A nationally famous ready-to-drink (RTD) brand in Japan for more than 25 years, BOSS Coffee made its debut in the U.S. market last April. It’s intriguing to find that the deep-rooted Japanese style flash brewed coffee became a knock-out product among American consumers quickly. Is it about to usher in a new wave of flash brew to the RTD coffee market?
Flash Brew, Not Cold Brew
Originating in Japan in the 1960s and often known as Japanese iced coffee, flash brewed coffee applies the pour-over principle of hot coffee but in a directly-onto-ice way. Differing from an unspecified iced coffee, it is brewed in a ratio which takes the immediate dilution into consideration. It also involves brewing coffee hot followed by a quick chilling through a heat exchange system, a method which has more control over the chilling process and results in a better preservation.
We often compare flash brew with its “twin brother”-cold brew. Cold brewed coffees are everywhere these days, with various brands’canned cold brews like Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and La Colombe. Just as it sounds, cold brew is coffee brewed with cold water. The most well-known approach is either through full immersion that steeps coffee grounds in cold water for over 10 hours before filtration, or in a slow drip way with a special instrument such as Yama Tower which takes as little as three hours. However, it is argued that the resulting flavor of cold brew is just too flat, with a very low degree of acidity and bitterness.
The merit of a more delicate and complex flavor from flash brew is what drives many coffee specialists toward it. During the flash chilling, the aromatics are locked while the chance of oxidation declines. As a consequence, we are able to taste the bright, floral or fruity flavor with subtle nuances in flash brewed coffee in the same way that we used to taste hot coffee, but this time, in an iced form.
Staging A Comeback
Flash brew has been around for a while, but it seems to be making a comeback, popping up in online and grocery stores. In addition to BOSS Coffee, a number of brands such as MIURA and Verve Coffee have been joining this wave adding flash brewed products to their lines, and at the same time creating a refined flavor-oriented iced coffee experience.
Big players in – Canadian beverage brand MIURA might not be a household name. Nevertheless, MIURA’s Japanese-style Flash Chilled Coffee was the first flash brewed single-origin coffee in a RTD can format. “We officially launched back in August of 2018,” said Adam Lewis, founder of MIURA, “When we first started our R&D and commercialization, we were the only ones doing it. So it definitely seemed like we were going out on a limb, against the grain of the ever popular cold brewed products, but the difference in taste made it evident to us that this was a concept that would resonate with drinkers.”
Currently, MIURA offers two products: The Classic uses a specialty grade Nicaraguan coffee bean and boasts vanilla and caramel tasting notes that it exudes from its terroir, and the Nitro version contributes to a velvety mouthfeel and a fuller finish. With a proprietary setup, MIURA aims to recreate a coffee experience like a barista making iced pour over. Lewis told CTI, “By using the amount of precision we do for every batch, we are ensuring our extraction is the same as you would get from a barista from a coffee shop, and at the crack of every can you’re welcomed by a refreshing caramel scent that is followed by a vanilla taste at the tip of your tongue after the first sip. The precision in our extraction not only brings out these tasting notes, but also ensures no bitterness and the right amount of complexity.” With the current success MIURA has seen in the market thus far, it is expected to have more exciting line extensions in the near future.
Once we searched online flash brewed products, it’s interesting to note that there’s a dedicated website to flash brew, stating “This is not cold brew. This is flash brew.” It turns out that the website was built by California-based Verve Coffee, one of the third-wave coffee leaders. What’s more, as early as the Fall of 2018, Verve Coffee made a big move shifting their cold brewed products totally to flash brew, and released their Nitro Flash Brew Coffee. Starting with Verve’s Farmlevel coffees which are directly traded from Ethiopia and Colombia, their Nitro Flash Brew Coffee is brewed via a precise process in an oxygen-free environment, and then flash-chilled instantly and infused with nitrogen to maintain its freshness and creamy mouthfeel. They consider the flash brew a high definition version of cold brew, which is capable of delivering a hyper clean and vibrant taste. Perhaps this is why Verve Coffee is so committed to the flash brew concept.
Advance in technology – Flash brewed coffee is rap- idly gaining momentum, so are the technologies behind the trend. Last April, Elemental Beverage Company in Massachusetts introduced a new way to savor freshly brewed flavors in a unique and nuanced cold coffee experience with their patented Snapchill™ Technology.
According to its Chief Tea & Coffee Officer Ryan McDonnell, Snapchill™ Technology delivers a new depth of flavor and freshness of coffee that can only be released by rapidly cooling it to lower temperatures. “Merging groundbreaking innovation in thermodynamics with a tried-and-true heat exchange technology, Snapchill™ Technology cools liquids exponentially faster than current methods, reaching precise temperatures as low as -10°F within minutes,” said McDonnell.
Snapchill™ Technology was created by David M. Dussault, founder and chief alchemist of Elemental Beverage Company, and an MIT postgraduate with over 10 years’ experience in thermal technology innovation. McDonnell told CTI, “Dussault believed there had to be a way to ‘take ice out of the equation’ to provide a fresher and more flavorful coffee experience.” As a result, Snapchilling was born, a first-of-its kind product.”
“Created to capture, preserve and enhance every distinctive flavor or note of coffee without oxidation, dilution or additives, Snapchilling preserves all the flavors of a hot coffee cold,” explained McDonnell. “Coffee is incredibly volatile at high temperatures. By Snapchilling the coffee, we can experience flavors at a more drinkable temperature, without them dissipating into the air. The ability of our Snapchill™ Technology to ‘dial in’ on the precise and ideal temperature for any variety of coffee allows even the most complex of single origin coffees to shine brighter than before.”
With this technology, the company also developed its own RTD products as well as a Snapchiller machine. Elemental Snapchilled Coffee is a RTD canned, chilled, and single origin coffee, available in three varieties from Burundi, Ethiopia, and Colombia. Moreover, the company has partnered with Ninety Plus Gesha Estates to develop a limited edition of 750ml bottled coffee featuring the selection of the estate’s Founder Joseph Brodsky.
Snapchiller is a commercial device for cafes, restaurants, and bars. “The owners can now serve hot drinks (for example, drip coffee, espresso-based coffee, and tea) chilled on demand to customers,” said McDonnell, “Snap- chiller features a 16oz capacity and, at full capacity, can cool 12oz beverages from 140ºF to 40ºF in 60 seconds… Temperatures can be adjusted to extract new tastes, notes, and nuances-optimized for each bean, tea leaf, or spirit.” The Snapchiller has also been recognized by some coffee giants as it has been put to the test with in-store use at George Howell’s two Boston locations as well as Roy Street Coffee & Tea by Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle.
A Promising Future?
It is fantastic to see methods like flash brew coming back on the scene. It has been widely appreciated thanks to a refined flavor in coffee, which is also regarded as a top benefit for its comeback on trend. As McDonnell said, “At Elemental Beverage Company, it is harnessing simple science to re-think the aesthetics of this cold drink that does not compromise taste and is a flavor-forward experience not limited by the processes that create iced coffee (dilution from ice) and cold brew (oxidation).” The integration of the pleasure of taste with convenience and quality makes flash brew a new favourite in the RTD coffee market.
Although it may not be easy for flash brew to open up a market as cold brew has done, Lewis is still confident about the future. “I think flash brew won’t be as much of a trend as cold brew, as that first mover in the RTD coffee market has been taken by cold brew, making the ‘trendability’ less available. However, with the market primed for novel and innovative coffee experiences, I do believe there will be a demographic of consumers that will side with flash brewed products over a cold brewed one due to the inherent taste profiles that will resonate differently.” It is expected that these coffee products will coexist in the market as it continues to grow.
At least this is a good opportunity to educate customers about the different characteristics of these coffee products. Perhaps some day when we walk into a coffee house, we would find the name “flash brew” on the menu, possibly next to “cold brew”. Now customers can enjoy more options and are freer to choose their preferences among the variety. Isn’t that good news for coffee lovers?
About Elemental Beverage Company
Formerly known as Ice Cold Now, the company features groundbreaking thermodynamics’ innovation and tried-and-true heat exchange technology combined to create Snapchill™ beverage technology that chills beverages almost within seconds.
A Japanese-style flash chilled and ready-to-drink coffee, brewed hot and chilled fast for premium flavor.