Stumptown Cold-brew coffee
Stumptown Coffee Roasters recently was acquired by Peet's Coffee & Tea.

Cold brewed coffee on the rise

The use of cold-brewed coffee or cold-brewed coffee concentrate is an increasingly popular way of distinguishing a brand in the category of R.-T.-D. coffee. Also known as cold press, this type of coffee is brewed without heat for a long period of time.

Cold brewing, at a local, often artisan level, is paving the way for an entire new category within the R.-T.-D. coffee beverage segment. One example is the namesake signature drink from Mojo Cold Brewed Coffee Inc., Wenham, Mass.

“Mojo is brewed by steeping locally roasted fair-trade Arabica coffee beans in cold water overnight, for about 13 hours,” said Ann Brainard, owner. “This brewing process allows the water and the coffee grinds to ‘marry,’ culminating in a coffee extract that flaunts the full array of flavorful undertones within our beans.

“Many think we add chocolate to the recipe, but we don’t. They simply taste the chocolate undertones inherent in our beans. Others think we add whole milk or cream to our recipe because the taste is so rich and creamy, but again, we don’t.”

The hand-produced coffee extract liquid is made into Mojo by Puleo’s Dairy, Salem, Mass., which blends it with reduced-fat milk and some cane sugar. The dairy packages the perishable product in vintage quart bottles and distributes it to local specialty supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

Mojo’s cold-brewing process produces a smooth coffee extract that yields a coffee drink that is about two-thirds less acidic than coffee drinks made from traditional coffee ingredients, said Ms. Brainard.

“We’ve been told Mojo tastes like melted coffee ice cream,” she said. “But surprisingly, there’s only 110 calories per 8-oz serving.”

Ms. Brainard’s “magical recipe,” as she refers to it, is based on a recipe cultivated by her New Orleans restaurateur family.

Hi-Ball Cold Brew Coffee
Hiball Energy Coffee combines 100% Arabica organic fair-trade cold-brewed coffee with nonfat milk, organic fair-trade cane sugar, organic guarana, organic ginseng and B-vitamins.

“In New Orleans, cold brewing coffee is the norm,” she said. “When I moved to New England about 20 years ago, I thought everyone everywhere cold brewed their coffee. In New England, nobody knew what it meant and how much better it was as a brewing technique.”

Consumers in the Pacific Northwest think the cold brewing trend has legs. Since 2011, cold-brewed coffee has been a key beverage offering for Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Portland, Ore., which cold brews coffee beans for more than 12 hours, followed by a double filtration process to procure the end result: a complex, smooth and full-bodied brew with low-acid and a chocolate finish.

In early October, the company was acquired by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Emeryville, Calif. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed (Since 2012, Peet’s has been owned by Joh. A. Benckiser and, subject to regulatory approval, will become part of Jacobs Douwe Egbert — the combined Mondelez International and D.E. Master Blenders 1753 global coffee business.).

Stumptown sells its brew in 10.5-oz bottles through the refrigerated channel. It may be consumed as is, or with a touch of milk. The company also works with Sunshine Dairy Foods Inc., Portland, Ore., to produce a R.-T.-D. version blended with milk. The original variety has been in the market for about two years. It was joined earlier this year by a chocolate variety.

Formulated to be “light and sweet,” the R.-T.-D. coffee-milk comes in single-serve pints and multi-serve quarts, both gable-top cartons. Because of the per cent of coffee in the beverages, they are not considered flavored milk, according to federal regulations. The formulation and process allows for a 50-day refrigerated shelf life, which enables the product to be distributed from coast to coast.

“Cold-brew coffee simply tastes better than traditional iced coffees and other shelf-stable R.-T.-D. coffee drinks in the marketplace due to its unique preparation,” said Diane Aylsworth, director of Cold Brew at Stumptown.

Mintel research concurs. The popularity of cold-brewed coffee in the United States has exploded in the past year. Retail sales of cold brew reflect its expanding role in the coffee category with estimated 115% growth from the year prior, reaching $7.9 million in sales. However, cold brewed products remain a small part of the overall R.-T.-D. coffee segment, making up just 0.4% of estimated sales in 2015.

Overall, 24% of consumers currently drink retail-purchased cold-brewed coffee, said Ms. Sisel. Of the 24%, older millennials, those age 29 to 38 (55%), and men (30% compared to just 18% of women) stand out as groups most likely to be drinking cold-brew-based R.-T.-D. coffee. But it’s not a beverage for everyone.

While cold brewing promotes a smoother, less acidic taste and a naturally sweeter flavor, Mintel research shows that the majority of consumers who have tried, but do not like cold brew say it is because of the taste (48%). The higher price point is a detractor for a mere 9% of cold-brew drinkers.