Today, we’re joined by Eric Johnson from Trident Coffee in San Diego. Prior to the show, we sampled about 8-10 different cold brews with Eric, so if we’re talking fast… that’s why. Eric stopped by the “studio” to catch up since his last visit when he joined us on Episode 10 where we talked about the importance of branding and some of the health benefits of cold brew. Then, Eric’s brother Matt joined us in Episode 12 to talk about the not-sexy, but very important topic of cleaning and sanitation and the importance of it.
We also select a new winner for the All-In-One Countertop Nitro Coffee Fridge… we’re really hoping that we get to give this away this time! We read discuss the new Dictionary.com definition of ‘cold brew‘.
Trident is planning to open up their cafe in mid-June to start serving on draft. In the meantime, make sure to check them out online at TridentCoffee.com
Highlights & Takeaways
Trident Coffee is canning and distributing nitro coffee with the help of a mobile canner and a nitrogen doser
The variety of cold brews that can be produced from different origins and micro lots
Trident has done over 400 R&D batches for rapid prototyping & testing
Episode 54 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Hey there. You’re listening to the Drips & Draughts Podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson and I’ll be your host today. We’ve got a great episode on tap today as we’re joined by Eric Johnson from Trident Coffee out of San Diego, California. If you’re new to the show, Eric joined us back on episode 10 where we talked about the health benefits of cold brew as well as the importance of branding.
Let me say, Trident Coffee does a great job with branding their product and keeping that branding consistent across the board. If you’d like to check out that episode you can do so by going to dripsanddraughts.com/10. Following that episode we were joined by Eric’s brother Matt for episode 12 were we talked about the importance of proper care and cleaning of your cold brew system.
Not the most sexy topic by any means, but by far one of the most important topics if you’re looking to make a consistent product. If you want to check out that episode you can do so by going to dripsanddraughts.com/12.
All right. Lastly before we get in to today’s episode, two weeks ago we selected a winner for an all-in-one counter top nitro coffee fridge. That winner turned out to be a little bit skeptical and didn’t believe that we’re actually giving this fridge away. We’re going to be picking a new winner today. Stay tuned for that announcement. We’re going to be throwing it in either in the middle of the show or at the end, you just never know with us.
All right. that’s going to do it for our intro here. Let’s get in to today’s episode with Eric Johnson from Trident Coffee.
Announcer: Are you looking to get started with serving your favorite craft beverage on draught? kegoutlet.com has you covered for all of your draught beverage needs. From complete kegerators to individual parts for upgrades and replacements. Keg Outlet will help get you pouring your craft beverage on draught. To learn more visit kegoutlet.com.
Brendan: All right. Welcome back. We’re on the studio today with Cary and joined by Eric Johnson from Trident Coffee. How you doing, Eric?
Eric Johnson: Doing very well. How you guys doing?
Cary: Good. Welcome back. [coughs]
Brendan: Yes. You are our first in-studio guest here in the studio. [laughs] Back in June, so it’s been a while you’re on episode 10. This whole probably be released as episode– I don’t know, 45, 46, 47.
Cary: That’s right. I was just sitting in the corner because we didn’t have an extra mic at the time.
Brendan: Yes. Eric was sitting on a step ladder.
Cary: [laughs] I didn’t get to participate. That’s right. No office furniture.
Eric: Look how we’ve grown.
Cary: Yes. [laughs]
Brendan: Yes. It’s a–
Cary: We have a chair.
Brendan: We’ve got a chair. Your own a mic. We’ve got a couple of mics. What have you guys been up to since we talked? I know we just caught up before the show but maybe tell the listeners where you guys have been.
Eric: Yes, it’s been a nice journey. We’ve expanded and tried to really vertically and horizontally integrate as much as we can of the process that we do for cold brew. Now we’re roasting, we’re brewing everything ourselves, we’re taking every step of the way and really trying to master as best as we can. That way we will have the control over the whole process and that’s we want to do for a quality insurance piece of it.
Our stance is that every time somebody opens a Trident can is the first time they’ve had it. It has to be great and has to be repeatable. If they have it the tenth, the twentieth, hundredth time down the line it’s still going to be great. We’re taking a lot of pride and effort into that to making sure that we get everything lock step and repeatable.
Brendan: Nice. I mentioned before I saw some pictures on Instagram. I think you guys were down in Brazil sourcing.
Eric: Yes, very fortunate enough to head down to Brazil over my break between grad school. I had about a month off– went down to Brazil through a connection and went to a farm that was not on harvest, but I got to see the whole operation. It was great. Trying to chat with them and figure out how they do business. It’s going to be great opportunity for us to have a direct relationship with a large importer, exporter.
Then that way we can keep quality down the line for us to be very repeatable because it’s coming from the same farm year in, year out. We’re very excited about that relationship.
Cary: Yes. Awesome.
Brendan: No kidding. You guys are doing roasting now. You mentioned you are possibly getting keys to your own space tomorrow?
Eric: Yes. Yes. We’ve been in the long process of identifying and building the space out how we wanted it to be. Getting the keys tomorrow being be able to– we’ve pushed some of our equipment [laughs] procurements down the line. Our roaster is coming in at the end of next month and a bunch of other equipment coming in February March timeline. Hopefully to be open by April, May right before summer hits off and we’ll have all of our three businesses in there. Between like a cafe, tasting room roastery and our cold brew production out of one spot.
Brendan: Any plans for a number of cold brews on tap, or nitros on tap?
Eric: We have a great idea of eight to 12 to start out with. We’ve been doing a lot of R&D. I think we’re up to batch 400 on R&D between different beans, different roast levels, to
try to find very unique coffees to bring to the table. As we did a taste testing before– the variety that you can get out of cold brew and without adding anything to it. It’s really unique thing where coffee A to coffee B to coffee C, is going to taste completely different. Have a different mouth feel and provide a different experience.
That’s what we’re really trying to shoot for with that eight to 12. Then having it– being able to expand and do seasonal and things like that because coffee is a seasonal crop. You can get some really cool micro-lots in and do some really unique stuff like 10 bags of coffee. Then offer that until it’s gone.
Brendan: You guys have definitely done your research. We tested eight different cold brews here, and not just saying that because you’re here, yours is a top two for sure. Great tasting coffee.
Eric: We appreciate that. Again, trying to talk to the actual consumer, the people who are drinking coffee day in and day out. A lot of it was adding milk, cream and sugar to stomach the coffee. That was a pain point for us, it’s like, “Black coffee should be enjoyed.” With our blend, it’s very much a nice chocolate caramel flavor that nine out of 10 people are going to love.
That’s what we want to hit as our signature product. Then that gives us a freedom to really expand on the line to come up with some really cool unique coffees that people are going to enjoy down the line. That had to be our signature product and take it to the masses.
Brendan: You mentioned you’ve done about 400 R&D batches?
Brendan: What size are those batches? Are you talking a gallon– a couple of gallons?
Eric: No, even smaller than that. Just for tasting. We pretty much do 32 ounces at a time. It’s a kind of you can do several a day in our little cold brew makers. It allows us to just do rapid prototyping in a rapid testing, get to one and like, “Okay, we like this. Let’s work on that.” Or, “No, this is an abomination, let’s abort at all cost and try something else.”
It’s the nice thing about our process, it doesn’t take three to four weeks like beer does to get the feedback. You get an instant feedback and can really try to dial in where you want to go with that coffee.
Brendan: Nice. Jumping back to your guys’ coffee on tap stuff. Like you’re talking about eight to 12, are you going to have the same coffee on flat and nitro? Is it going to be what you guys decide is best on nitro or best flat?
Eric: I think it’s obviously, with the nitro appeal is that that creamy buttery texture. If we find a coffee that is more beneficial with that mouth feel, then we’ll go that route. The mix is everything is going to be served off the nitro service system, but then we’ll just dial the PSI as needed. Some will come out a little bit more flat.
Most of the time we really feel that why people are gravitating towards cold brew and especially nitro cold brews is that they get the same experience of adding milk, cream and sugar without actually having it.
It makes it more palatable and it rushes the coffee into your bloodstream a little bit faster. To get that extra little bit of caffeine kick, it’s been great.
Brendan: You’ll pretty much have eight to 12 just out faucets, no?
Eric: Yes. Well, probably the few where we can do some teasers on a line. We have some ideas for some kombuchas and things like that. We’ll do small scale in-house, but for the most part, yes. A lot of this would be nitro styles and probably a couple of other of just the standard CO2 dispenser to just do teas and everything else.
Brendan: Awesome. We did some cold brew tea and we’re pleasantly surprised. We’ll be doing a lot more of that.
Cary: We served it flat and nitro– just both ways was just awesome.
Eric: Yes, and that’s a cool thing for us to where it allows us to be unique. We have a couple of great ideas for some teas that we’re R&D’ing right now to pick apart. That’ll be fun in having that available to our consumers down at the tasting room.
Brendan: Is it just the three of you who do the voting to see what continues on? Do you get some outside input?
Eric: We bring some friends in and get feedback. We arrange for people who love coffee and for people who don’t like coffee and that gives the range and the spectrum of that. Everyone I’ve talked to has always willing to raise their hand to be the tasters, and the samples, the guinea pigs. That has allowed to gather a lot of data and analytics on what direction to go with.
Brendan: As far as production goes, how much are you guys currently producing? Weekly, monthly, daily?
Eric: Right now, we’re getting set up to move upscale. I think we do about 100 gallons a week right now to keep up with our current production so not too terribly big. When we upscale, we’ll be able to go to a couple of hundred each day. We’ll be still in that nice little small craft space where our goal is to be able to produce 2,000 barrels a year with our current setup.
Brendan: That’s awesome.
Cary: It’s a lot.
Brendan: How often are you guys currently brewing?
Cary: We’re about three to four times a week right now.
Brendan: Okay nice. Well, Cary mentioned we tried some of your coffee, mind telling us about the nitro cans? This is something we get asked all the time, is like “How do I get nitro coffee in a can?” You guys are doing it and it tastes amazing, so mind sharing some of that?
Eric: Yes. We are very fortunate, we’ve been in from San Diego– been around the craft brewery scene. Been able to make some really good connections down there and find a mobile canning team. That was willing to help us and walk us through the ropes on how to basically add nitrogen and dose it appropriately to where you don’t need the widget.
We tried every single way imaginable to try to get nitro because I love that experience and I think a lot of people do.
Any kind of way that any engineer would think of is that I have a problem, I need to find a solution for it and you’re going to do as many tests as needed to define the solution. The immediate solution was the mobile canning team to come in with a liquid nitrogen doser. That’s the kind of thing the way a lot of people have been able to gather or get nitro out of the cans is through that mechanism and that’s what worked great for us.
We’re going to continue to do it that way and not have to worry about adding a widget or buying widgets and have those on stock. It allows us to be very flexible. Allows us, our canning line to do multiple runs when we want to. Not have to be struck by having ordering 26,000 cans at a time. Allows us a lot of flexibility to do what we want to do.
Brendan: What kind of, just for the people wondering, what kind of run did you have to do in terms of number of cans?
Eric: The building up to that was pretty tricky. Again, we had a nice connection that the minimum they were really come up with was like a 10 barrel run. They were able to meet with larger breweries that were doing a minimum of 40 for their beers. When we approached them we caught some laughs and some jokes. Then we’re able to work through and create that relationship to where it allowed us to really get a small scale batch done using their equipment.
Brendan: Okay, and 10 barrels is about 300-330 gallons?
Brendan: Decent amount of coffee.
Eric: Yes. We’re running pretty much low on our first run and we’re getting our next wave of cans coming through. We can work with them and try to find the timeline to make that again, happen again.
Brendan: This is pretty cool, their can looks like it’s just painted blue but it’s actually shrink wrap design. They’re pre-printed and then they’re just heatseal on or something– ?
Eric: Yes. Working through we didn’t have the volume to do the painted cans. I think there’s like a twenty six thousand can order for the minimums. We went with the small scale and I think it was like a thirty three hundred minimum and that allows us again a lot.
We’re aiming for the flexibility to where we don’t have stuff that we don’t want or it’s not usable. Again, our goal is do the minimal viable product to test then do rapid prototyping, figure out what works and then basically get data and analytics because we didn’t have really the room to really mess up that big. We had to mess up small and continue to grow and figure things out and adapt and just be very very mobile, very agile.
Cary: I mean that’s the cold brew market right now. It’s still so new, it’s still so fresh that everybody’s kind of figuring it out as they go and yes. I mean look at all these different cold brews we tried. I’d say each one was entirely different than the previous that we tried.
Eric: I’d say that’s what’s fun about this community you guys have started you’re getting to reach out to industry experts of coffee craft beverages. Cold brew seems to be a huge topic and a huge conversation piece where you’re gathering all this industry knowledge and being able to pass it on. Where, a couple years ago, shoot a couple months ago wasn’t even available.
Again, I really respect what you guys are doing to help grow the community because again, you guys also saw in the craft beer industry. It only gets better when more people get involved and more people can bring the collective brainpower forward.
Brendan: I’m looking at all these cold brews here and I just see it mimicking beer and I see it going a lot more in that direction. I think in a year or two we’ll see all these cans or bottles saying this is Ethiopian. We kind of talked about it when we were tasting all these. We’ll probably see multiple cold brews from each manufacturer whether focusing on a different region or different blend.
Cary: Yes. Really outlying what’s in there.
Brendan: Yes. I got to say you guys again, with your branding is just awesome and on point. I was looking at your website. Your coffee bags for the coffee beans look incredible. You guys do an awesome job with all these stuff. Last time you were here, you brought some bottles. Totally impressive. Looks good.
Eric: Appreciated. It’s seen what the scene looks like for food and beverages. There’s just lot of competition. You just figure out ways to stand out and be a little bit different. Catch people’s eyes. You see a lot of stuff is very in my eyes, very brown, amber centric. The color brown visually to me is not that all that appealing, but it’s most associated with coffee.
Doing a little more psychological testing and evaluations. Blue and gold. They’re Navy colors. They are San Diego colors. It really hits our target audience, but it catches your eye. You get a nice kind of sheen to it. It’s just different. You don’t see very much stuff down that aisle that is in that color scheme.
Brendan: Well, cool. Let me ask you, where do you see cold brew going in the next year?
Eric: I think we talked about as we’re sampling is that the transparencies is going to come through. Where there’s going to be so much experimentation, so much innovation going on with blends– single-origin, things like that. You’re going to get great coffee coming out of it. People are going to recognize that.
The quality of the bean matters a lot to get the best flavor. You’re not going to be able to mass produce it to the point where you can grab any bean off the shelf, throw it in a cold brew and say, “This is just going to be good and drinkable.”
There are lot of the specialty guys are going to be coming through and being able to rise to the top because quality is going to shine. As we saw in the craft beer industry, you can make okay beer and you may not last that long. It’s the guys that are making phenomenal beer, knowing how to market it and knowing to get it out there– They’re the ones that survive out of the quality control aspect. How many– 260 craft breweries in San Diego.
We’re talking about how does the market grow and adapt. At some point, the quality guys are going to be able to stick around. People are going to want that drink– that beverage multiple times and continuously. Then you create that brand loyalty– create a lot of other stuff with it.
I think there’s going to be a nice explosion. It is a nice– I only drink pretty much cold brew anymore. Allows for my lifestyle, being outdoors, outside, on the go, mobile. Take a can and go anywhere. It’s ideal. That’s what the kind– We’ll see that evolution of going on.
There’s going to be lot of more cold brew coming out. There’s a lot more people experimenting with it. Roast levels, beans, you name it. It’s going to be very, very cool to see this growth and see who sticks around.
Brendan: I sent you that picture of our local Whole Foods are already– It’s a whole end cap on an aisle. Probably six–
Cary: 10 feet wide.
Brendan: Eight to 10 feet wide and as tall as they are. All different cold brews. Already. There’s just like “Geez, I can’t imagine what that looks like next year or just six months from now even.”
Eric: The way I think, I’ve seen is a lot of the people that have that shelf space are the food and beverage companies. The actual coffee roasters and the guys that are in the specialty coffee scene are a little bit slower to change because they’re so focused on the cafe or roasted coffee. They haven’t had the experience in the beverage industry– in package beverage industry. We’ll give them a few more months to kind of catch up. We’ll see a lot better quality products coming out there.
That’s where we want to be ahead of it to where we roast everything, we brew it in house. That’s kind of our mindset is that we want to get cold brew out there to as many people as we possibly can.
Brendan: I think we’ll see a lot cold breweries pop up. Just like San Diego– you said 260 breweries. I think we’ll start seeing a lot of just hyper local kind of roasters and cold brewers just serving their local markets. I think coffee is just such a widely consumed beverage. There’s no reason that somebody can’t pop up and sustain themselves in that kind of space or in that sense.
Eric: There’s cafes everywhere– just hot coffee everywhere. I think that’s definitely a market space that people would be able to tap in to.
Cary: I’m excited to see your guys new taproom to. That was something talked about when we first started doing this. Just like, “I can’t wait for those coffee taprooms to start
Eric: You guys have the invite for the grand opening.
Cary: We’ll be there.
Brendan: We’ll come down and do a live show. [laughs] A question that we ask quite a few of our guests is try to define cold brew. What do you think makes cold brew? I know that’s a kind of loaded question but–
Eric: Going back to it is that cold brew is just the process of taking ground coffee in water and letting it naturally extract at some point almost like a marination process. You can cover time, temperature– so many different factors that go into that cold brew process. In my eyes hopefully getting it down to where you can make black coffee palatable to the masses and not have to add any milk, cream or sugar.
Not add to the extra calories, the extra– all that extra stuff that people when they said they drink coffee they’re not drinking black coffee. For me cold brew is the next step forward in allowing people to enjoy coffee the way it should be. Not adding– not masking it and coffee in itself is so intricate, so many different dynamics. It is amazing what you can get out of it and what you can do to it to make it this like an ambrosia.
Is just the nectar of the gods, it’s so good when it’s done right. That’s why I hope cold brew goes to where people really focus on the craft of it.
Brendan: Okay. Then asking for another definition, what’s your idea of nitro coffee? One of these we tried we opened up and it definitely had nitrogen in the solution but it wasn’t like a cascading Guinness type or–
Cary: It was almost like it was under pressure for a couple of days and just had a little little zing on top, but not much more than that.
Eric: Yes. The title I see most is infused with nitrogen is what I see mostly on a lot of the cold brews or beers or whatever. Nitrogen cold brew for us is finding the right amount of dosage of the nitrogen to trap it in our can to allow the consumer to take it anywhere and serve it nice and ice cold. Give it a few shakes and pour it get that Guinness effect– that cascading effect.
There’s widgets, there’s the dosing, there’s a couple of other ways to do it but to me that’s it’s an enjoyable experience. it’s hard to hard to replicate unless you have the top draught systems and couple of things so getting it set up in a portable way is amazing. I love it.
Brendan: Yes, I agree. Yes. I think nitrogen dosing is going to be– it’s going to change the game I think for a lot of people. We get a lot of questions about how can I get nitro in a can and without the widget. That was the only way for a long time.
Cary: It was impossible, yes.
Brendan: All right. We’ve got a show pretty much wrapped up there.
Eric: We will have to show the aftermath of all the coffee.
Brendan: We’ll put a picture of this on the show.
Brendan: If people want to find you guys where can they go to do that?
Eric: The best place is just our website www.tridentcoffee.com and on Instagram they can follow us too at @tridentcoffee.
Brendan: You guys have recently started selling online, right?
Eric: Correct, yes. We have our roasted coffee and then we also have our cans available online. We are trying to set up a new thing coming up for subscription models here very soon. We’re working through the kinks of that and finding all the details and how to make that work.
Brendan: Cool, awesome. You guys ship nationwide I imagine?
Eric: Yes. We ship US priority just to get it to the consumer as fast as possible. Then we can ship anywhere from Maine to Hawaii at this point.
Brendan: That’s awesome. Well, cool Eric– thanks for coming in again. It’s great seeing you and thanks for just giving us our caffeine dose for the week.
Cary: No kidding. I’m not sleeping tonight.
Eric: No problem.
Announcer: If you’re looking to learn more about cold brew or draught coffee make sure you check out Keg Outlet’s ultimate guide to cold brew coffee and serving coffee on draught. Hey, don’t just take my word for it. Here’s Daniel Browning from the Browning beverage company in Marfa, Texas.
Daniel Browning: I got on the Internet and started looking around and I found Keg Outlet’s ultimate guide to cold brew coffee and read it couple more times than I’ve read anything in my life. That was pretty much all the research I needed.
Announcer: If you’re looking to start your journey with cold brew or draught coffee check out the ultimate guide to cold brew coffee and serving coffee on draught. A free 34 page eBook offered kegoutlet.com. You can get there through the drips and draughts web site by going to dripsanddrafts.com/ultimateguide.
Brendan: All right. Well, thanks to Johnson from Trident coffee for making the trip up here and joining us for this episode.
Cary: It was fun.
Brendan: Yes we were joking around during the episode that it would probably be a while before it aired where we were guessing like episode 45-ish and this is actually episode 54 so we’re little off– a couple month’s off there.
Cary: A little late.
Brendan: Still relevant stuff.
Brendan: Eric before the show he had brought up eight different cold brew coffees that he picked up at whole foods on the way.
Cary: Right, did we– I’m trying to remember the show now. It’s been so long.
Brendan: It was a while ago, but we tried and we sampled so many.
Cary: So many we were jittery after that show.
Brendan: In case you’re wondering why this outro is recorded so long after it’s because we were giving away a nitro coffee kegerator, an all in one unit. We picked a winner on our anniversary episode and that winner decided that.
Cary: They didn’t trust us apparently.
Brendan: Yes he was pretty skeptical because the only contingency is you got to pay for shipping. We’re giving you this kegerator you pay for shipping and yes. He was skeptical and didn’t follow up with us after–
Cary: Shipping was going to be like 60 bucks.
Brendan: It was going to be like 73 because–
Cary: It’s a big box.
Brendan: It shows he didn’t want it. What we are doing is we reopened the competition and we have our original list of email subscribers that we are picking from and we also extended it to our Instagram followers. If you subscribed and you follow us on Instagram, you got double the chance.
Cary: Double whammy.
Brendan: Yes, before we do that, little piece of news here apparently dictionary.com has just add the term cold brew to a list of words. It’s now apparently a new word.
Cary: An official word right.
Brendan: Figure we should read this definition since this is what it is– we talk about this all the time on the show anyways. It’s a noun. Number one the process of steeping coffee grounds or tea leaves in room temperature or cold water for many hours producing a constant rate to which more water may be added. Second definition is a cold coffee or tea drink made by this process. Good enough definition?
Cary: I can’t really argue that, you don’t have to make a concentrate. I’d say that’s a little subjective there, but other than that I agree with it.
Brendan: Pretty much I think that’s more or less what we typically hone in on when we ask people– when we try to define it ourselves on the show. They give it a historical example just how to use this in a sentence. We’ll give that to you as well because this is funny, it says Briggs drank deeply of the cold brew and then dried his beard with a handkerchief of purple silk.
Brendan: I don’t see that happening too frequently in today’s day and age but–
Cary: Silk handkerchief.
Brendan: Yes, there it is the definition of cold brew and the moment you have all been waiting for, the selection of–
Cary: The drum roll going again.
Brendan: Get the drum roll going for the winner of the nitro coffee kegerator. We’re going to pick two random numbers, the first will be the email list or Instagram followers.
Cary: To determine which list you come from?
Brendan: It will be on or two. Yes, one will be the email list, two will be Instagram followers and then we will plug in some numbers to select out of that list of whether it’s email or Instagram.
Cary: Roll the dice.
Brendan: Do this Google random number generator– generate this number and it’s two.
Cary: Number two Instagram?
Brendan: Instagram, let’s plug this in here. We have 298 Instagram followers, so still very good chances.
Cary: Yes, that was about what the other submissions were.
Brendan: I think we are just over 300. You guys are lucky that we don’t have thousands of followers, small community on Instagram. All right between one and 298, we’ve got
Brendan: Next, open up this spread sheet.
Cary: Just a list of everyone.
Brendan: Yes that was a mess trying to pull those in from Instagram into a spreadsheet but let’s scroll down here, we got– Oceana coffee, at least it’s a coffee person.
Brendan: Maybe we’ll have more luck with it this time.
Brendan: Alright Oceana coffee, reach out to use or we’ll reach out to you within the next week. Hopefully we can get this kegerator sent out or given away. Gosh if they don’t
Cary: They just got to fork out the shipping cost.
Brendan: Yes, if they don’t accept it I don’t know what we will do.
Cary: We will just say, the first person who drives to our office and pick it up.
Brendan: Get in your cars now.
Cary: We will let you know when that happens.
Brendan: All right, that’s it for this episode. If you are looking for links or show notes you can find those by going to dripsanddraughts.com/54. All right, that’s it for today we will see you again next week on another episode of the Drips & Draughts.