around and just pack it full ice, and we’re good to go.
Brendan: Awesome. You serve both nitro and flat cold brew at this events.
Brendan: How’s the market for nitro coffee in Eau Claire Wisconsin? I would say that’s one of the biggest concerns that we get asked when we have somebody who’s maybe from a smaller town or Midwest Central America somewhere, just not necessarily in a large city. They go to a large city, they try Nitro Coffee and then they — we always get phone calls saying, “I just don’t know if this will work in my city. I don’t know if we’re big enough. I don’t know how people will react to it.” What’s the reaction been for you?
Katy: Actually, it’s been great. I have had several people — for me being a mobile café, I picked one place to be every week and then that way people will know I will there every week. If they see me one time and they haven’t tried it then they’ll be like, “Okay, we know she’s going to be there next week. We’ll try it next week.”
Brendan: Try next week?
Katy: Yes. I’ve had several customers come back week after week and say, “I just love your coffee. I don’t drink coffee the rest of the week. I just want to come for your Nitro.” Yes, I think if you pick one place to be regularly, then people will get the idea that that’s where you are.
Brendan: Almost like you have a shop in a way.
Katy: Yes, exactly.
Brendan: Yes. Okay.
katy: Our town is going through leaps and bounds. Our downtown is changing. We have two new high-end hotels moving in and a huge community arts center that’s coming in. I think our town is going through a lot of change in mindset, where they’re willing to try new things and they want to have that big city feel here even though it’s a smaller town.
Katy: I think that’s been helpful and I also have a pretty good social media presence. Just letting people know through social media helps.
Brendan: Yes, I think that’s how we actually —
Katy: Yes, I think [crosstalk] people are — sorry, people are thinking, “Wow, Nitro Coffee, I’ve never heard of it before. I’d love to try it.”
Brendan: People have pretty open mind about trying it?
Brendan: Awesome. What’s the – to get off topic little bit, what’s the population of Eau Claire, Wisconsin?
Katy: Yes, it’s about 60,000.
Katy: Yes. We have a lot of other smaller communities around, so if you add those it’s about 120,000.
Brendan: All right. So you’ve got a pretty god reach especially being mobile?
Katy: Yes, and then we have a pretty big music scene that’s coming in now and we host two national, international in fact music fests here. We get a lot of people coming in for those.
Brendan: I bet.
Brendan: Cool. I was curious about that and serving and Wisconsin or a smaller city, just — I’ve got family in Wisconsin. They’re in southern Wisconsin. Its tiny little town. They’re dairy farmers, so I think if Wisconsin and I think, “Oh, if Wisconsin’s like that, “Of course I’m so biased, right?
Brendan: Yes, that’s great that people have an open mind to trying it. I think hearing you say that is going to be awesome for a lot of people that call us and say, “What do you think people are going to think about Nitro Coffee,” because I have a hard time telling them because the people I show it to love it. They think it’s amazing, but I don’t know how and entire town or small community’s going to react something new like that. So it’s cool to hear that you’re getting positive response there.
Katy: That’s not only – we have a university here too and college kids love coffee.
Brendan: Yes, almost a requirement for college kids as well.
Brendan: Especially around finals.
Brendan: I think one of the main reasons I wanted to get you on today was because we’re getting to the holidays, it’s almost Halloween here. We’re getting into Thanksgiving time and one of the things that you do, is a pumpkin spice Nitro Coffee, correct?
Brendan: All right, well would you mind walking us through that, what it is, how you do it and just maybe tell us about people’s reaction to that specifically?
Katy: Okay, yes. Cool. The pumpkin spice Nitro is really fun to make. It’s so festive. People around here love fall, the colors changing. People really get into it, and as far as pumpkin spice I feel like you either love it or you hate it. I think people — I’ve seen things about pumpkin spice beer, like people say it belongs I the garbage. So I think it’s you either love it or you hate it. I think people know if they love it or hate it, for my coffee they will ask specifically, “I want the pumpkin spice,” because they know they love it.
Katy: To make the pumpkin spice simple — I use your recipe that you posted, which is pretty simple. You just take a cup of sugar, a cup of water and then you mix in a mixture of pumpkin spices, and you boil it down until it comes into a syrup. I use my own mixture for ten pumpkin spice. I just mix cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and hot spice together.
Brendan: You start it from scratch?
Katy: Yes. You could even go fancier and grate your own cinnamon and grate your own nutmeg.
Brendan: That’s next level.
Katy: Yes, right. There’s a lot of recipes to on the internet too as inspire mixing your own pumpkin spice mix. So, yes after it’s cooled it I put it in these little square bottle things, and then squit it a little bit in the bottom of the glass and then pour the Nitro on top, just like you say in your instructions. Then what’s really cool is the top of it makes such that creamy foamy Nitro top that it almost creates a canvas, for you to do some artwork on top.
Brendan: With other spices or?
Katy: Yes. Yes, after the pumpkin spice simply syrup is mixed in the top of the Nitro has that cream on top, and — for my customers I just sprinkle some pumpkin spice on top, and then I just use a wooden stir stick and swirled it.
Katy: Yes. So it made a really nice swirly, festive top to it.
Brendan: That’s cool. I’m assuming you get pretty good response and feedback from this, just as you do with your Nitro Coffee?
Katy: Yes. Yes, definitely. Yes, people give in to festive things and they have a lot of fun with it.
Brendan: Yes, that’s awesome. Great fall drink. I imagine anybody who’s drinking Nitro Coffee who like pumpkin spice, would probably be very interested in trying something like that.
Katy: Yes, definitely. You know the idea I guess for the holiday season coming up is candy cane. You could mix — you could make your own simple syrup candy cane flavored, peppermint flavored and then sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. It’d be fun too.
Brendan: That would be and that was actually going to be my next question. With Christmas around the corner do you think you’ll do a peppermint Nitro?
Katy: Yes, definitely. I’m going to even garnish with the candy cane.
Brendan: Yes, that will be awesome. So getting back to —
Katy: [Crosstalk] Instagram. Yes, go ahead.
Brendan: I was going to say, getting back to your mobile setup and serving, you’re likely serving in plastic glasses I imagine?
Brendan: Probably clear plastic glasses so people can see everything that’s happening in their cup when you pour?
Katy: Yes, definitely.
Brendan: Okay. What’s — just out of curiosity what size Nitro coffees do you pour?
Katy: Yes, I’m doing 12 ounces.
Katy: Yes. I think that is a good size. I think anything bigger is probably too much.
Brendan: Yes, it gets to be a little too much?
Brendan: One thing you had mentioned in your email was that you recently won an innovative idea prize in a local business competition. Would you mind telling us about that? Maybe how you– did you enter yourself or was it somebody in the community enter you?
Katy: Yes. It was — as I was starting out my business I was reaching out to local business organizations for help. One of them is the downtown Eau Claire Inc, which is an organization that helps promote downtown businesses. They do a jumpstart competition, where any business that’s opening in the downtown area can enter into the contest and they enter a business plan including financial statements and present the business idea in front of a group of judges. I was encouraged to do that and I did and that was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Just creating the business plan is a great way to get a big picture idea of what your business looks like.
Katy: Yes, it locked the idea of the Nitro coffee and having kegerators of coffee and work spaces, which is one goal of ours. Then also taps of cold beer with Nitro at restaurants and bars. They loved that idea.
Brendan: Okay. You won this competition putting together — this is almost for an expansion of your business?
Katy: Yes. Basically they want to support businesses that are downtown by awarding them. Not only is it good for press but also helps the downtown get stronger and bring in cool ideas into the downtown area.
Brendan: Definitely. That sounds like a downtown area that I’d like to visit.
Katy: Oh, yes.
Brendan: I love small downtowns. They have all the small shops on there where you can just grab a coffee and then walk the street and pop into all these little small businesses that– as eclectic as you could imagine in some cities.
Katy: Yes, yes. That’s one of my favorite things to do when I travel is hit the downtown and try all the coffee in the shops. [laughs]
Brendan: Absolutely. Is this something that you will be moving on and pursuing soon, trying to get [unintelligible 00:21:33] coffees into local businesses and into bars and restaurants?
Katy: Yes. That’s my goal. I have a few businesses right now interested; it’s just been a challenge to get my foot in the door. A lot of restaurant owners and bar owners are super busy, so it’s hard to–
Brendan: Find the time.
Katy: — get time from them to talk about it, yes. If anybody’s listening has any advice, shoot me an email.
Brendan: Yes. We’ll see if we can get somebody who owns a restaurant. We had a restaurant owner who was, I think he oversees about a dozen restaurants, maybe I’ll reach out to him on your behalf and see if he has any suggestions for you.
Katy: Okay, awesome.
Brendan: Yes. See if we can get you a little help there.
Katy: Yes, great. Speaking of help, I’ve had a lot of help in the beginning with these downtown Eau Claire inc and I’ve also reached out to the Small Business Development Centre here in town, and I think they have them in every town. If anybody wants to get help out there, that’s one great way to do it is to reach out to those local federally funded organizations to get some free tips. Yes, they all seem to be really willing to help.
Katy: Yes. Another great help was this coffee roaster I happened to move my shop into this old building that has that commercial kitchen in it, and right down the hall is a coffee roaster, and I did not plan it that way it just happened to be that way. He’s been an awesome help getting started and getting me the best coffee possible to make my cold brew.
Brendan: Nice, so you’re able to work probably directly with this coffee roaster to find the right roast and the right beans that you enjoy for producing your cold brew I imagine.
Katy: Yes, exactly.
Brendan: You can’t go wrong there.
Katy: Yes, definitely.
Brendan: Nice. All right Katie. Well, there was one more note here that I see talking about Wisconsin beer and I actually love Leinenkugel’s thanks to my father who, before I was drinking age we were back visiting the family, and he took us all up to Chippewa Falls so he could go to the Leinenkugel’s brewery; and maybe that’s part of where I fell in love with craft beer just seeing that area and seeing that brewery, I thought it was really cool.
Katy: Yes. We went on a tour of the brewery a long time ago; I need to go again, and it is cool to have places like that so close and to see a product being made to me is more interesting and amazing. They have a new Lainey’s lodge up there too that’s really nice.
Brendan: Like a hotel where people can go and stay or?
Katy: No, it’s more like a restaurant.
Brendan: Oh, a restaurant? Okay.
Katy: Yes a kind of restaurant where you can get flights of different samples, and it’s all decked out and Midwestern not North kind of style.
Brendan: Uh-uh. Nice and then you guys also have new Glarus brewing company which is, I don’t know how far it is from you but, another great brewery from Wisconsin.
Katy: Yes. I like to experiment with all the different kinds they come out with. So far [unintelligible 00:25:01] like the Spotted Cow, a Moon Man, have you ever tried Moon Man?
Brendan: I think I’ve had Spotted– is that a stout the Spotted Cow?
Katy: I don’t really know actually.
Brendan: I don’t think I’ve had Moon Man.
Katy: I don’t think it is.
katy: No, because I don’t think it’s very dark.
Katy: But don’t quote me on that.
Brendan: Moon Man I’ve not had, I’ve not heard of that one–
Katy: It’s really different.
Brendan: — sounds interesting, though.
katy: It’s really different. I would suggest trying it at least once, but there’s some more festive ones too. Have you ever tried their Lambic?
Brendan: I don’t think so, there was a couple of beers that I tried that I was able to find out here on the West Coast but for the most part they’re hard to find.
Katy: Yes, I bet. Yes. There’s a couple of microbreweries here in town too that are making their way which is really fun to experiment with all the different taste that are out there.
Brendan:: Yes and that’s probably one area where you might be able to expand; I know we’ve had other clients and customers who provide their cold brew coffee to breweries when
the breweries are making a porter style or any sort of dark beer that coffee could play a part in.
Katy: Yes, there are some coffee beers around here. Another cool thing you should mention is the coffee roastery I work with; he is working with someone who is the owner of a distillery here in town, and he took some coffee beans and aged them in a whiskey barrel. Yes, then I recently got to eat one of the coffee beans that was roasted, they aged the coffee beans green in the whiskey barrel and then the roaster roasts them, and then they hope to make a cold brew out of it and see how that turns out.
Brendan: That would be cool to try.
Katy: Yes. Is there anybody out there trying that out have you heard?
Brendan: You know what I have, I’ve got some questions about barrel-aging coffee beans. I just don’t know that much about it. You said he was aging them green, huh?
Brendan: Do you know, putting you on the spot here a bit but, do you know anything behind the thought process of aging them in there while they’re green rather than roasting
them and then putting them in?
Katy: No, I really don’t know actually [inaudible 00:27:31] talk to the real story about that.
Brendan: Yes, that would be a very interesting topic because I know that we have had a few questions about that, I don’t specifically know anybody who’s doing it and then on the flip side of that, we’ve had a couple of clients who were saying that they’re dry hopping their coffee, so they’re making cold brew and then they’re adding hops into the cold brew to get either citrus notes or grassy tasting notes into the coffee which I thought was interesting.. I never imagined doing that, but a couple of people I’ve talked to said it’s turns out really cool so something else to look into.
Katy: Yes, that does sound interesting.
Brendan:: All right Katie, well I think we about covered everything I won’t take up too much more of your time but I would definitely like to see about getting you on a future episode to talk about shared kitchen space because I think that’s something that a lot of, especially the mobile shops out there could find benefit from. I know from a business standpoint it allows you to save some money and it allows the company that you’re renting space from to obviously make a couple of bucks as well, so definitely a good, I think that’s a good topic for a future show if you’d be willing to come back.
Katy: Yes, I’d love to come back.
Brendan: Awesome. Well–
Katy: It’s been fun.
Brendan: Yes, that about does it so pumpkin spice nitro coffee, you say that’s to go and it’s probably something most people serving nitro coffee should try doing huh?
Katy: I would suggest trying it, yes.
Brendan: All right, you heard it here folks. Yes, Katie says it’s festive and fun. Make it happen.
Brendan: All right, Katie. Well, thanks again for joining me today and hope to have you on again in the future.
Katy: All right, thanks.
Brendan: All right. Thanks again to Katie Stevens for joining me today. Hopefully, we got all your wheels turning all you guys who are currently producing nitro coffee. Hopefully, you’re thinking about all the fun you can have these holidays, and whether it be a pumpkin spice nitro coffee, or maybe a peppermint nitro coffee, or heck, maybe you like Thanksgiving a lot and you’re going to do that cranberry nitro coffee. Whatever it is, let us know we’d love to hear about it. Just a reminder if you want to learn more about N7 Café, you can find Katie, she’s very active on social media, N7 Café on Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook; or you can look them up online on www.n7Café.com. Not to put too much of a date or time stamp on this episode, but next Monday’s Halloween so hope all you guys have a safe and happy Halloween. We will see you again next Friday on the Drips and Drafts–
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