True coffee aficionados know exactly what they like and they know where to get it. Whether they are quick to plunk down hard-earned cash for a frothy specialty latte or prefer a home brew, more than half the U.S. population admits they are hooked on caffeine.
Of course, most like it hot. But David W. Mendez, vice president of WB Law Coffee in Newark, says there is a cold reality in coffee’s future. And, by the way, the future is now. The family-run coffee bean roasting company is already riding the industry’s newest caffeine wave and it’s cool, smooth and creamy.
Some believe cold brew coffee is a fad, especially as the cool weather quickly approaches. Mendez and his father, owner of the company, say not so fast.
“How many food brands come and go? We are a company that’s been around for over 100 years; we don’t make decisions without facts,” he says. “One thing is for sure, if you start losing relevancy in the market, people will be quick to throw you out. We did our homework, and we know cold brew coffee is here to stay.”
Michele Siekerka, CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said there is no magic formula when it comes to when a business should jump on a trend. “With the advent of entrepreneurship and innovation, many people like being the first out on new products to have the benefit of the lead in market share.” She cautioned, however, that taking the significant risks truly must be measured against possible reward.
Not wanting to rest on its long history of simply being the name behind an excellent cup of regular morning joe, WB Law Coffee decided to take the plunge into the deep end of the cold brew pool. Mendez did the research and was mesmerized by the cold, hard green stats.
According to a Mintel report, cold brew coffee sales hit $7.9 million; that’s a 115 percent increase in sales between 2014 and 2015. In 2016, two of the country’s largest iced coffee retailers introduced a cold brew program. For Mendez, the risk is most definitely worth the potential reward.
Forget the Ice
Now, if you are thinking, “What’s the big deal about iced coffee,” you don’t understand the cold brew phenomenon.
First off, this is not your mama’s day-old-coffee-poured-over-ice. Cold brew coffee uses beans roasted and ground just right and then steeped in cold water — no hot water is ever involved — for at least 24 hours. The length of time allows the full coffee flavor to be extracted from the beans, creating a smoother taste after the grounds are strained out.
Mendez is quick to point out that franchises are selling what they call “cold brew,” but their java is not steeped long enough to bring out the true flavor.
“A lot of people are brewing it inconsistently,” explains Mendez. “There’s demand, so a lot of people are brewing it in the back of their shops. They don’t realize that the length of brew time matters. Twelve hours is just not long enough to brew it. But the public buys it and the places can’t keep up with demand. So, 12 hours has to be enough for them.”
When brewed correctly, Mendez said the drink offers 33 percent more caffeine and 66 percent less acidity than drip coffee, according to the company’s study with the Rutgers Food Innovation Laboratory. It’s described as having “creamy, chocolate notes with a velvety smooth finish.”
“We believe cold brew is poised to replace standardized iced coffee in the marketplace,” he said.
However, taking on cold brew wasn’t like flipping a switch for WB Law Coffee. The safety concerns were monumental, so the company took a crash course in brewing and distribution, and obtained a full understanding and respect for the stiff regulations involved in making, storing, and transporting cold fluids. The company retrofitted 1,000 square feet of its Newark facility for cold brew production and bought cold trucks so it could deliver it to customers.
“We make several thousand gallons of cold brew per day and we sell them in five gallon bag-in-box storage,” says Mendez, noting the company moved away from its original plan to store and sell in metal kegs for health and cleanliness reasons.
On the company’s website, lawcoffee.com, consumers can purchase four-ounce coffee filter packs that each yield 32 ounces of brewed coffee. (The packs looks like big tea bags and come with home-brewing directions.) Mendez said the company also expects to be selling three-liter RTD (ready to drink) bag-in-box cold brew in grocery stores and through online retailers by early 2018.
But wait, there’s more!
The company recently introduced its Ironbound Nitro Cold Brew, which is named after the Newark neighborhood and past local breweries in the area. By infusing the 24-hour cold brew with nitrogen (poured on tap!) Nitro Cold Brew is the creamiest, smoothest java around. Likened to a Guinness stout with a foamy head and thick, full-bodied finish, WB Law’s nitro brew is hard to pass up. (Plus, dieters rejoice! The exquisite rich texture allows consumers to use less milk and sweetener used generally to cut regular coffee’s bitter taste.)
The company sells its nitrogen infusion pump along with the cold brew coffee so restaurants can serve up the creamy goodness all day long. The pump can be installed in a draught setup or retrofitted into a kegerator, which is how Amy Russo Harrigan, owner of the three New Jersey-based Toast brunch eateries, serves it.
Mendez points out this new trend is designed to offset the slowdown of sales for traditional iced coffee in the winter months and continue to give caffeine fans their fix.
“Caffeine is the last legal drug; it’s everywhere. We are coffee culture and everyone is drinking it,” assured Russo Harrigan. “Toast is on a journey to bring an elevation to breakfast food so nitro cold brew is a natural fit for us. Customers just love it.”