The 2014 SCAA Event was like a festival of product launches, first looks, and new ideas in the world of tasty coffee. From the North American debut of sleek new espresso machines like the Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle and the Slayer One Group, to the batch brew sexiness of the Seraphim, Curtis’s under counter brewer, to the futuristic sous-vide technology BKON, to Todd Carmichael's dramatic competition unveiling of his new brew technology, The Dragon, there was certainly no shortage of new toys to gawk at this year in Seattle.
Yet one of the more interesting premieres was neither highly-anticipated nor an innovation in machinery: this year’s SCAA saw the surreptitious introduction of Coffer, the “world’s first naturally carbonated” cold brew coffee.
There must be something about the Texas heat that drives cold brew ingenuity. Based in Austin, the backyard of Cuvee Coffee Roasters and their nitrogenated Black & Blue cold brew, Coffer claims to be the first company to use a natural yeast and sugar based fermentation process to carbonate their brew. The three-person upstart company helmed by owner Kevin Chen spent the last six months furtively experimenting with different carbonation techniques in preparation for their debut. “I tried forced carbonation and I didn’t like the results. But then I experimented with this natural carbonation process and I was surprised by the complexity of flavor and delicate mouth feel,” Mr. Chen told me. The results are an effervescent cold brew reminiscent of a semi-sweet cola.
The attention to detail paid to Coffer’s coffee is present in their design, as well. Dreamed up by David Salinas, another third of the Coffer team, the scripts used in all the branding evoke the same feeling of old-world craftsmanship that the more traditional fermentation method and antique company name elicit. Coffer's name was chosen as a semi-portmanteau of “coffee” and “fermentation”, and they fully welcome the etymological confusion. In keeping with this old school ethos, Coffer will be sold strictly in bottles for the time being, with a possible expansion into growlers down the road.
Chen and crew tell me that the reception has been overwhelmingly positive across the board. Austin coffee community pillars like Lorenzo Perkins of Cuvee and Michael Vaclav of Caffe Medici have stopped in to pay their respects and see what has been brewing under their noses, and World Barista Championship Judge Dixon Ip visited the Coffer booth to share kind words about their product. “It’s surreal,” Mr. Chen told me. “It’s been humbling to be so well-received from the coffee community.”
The team behind the drink have largely been bowled over by the positive response, with Coffer almost instantaneously generating tons of buzz, both back home in Austin and on the show floor at SCAA. This wellspring of interest can't help but escalate expansion plans, and while much about the product is still top-secret–the coffee they're using, details of the fermentation process itself–Coffer is currently working out distribution, and it won't be long before the wider public gets their hands on it. Bottles will be released locally first in Austin coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores; Chen and Co. were coy, but national expansion plans are part of Coffer's long-term strategy.
Photos by Joanna Han for Sprudge.com.