In this weeks episode, we talk with Matt Johnson from Trident Coffee in San Diego, CA about the importance of cleaning and sanitization when it comes to cold brewing. We discuss how proper cleaning & sanitization is one of the key elements in cold brew consistency.
Highlights & Takeaways
Well taken care of stainless steel can last a lifetime.
Stay away from chlorine or chloride based cleaners when working with stainless steel.
Three main types of cleaners: Caustic based cleaners, acid based cleaners, iodophor based cleaners.
Know when to use caustics and acids, but be mindful of the manufacturers recommended usage instructions and always take the proper safety precautions.
About 70% of the day-to-day operations for Trident Coffee is cleaning their equipment and systems.
Episode 12 Transcript
Brendan: Hey there and welcome to Episode 12 of the Drips & Draughts podcast. For show notes for this episode, you can go to dripsanddraughts.com/12. In episode 10 of the podcast I was joined by Eric Johnson from Trident coffee in San Diego California. Today I’m joined by his brother and business partner, Matt Johnson.
Matt and I discuss the importance of cleaning and sanitization when it comes to brewing cold brew coffee or when preparing any food or craft beverage for that matter. Matt and the guys at Trident have a pretty solid cleaning practice between batches of coffee. We thought it would be good to have them on and discuss some of the methods they use in cleaning their cold brew equipment and not only the methods but more importantly some of the thought processes behind it.
In talking with Matt it becomes very obvious that cleanliness is one of the key elements in consistency between batches of cold brew, which makes perfect sense because if you start a new batch of cold brew and you’ve still got residue coffee oils, coffee residues, from the prior batch you’re not going to get the same tastes and flavors that your previous batch had.
Before we get into this episode, I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to ask you next time you’re on your computer hop on iTunes, find our show and click to give us a rating or review or maybe next time you’re bored and you find yourself flipping through Instagram or playing some Angry Birds or whatever game people are playing now hop on to the podcast app find our show in there and you can leave the review just as easily on your iPhone. We’ll keep the requests for reviews short today because we got one since last week. Yep one. You know who you are…. thank you.
Alright it’s time to put the guilt trip’n our listeners on hold and get into this week’s episode with Matt Johnson from Trident Coffee.
Alright welcome back to the Drips & Draughts podcast as always I’m Brendan Hansen and today we’re joined by another member of Trident coffee, Matt Johnson, Eric’s brother Eric who was on the show a couple weeks ago. Matt’s here today to talk about the cleaning and sanitation process of cold brew systems and cold brew equipment and I guess kitchen in general Matt right you’re a onetime chef or longtime chef?
Matt: Yes that’s right I’ve been in the industry for about 16 years.
Brendan: Would you mind giving us a little bit of a background on yourself, your history, where you came from and how you got into coffee?
Matt: Yes sure. I grew up here in San Diego this definitely was my home. Definitely had a passion for the ocean and loved working with cooking and working with food and got my start pretty young. I started when I was about 16 doing an internship at a French restaurant here and uptown a Bankers Hill area of San Diego. Went through the School of Hard Knocks if you will and really was looking at Corner school had a few really good talented chefs that pulled me aside and actually talked me out of it and I followed them for a few years. One of them actually was another San Diego native Carl Schroeder from La Jolla area and he’s got quite a few restaurants here in San Diego that are the place to be. There’s a super high end fine dining. He owns Market in Del Mar area Rancho Santa Fe and has a few others.
Brendan: Nice high end restaurants huh?
Matt: That’s where I got my start. I was pretty fortunate I had a family member that was doing the books for [unintelligible 00:04:35] and he owns Mille Fluers which is a French restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe as well as he took over Mr. A’s which was owned by the Alicio family and he renamed it [unintelligible 00:04:45]. I was able to have a little to no experience or no respect but had to go in there and kind of prove myself and do whatever the lowdown dirty job they asked me to do.
Brendan: That sounds like the brewing industry. I hear a lot of a brewery starting out at the bottom just doing janitorial type stuff and eventually one day becoming a head brewer at a new brewery so that’s kind of cool.
Matt: I think that’s if you really want something I think you’ve got to be able to kind of go into the industry at the ground level and work your way up. I saw that coming through a lot of people that would graduate as like a chef from a culinary institute and just come out and they go “Okay, I want to be a chef” and it’s like you haven’t really got out into the kitchen and see how it really goes and flows-
Brendan: You got to earn it.
Matt: You’ve got to earn it.
Brendan: Makes sense. Maybe talk about your side and what got you going on starting a business with your brother. We heard Eric’s side always different stories or different things that inspire people. If you don’t mind maybe just sharing your side of the story a little bit and then we can start diving into the cleaning aspect of the cold brew and coffee.
Matt: For me especially if you’re — I used to have a lot of people come over to the house and if you had ever opened up my refrigerator you always see at least two things and may not always be the best beer but with San Diego we used to always have a lot of craft beer and also some really healthy kombuchas and brewing cold brew at the house. Me and my brother we’re both pretty active and like the lifestyle of working hard and wanting to be our own bosses and definitely bring that different side.
We have a third partner Keegan who is our chief operations manager. He as well it’s just how that really kind of drive that passion to really want to get out there and do something on our own and innovate the market as opposed to imitate something that’s already been done. For me is like working on with my brother is… you can’t ask for anything better for as different people as we are we bring a lot of different sides to the table and I think that actually is going to you know help us in the long run.
Brendan: It’s definitely motivating working with family I can tell you that much.
Let’s get into the cleaning process. I know somebody who just sees the title of this podcast cleaning and sanitizing whatever the title ends up being is probably not going to be too excited about it but it’s definitely one of the most important processes in both brewing beer, making coffee.
Basically any craft beverage you’re trying to make cleaning and sanitizing is a process that’s going to definitely affect the outcome of the final product. So would you mind giving us a high level overview of maybe your thoughts on the process and then we can jump into you know some of the finer points.
Matt: I think you hit the nail right on the head. It’s definitely not though the funniest part of the industry but it’s definitely a crucial one. About 70% of our day to day is cleaning and making sure that all of our equipment is being respected and being taken back to it’s — we almost wanted to be the brand new(est) state that we can. There’s no remnants of the other batch brewed before everything has been sterilized, sanitized and is clean and ready to go for the next batch when you’re dealing with it for not only health reasons but for consistency and quality control reasons as well.
A lot of my friends were brewers were doing quite a bit of homebrew as well and same thing in that kind of process regard and I don’t even have I mean the kitchen goes without saying when you’re dealing with raw meats and different things that can spoil you don’t want to run the risk anybody getting sick.
Brendan: Absolutely. You say it’s about 70% of your process has cleaning the equipment.
Matt: Brewing is actually easiest part. The cleaning and sanitation and because for us we’re dealing with our bottles making sure that they’re stored properly and then we’re obviously making sure that our kegs are cleaned all the way out and sanitized. There’s different types of cleaners and there’s different ways especially if you’re dealing with a draft system. You’re dealing with the lines, the shanks, the faucets, the kegs.
Even just you’re the — we actually use brewing machines with a stainless steel mesh and we love them. They’re actually my favorite piece of equipment to brew with but making sure that we take care of them and that they’re good to go for us for the next batch.
Brendan: That’s one of the reasons we wanted to get you on this podcast again was when Eric was here we talked to him a little bit about the process and I think it was a few days before Eric was here we had one of those mash baskets sent back to us. I pulled it out of the box and it was literally caked brown with coffee oils. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that somebody was actually still using it. I pulled out a bunch of cleaners; I soaked it in a bucket overnight and got it pretty much back to new.
Matt: We’ve actually noticed that too. Being that it [the cold brew system] is stainless steel if it does kind of go a little bit without cleaning you can still bring it back to life which it sounds like you were able to do with the one that was sent back to you.
Brendan: Stainless steel is definitely a durable product as long as you’re not using the wrong compounds on it. It’s definitely going to last. It is nice that you know even if you disrespect it a bit you can still bring it back and get solid life out of it.
Brendan: What are some of the processes let’s maybe start with the cold brew system, the stainless steel vat with the mash basket. What are some of your process is after you guys brew? Take us through what you guys do to get that thing back to new for the next process.
Matt: After we let our brew process, we save all of our coffee grounds and we make sure that we can you know donate them to you know some local farmers as compost but once you get, you can use basic water to get the residual coffee grounds out of your stainless steel, out of the mesh. After that well usually we’ll let it soak in a caustic or a sanitizer cleaner and for whatever cleaner that you’re using, there’s directions. I mean for us I’ve seen literally over thirty different types of sanitizers, cleaners.
Brendan: There’s a ton of them.
Matt: That’s the ones that I’ve seen I’m sure there’s probably another 50 that I haven’t seen so whichever one that you’re comfortable with or that you’re using, follow directions. One thing I have noticed is time or temperature is really not going to affect it doing it any quicker. Because it says I’m using hot water and instead of staying for fifteen minutes, I’m going to let it sit for five. That’s not really the case.
Whatever it says to do, do that let it sit let it soak and then go from that process to — we have actually what we found to be what I prefer to use as a pressure washer. Not only does it help us cut back on water but it gives us that high pressure to really make sure that we’re getting the residual sanitizer out of the mesh but then it’s also really getting any of those oils from the coffee out of the mash and then let it air dry and that seems to be the process as well as to taking out the actual kettle itself and blasting it as well. That seems to be the best process that we’ve come up with.
Brendan: Interesting. You basically let the baskets sit in some sort of caustic rinse for a period of time?
Matt: Correct there’s a caustic or there’s also the two there’s different other sanitizers or acid cleaners but I let it sit right there in the actual stainless steel kettle. It’s doing two birds with one stone it’s sanitizing the kettle, it’s sanitizing the five gallon or the actual or the stainless steel mesh as well and I’ll actually open up the valve and let some of that caustic cleaner go down through the actual out valve the drain valve as well make sure that it’s all cleaned out.
Brendan: That’s a good idea and that’s often overlooked by a lot of people because there is a ball valve in there that will hold some coffee residual coffee so you definitely want to get the cleaner through there and then finally some water through there as well.
Because we’re talking about cleaners and caustics, a couple that we use and I’ve used these in the brewing world for home brewing for quite some time is PBW. Its Powder Brewery Wash and another one’s Brew Clean and they’re both basically just like caustics they’re not maybe restaurant or commercial grade.
I have used them barehanded but they do dry your hands out. They are the type of cleaners that you would want to wear rubber gloves with.
Matt: We’ve used powders; we’ve used the liquid ones as well. We find both work just equally as well but for anybody who’s out there that don’t treat the stuff lightly. Some stuff can be irritant to your skin but wear goggles you don’t want that stuff in your eyes and a lot of times you’re picking something up if it slips and drops hits the ground it splashes right up you don’t want that stuff.
Brendan: Right you definitely need to be careful around it but at the same time it will extend the life of your equipment and like you mentioned earlier will help you with more consistent batches.
Matt: That’s what we feel it’s about is quality control and consistency so my philosophy is the same thing coming over from working with friends in breweries and working with –16 years of being in the restaurant was treat every customer that’s coming through as if they’ve never had it before and then obviously respecting your returning customers that they’re going to you know remember it is just as good, just the way they remember it the time before so sanitation, quality control is pretty much number on my book.
Brendan: That’s the Michael Jordan philosophy where he was sick with a flu one game and Phil Jackson asked him, “Why are you going out there tonight? And his response was, “There might be some kid in the stands who has never see me play in person I’ve got to go out and give my best every single time.” It’s good to hear that people are doing that in the restaurant and cold brew business as well.
Matt: I think you have to for me this has been a passion of mine for long as I can remember I think. Loving what I do and wanting to bring that kind of sense of just, yeah…. Whatever you’re doing, you know enjoy it and whatever you can actually do to make something better do it and the thing with the cold brew is definitely something that — for me I drink it every day. I’ve always explored my palate on different flavors and different other companies that have similar products I’m always trying theirs and it’s actually currently the only way I prefer to drink coffee. I’ve pretty much given up on all hot coffee espresso. I’m getting spoiled.
Brendan: You never heat your cold brew up and drink it that way it’s always cold now?
Matt: Actually I did recently I was on — we were getting up to really early to go fishing and kind of time was a kind of a factor. I was like you know what I was going to crack open a bottle of the cold brew and heat it up and actually it was awesome, it was delicious. I actually had that hot but I guess I’ve never always been a fan of black coffee. Maybe probably because of the acid and the bitterness so that was what kind of turned me over to cold brew. I think at the start of it and that’s kind of why it’s been my number one drink of choice for me personally.
Brendan: I feel the same way, it’s an entirely different drink.
Matt: It really is it’s the funniest thing is being, you know just kind of being out there and it’s great working side by side with my brother and my other partners and friends but just seeing how so regimented people are on how they drink coffee and at the end they really differ from and even just to just there their understanding of what is cold brew? It’s iced coffee or you can’t have it hot but once you actually pour them a sample and getting that.
That’s why I would be personally I love the idea of the craft of the coffee is bringing, expanding people’s tastes and experiences and having them try something that they wouldn’t normally have and whether they like it or they don’t like it or they still prefer their caramel macchiato auto in the morning and teach us on it’s just kind of getting out there and exploring why it’s got such a different — for me especially just a health risks of higher pH and a less bitter taste.
Brendan: Yes it’s funny. I was talking with a client of ours today and he’s out in Florida and he said he did a free event where he was serving nitro coffee. He had a lady come up to him and insist that there was cream in the coffee because it’s was poured with nitrogen and he goes, “No ma’am you’re drinking black coffee that is 100% coffee and water.” She was not having it argued with him for like five minutes and I guess he finally convinced her and sounds like he has a fan for life now.
Matt: Yes that’s it especially when it comes out of there pours like a milk chocolate or pours like it has cream in a coffee and so for those I’m sure he was probably after that five minutes that coffee settled a little bit and goes you can prove and go see how that’s black and maybe that was what won her over.
Brendan: I’m sure you guys see that quite a bit because you guys distribute a little bit around San Diego don’t you?
Matt: Yes we’ve been distributing here in San Diego and growing I think at a rate that I’m happy with. At the same time getting it out there and as it gets a chance to –especially here in San Diego we just kind of went through a nicely heat wave where it got hot compared to other places I guess Arizona is 117 so I’m not complaining. Cold brew is definitely something that I was drinking quite a bit of it yesterday.
Brendan: I bet you I was I think it got up to 104 up here in Ventura County and I just wasn’t ready for it.
Matt: A little bit cool today it was nice.
Brendan: It definitely dropped. I was actually in San Diego over the weekend it was kind of warm got up to Ale Smith Brewing Company and spent a good part of the day there had some nice cloud cover. Got out of there before the heat came for sure though.
Matt: That was welcome to summer nice little heat wave.
Brendan: I know. Couple other notes I had here we talked about removing — basically getting the equipment back to its ready state, its first [new] state before starting another batch, just to help with the consistency and the flavor. One thing that you and I had talked about on the phone prior to this was, maybe brewing a batch of coffee that has some nut blended in like a macadamia nut, and the importance of removing that from all the equipment prior to brewing another batch. Think you could touch on that a little bit?
Matt: Yes for sure, that’s definitely a big growing thing up in just in anything, and especially when you’re dealing with food as allergies. People are so sensitive that yes if you’re using the same brewer out there to make maybe just a normal coffee batch, and then you want to get experimental and you’re making one with some macadamia nuts, or some sort of something that somebody might have an allergy to especially strong ones to things like nuts.
You got to really make sure that you’re taking any of those oils away, and then at the very least to that anything that if you’re selling it or doing things at farmers Market, so you’re letting people know that this is brewed in the same vessel that contains a macadamia nut, where you’re going to have that kind of cross contamination. I’ve seen people have allergies when things especially and a lot of times it comes from just wherever they’re at, maybe they ask, “Does this have shellfish in it?”, “Does this have garlic?” or “Does this have any nuts?”
They go, no it doesn’t have any nuts and not realizing when you serve somebody a chicken pesto with pine nuts, and then within a few minutes they’re having allergies. I’ve always trusted at every restaurant that if there as a chef is to know the product. We know we do little tests but it definitely carries over, and it’s definitely something that’s on the forefront as far as the cross contamination in the brewing system.
We’ve actually decided to go throughout that once we start doing those releases that we’re going to have dedicated and isolated brewing systems, for those limited release to reduce the risk. Separate equipment just for the reduced risk of anybody having a reaction to something that might be in there.
Brendan: Yes that’s interesting that’s what a lot of breweries do. I know Ballast Point for instance are opening up a new location in Long Beach, that’s where they’re going to do their sour beers. They have their big brewery in Miramar, but any sour beer that’s going to be brewed specifically in Long Beach. Firestone does the same thing, their main brewery is in Paso Robles, but in Buellton they’ve got their sour Barrel Works facility.
Matt: It’s not a bad idea, it’s really just it’s not a bad idea to just set yourself up that way and so that you’re just really reducing that risk. You just don’t want anybody to just run that risk of really getting sick or getting sent to the hospital.
Brendan: Yes, protect yourself and your customers for sure. Well Matt anything else, I’m sure there is a thousand other things we could talk about.
Matt: It’s [recording this podcast] definitely something that I’ve been looking forward to all week and yes I’m sure there is 20 other things we could talk about in the next hour or so. Just that definitely I look forward to ever if you’ll ever have a back on. Just I for me I’m just very excited about developing just the industry of craft coffee, and just seeing it not maybe just coffees but Kombucha and things alongside, draft beer when you go out and sit down on a restaurant.
For me for years I definitely enjoy my beer but I’m just not always like the day drinker, or if I got something to go on later on the evening and I’m sitting down and it’s twelve o’clock, I’m like I don’t necessarily want an IPA right now but they have like Kombucha or a coffee on nitro, I’m like yes let me have a glass of that. I’m just really excited for me it’s still in the industry I’ve got quite a bit of friends that are really in our corner, and have been really supportive.
Working on with my brother and working on with other business partner Keegan, I’m just been in the happiest spots that I’ve been in recent years, just working with really good people with good minds and good direction. It’s been a pleasure to be on the show with you.
Brendan: Absolutely and you’re keeping busy outside of Trident Coffee or coaching high school sports right?
Matt: Yes, I got a couple of little irons in the fire. Yes I’ve been coaching high school water polo for six years. It’s been a sport of mine that I really enjoy not only playing but being involved in the community, and I literally just got back right before this podcast. I was doing this fire camp down getting ready for the San Diego City Fire Department. Pretty growing PT day and very excited for the future on all different levels, and where everything is going.
Brendan: Nice congrats, you’re going to sleep well tonight it sounds like.
Matt: Most definitely will.
Brendan: Alright Matt, well I think that should wrap it up for today. Thanks for being on and I am sure we will have you guys on again soon.
Matt: Yes we look forward to being back. Like I said we really love Keg Outlet and the products you guys put out. Thank you for having us on as your guests.
Brendan: No problem, we’ll talk to you soon.
Matt: Alright thanks Brendan, good talking with you.
Brendan: Thanks to Matt and the guys that tried in coffee for carving some time out today. What you didn’t here is the 45 minutes leading up to the episode when we were having tech problems.
Before we wrap it up today, I just want to review a few of the cleaners that we recommend for stainless steel, for cleaning stainless steel. Firstly let me just say, make sure that you stay away from chlorine or chloride based cleaners when you’re working with stainless steel. Bleaches and chlorines are awful for stainless, they will remove the protective oxide layer and that will end up resulting in rust.
Stainless steel starts with a protective chromium oxide layer, and if the wrong chemicals are used for cleaning the stainless that protective layer can be compromised, and that results in rust. When you’re cleaning and sanitizing your stainless steel, there is basically three types of cleaners that you want to use. Now three types of cleaners and sanitizers, firstly you’ve got caustic cleaners. I think we mentioned a couple of those today, PBW, Blue Clean, Bar Keepers Friend and I’m sure there is many more on the market.
Next you’ve got acid based cleaners and sanitizers such as Star San, which we use for both sanitizing and passivating the stainless.
Then finally you’ve got Iodophors, these are pretty popular among home brewers. They’re usually made from a blend of iodine, phosphoric acids and alcohol. As we said there is a ton of different cleaners sanitizers out there, whatever you decide to use just make sure you’re following the directions on the label, and obviously take the proper safety precautions as well.
In addition to the cleaning and sanitizing agents, you can clean your stainless steel with some soap and water, and some good old fashion elbow grease. Scotch-brite pads were great sponges or if you’ve got a soft bristle brush, those were great as well. Make sure it’s a soft plastic bristle not a metal bristle. Definitely don’t use steel wool or any metal base scouring pads.
Alright I think that’s going to about do it for today. If you want to find any of these cleaners we’ll set up a link go to, dripsanddraughts.com/cleaners.
For the full show notes for this episode you can get those by going to, dripsanddraughts.com/12. Thanks for joining us today we’ll see you again next week on the Drips & Draughts Podcast.