Sponsored by BUNN
A growing number of restaurant operators are jumping on the red-hot cold brew and nitro coffee bandwagon while upgrading their drip coffee as well. Aided by innovative dispensers which streamline draft coffee service and precise, programmable batch brewers which produce superior drip coffee, they are building coffee programs that draw customers and enhance sales and profits.
Versatile equipment solutions like those also enable operators to compete in the fast-growing specialty iced tea market, with offerings such as Southern sweet tea and Thai-style iced tea, in both still and sparkling menu options.
It’s coffee’s time
Meanwhile, this is a great time to be a coffee drinker — and coffee seller — in the U.S. Sixty-four percent of consumers drink coffee daily, according to the 2018 National Coffee Drinking Trends report by the National Coffee Association. And 48 percent of millennials — that highly sought-after group of consumers — drink gourmet coffee beverages every day, the NCA says.
The cold facts
Smooth and refreshing cold brew coffee and its creamy, gas-infused variant, nitro coffee, offer significant sales opportunities. “Cold brew has exploded onto the scene, in all forms,” says Scott Reed, communication and data specialist for beverage equipment manufacturer BUNN. “It really plays into the younger demographic, the 18- to 34-year-old crowd.”
Compared to hot-brewed coffee, cold brew and nitro coffee are sometimes perceived to be more refreshing and less acidic in taste. And they also look great in pictures — especially nitro, which sports a creamy head of cascading gas bubbles. “It’s very Instagramable,” says Reed. “Younger consumers like to be the first to find something new and show it off to their friends.”
Customizing the blank canvas
Cold coffees as well as batch-brewed hot javas can be endlessly modified with flavors, sweeteners, creamers and other ingredients. “The opportunity to deliver exactly what the consumer wants is a big selling point, especially for millennials,” says Reed. “It’s like a blank canvas which you can craft and customize.”
In his 2018 Hospitality Trend Report, consultant Andrew Freeman predicts that operators will offer more fun flavor riffs on cold brew — everything from horchata to lavender honey and cardamom rose. At Milktooth in Indianapolis, Ind., customers can order the Notorious F.I.G., a signature medley of cold brew, fig-amaro simple syrup and milk. At Red Star Tavern in Portland, Ore., java is a hit in the Cold Awakening, a signature cocktail made with cold brew, bourbon, aperitif wine, salted maple syrup and cream.
Making cold brew practical
Although it is possible to make cold brew in a restaurant walk-in cooler by soaking coffee grounds for many hours, it is a laborious task that often produces inconsistent results. Even more challenging is kegging house-made cold brew. That requires training employees to clean, sanitize and fill kegs, as well as manage the dispensing system pressure.
“Those are labor-intensive processes that require a lot of steps before you can even serve the product,” says Chairil McClain, director of product management and product strategy at BUNN.
However, the Nitron Cold Draft dispenser by BUNN serves great tasting cold brew and nitro coffee without the hassles and inconsistency associated with in-house preparation. The keg-free design uses vendor-made coffee concentrate in 1-gallon bag-in-boxes or refillable containers. An exclusive in-line nitro infuser produces the distinctive, creamy head. It can also dispense still and nitro iced tea, which also is gaining in popularity across the country.
Another plus is the space-efficient 10-inch footprint. “All you need to get set up is a 120-volt electrical outlet, a filtered cold water line, coffee concentrate and a nitrogen gas source,” says McClain.
Upping the drip coffee game
Cold brew is trending now, but traditional drip coffee remains a consumer favorite. “People who normally drink drip coffee may try a nitro or cappuccino, but research shows that they go back to what they’re used to,” says Doug Bishop, director of product management and product strategy at BUNN. “We are not seeing drip coffee go away by any stretch of the imagination.”
To satisfy the demanding tastes of drip coffee customers, operators are enhancing their batch brews. For example, Milktooth menus a distinctive drip offering brewed from Peruvian beans supplied by a local specialty roaster.
Equipment innovations can also get the most out of batch brewed coffees. Take the new BUNN Infusion Series® brewing platform which consistently produces drip coffee with specific flavor profiles without incurring extensive training and labor costs. Important features include a new brew basket and spray head design which responds to precise recipe development and yields ultimate flavor extraction. In addition, the thermostatically controlled Soft Heat system protects the flavor of brewed coffee in the docking station.
What’s more, a USB port on the brewer makes downloading and transferrring new recipes fast and easy. The ability to program unique brewing cycles for various coffees is a boon to consistency. “Your coffee will be consistent from employee to employee without a lot of training, whether your labor turns over weekly or turns over yearly,” Bishop says.
Reed sums up the practical approach to coffee success. “The way to build a loyal customer base for coffee is to stand out with quality and taste,” he says. “The bean obviously plays a very important role, and the choice of equipment is equally as important in bringing out every nuance of that carefully selected roast and recipe.”