You may have noticed recently that we have been promoting our new line of flash chilled coffees and have been thinking, “whoa, that looks delicious and I really want one. But, what on earth is flash chilled coffee anyway?” Don’t feel bad, this is a pretty common question in a world ruled by Cold Brew and Cold Brew Nitro. Our process is unique (we believe it to be the best) and we would love to give you better insight into how we are able to create such tasty beverages.
Our goal with canned iced coffee is to pull out as much sweetness and fruit character as possible without harsh, bitter, and oft-carbonic qualities of a darker roast. We begin by sourcing coffees with this particular use in mind. This means we take two coffees selected to create a balanced blend with a baseline sweetness of chocolate or caramel and pair it with a fruitier counterpart exhibiting stone fruit, cherry or strawberry tasting notes. We believe that this balance creates the perfect first sip experience.
Next we mill the coffee to a precise grind size in large quantities, around 200 pounds at a time. The size and uniformity of ground coffee particles is important for brewing coffee for a number of reasons but most importantly they affect how water flows through the coffee bed. Grinding reduces the size of the coffee bean by breaking it apart. This can happen in a number of ways, all of which contribute to large and small particles. Our goal as brewers is to ensure we account for the ways in which different particle sizes affect our extraction.
Up until this point, much of our process is not any different than how you might prepare your morning coffee, using your fancy Fellow Grinder to get the perfect grind size for your home Bona Vita brewer - we are simply doing this on a much larger scale. After Milling, we add ground coffee to the Steep Tank where it's mixed with hot water. Here we ensure that water quality and brewing temperatures are closely monitored to guarantee the best extraction possible. Our water filtration system supplies water that's ideal for brewing our coffees while the heating system gives us control over brewing temperatures. A mechanical rake inside the tank allows us to mix and agitate the coffee bed as needed.
In-line components like filters and processing pumps promote flow efficiencies - these are important factors to consider because they affect how evenly coffee particles are extracted. From the Steep Tank, our coffee is transferred to the Whirl Pool - a large sloped floor vessel used to mix and filter out heavy solids from the brewed coffee.
After the Whirl Pool, the liquid solution is then sent through a series of filters. Filters keep coffee grounds out of your cup while enhancing the coffee's clarity and sensory qualities on your palette. Each step of our brewing process affords the option of filtration to a certain degree. This is significant as controlling filtration helps us mitigate disruptions to extraction caused by clogging.
The last transformative step in our process has the coffee passing through the beverages namesake “flash chiller”. This dual phase, heat exchange system has the capacity to bring a coffee brewed hot from around 190ºF down to near 40ºF in a matter of seconds. In fact, our brew times are not much different than the amount of time it takes your barista to brew a fresh batch of coffee that you just paid for because the coffee shop just ran out of brewed coffee again (it happens to all of us at some point, we’re not judging).
After the coffee passes through the flash chiller, it is sent to brite tanks for holding. These tanks are purged of oxygen and flushed with food grade gaseous Nitrogen to prevent oxidation. Holding our coffees at refrigerated temperatures in an oxygen less environment ensures that it remains fresh. Nitrogen, when dissolved in coffee, creates a visually pleasing cascading effect when poured into a cup. It also enhances the mouthfeel of the beverage, giving it that yearned after creaminess you find in your favorite nitro coffee. Before canning, we recirculate the coffee to make sure that the nitrogen incorporates fully into the brew solution. At this time the coffee is transferred to a canning line in a closed loop system from brite tank to can filler. Cans are filled and receive one last drop of Liquid Nitrogen before being capped and sealed. The small drop of Nitrogen turns from liquid to gas as soon as it hits the surface of the coffee, forcing any remaining oxygen from the headspace of the can and further Nitrogenating the coffee.
Flash chilling coffee allows us to instantly chill a freshly brewed batch of coffee, capturing its delightful aromatics and pleasant acidity. The rapid transformation from hot to cold preserves much of the coffee's true character. We can do all of this without the coffee needing to sit and stale over a 12-24 hour period like much of the cold brew market (not the cold brew we’re developing but that news will come later).
It's with this knowledge and the engineering of our equipment that we can brew delicious batches of coffee to share with you. We are certainly proud of all the hard work that has gone into the absolute best way to extract the most out of the coffee bed without creating a strong and over extracted solution, so that you can crack open a can right off the grocery shelf and enjoy without pouring over ice to dilute. No need to try to remove the bitterness in the coffee if it is not there to begin with! Do us a favor and head over to the ready to drink coffee section on our website, or rush to the local Turnip Truck and buy a case or two, or three and see what all the fuss is about!