Article

Cold brew and RTD coffee made easy

One of the fastest growing beverage segments around the world today is that of Ready To Drink (RTD) and Cold Brew coffees. Retail stores and beverage manufacturers are riding a wave that has global category growth at 6% with spikes of greater than 20% growth in particular countries. While the global market for RTD coffee is currently estimated at $20 billion and is expected to continue growing as consumers search for new innovative coffee products.

RTD Coffee

The RTD coffee story began in Japan in the late 1960's, when it was packaged in cans and sold at small retail stores. Since then, many Japanese beverage manufacturers have entered the market and produce RTD coffee in both cans and bottles. In Japan, most RTD coffee sales are through vending machines and, at last count, there were almost 3 million vending machines selling RTD beverages throughout the country. Consumers using these vending machines can select either hot or cold delivery of their RTD coffee offering them hot coffee during winter months or an icy cold beverage in summer months. Companies such as Suntory, Ajinomoto and Coca Cola dominate the Japanese market.

In China, consumers see RTD coffee as a step up from instant coffee. China has recently moved past South Korea and Australia to become the third largest market for RTD coffee. Chinese consumers see RTD coffee as an instant energy source that allows them to concentrate and continue working long hours. It is also seen as more convenient than instant coffee, as it can be stored in their fridge, at home or work.


Cold Brew Coffee

Cold Brew coffee is usually made by soaking ground roasted coffee beans for ten to fourteen hours at room temperature to extract the soluble solids. At the end of the soaking period the beans are separated from the extract, which is then used to create cold coffee beverages. Beverages may be served directly in the glass at café or concentrated and packaged in cartons, bag-in-box systems or kegs for home or trade use.

As the extraction occurs at room temperature it is a fact that not all of the available soluble solids are extracted resulting, not only, in high production costs for the manufacturer, but also a missed opportunity to do more with the coffee solids remaining in the spent beans. In many cases, up to 70% of the available soluble solids are not extracted and these could be used for production of other beverage products, such as RTD coffee.

The general batch-type Cold Brew process creates many issues for large producers as it is,not only time consuming (10-14 hrs),but is also prone to issues of consistency, as products may vary due to seasonal temperature changes, coffee to water ratios, issues due to manual decanting, etc. It is also labour intensive, requires large floor space and results in a large proportion of the coffee's available soluble solids being discarded as waste

Producers of Cold Brew coffee now have to consider ways of manufacturing their product in larger quantities, more efficiently and quickly, in order to expand the accessibility of their product, not only in their own country, but also in export markets.


The Flavourtech Solution

Flavourtech has now developed a simple to use, flexible solution for producers of Cold Brew coffee to increase production capacity using less floor space and making more efficient use of the available soluble solids in the coffee beans.The first choice for Cold Brew manufacturers is the Rotating Disc Column (RDC). This is a precise mixing column where the user can accurately control the residence time and temperature within the system. Using Flavourtech developed grinding techniques each coffee particle is cut to the same size and automatically mixed with the required amount of water. The coffee and water slurry then enter the bottom of the column and are pushed up through the column over a set period of time controlled by the operator. Each portion of slurry then exits the RDC having undergone the same amount of mixing and residence time. This ensures an identical brewing time and an extremely consistent product.

Cold Brew producers who trialled the RDC found that they preferred the taste of the RDC product over their own and were surprised to find out that the residence time was only 20 minutes and not the 12-14 hours that they normally used. They were further impressed that, although the process was conducted at room temperature, the yield of soluble solids was up to 40% more, meaning they could produce up to 40% more product from the same volume of coffee beans. They saw this as a real advantage in being able to reduce their cost of production and final product price. The speed and small footprint of the system also had flow-on effects in that they would not need to move to larger facilities or employ further staff as they expanded their business.

The second Flavourtech technology available to both Cold Brew and RTD brewers is the Spinning Cone Column (SCC).

The SCC is used by leading flavour companies due to its ability to easily and flexibly recover different aroma profiles from the same raw material. It is also used by instant coffee manufacturers to meet the taste demands of customers both locally and in export markets by being able to tailor the extracted flavour to meet specific requirements.

The SCC's ability to especially capture the light flavour notes of single origin coffee allows producers to develop products that are distinctive of coffees from that specific locality. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe will have the light berry and coconut notes that it is famous for and Costa Rican beans bring out their own distinctive flavour notes.

The distinct advantage of the SCC is the fact that, while recovering flavour, it is also brewing the coffee and extracting soluble solids. It can be operated at a range of temperatures from room temperature up to 100oC and when the aroma and higher temperature extract are recombined you have a coffee that tastes like a freshly brewed coffee only with an aroma profile that you have selected.

The advantage of the SCC for producers is that they can now manufacture not only Cold Brew coffee but also an RTD product from the same beans maximizing the recovery of soluble solids from the coffee for their artisanal products. The technology extracts up to 50% of the available soluble solids in the coffee bean compared to the 20% currently obtained by most Cold Brew producers. Not only will this reduce production costs but a more consistent artisanal Cold Brew product is possible with the ability to also extend the product line with a high quality RTD coffee.

Alternatively, the SCC can be used to produce an extract easily and continuously solely for use in RTD coffee products. In this process, the aroma is captured while at the same time brewing the coffee at temperatures of up to 100oC. Many Asian RTD coffee manufacturers use this method in order to protect the aroma which is then blended back to the final product at the bottling stage.

Finally, the Integrated Extraction System (IES) is a combination of Flavourtech's core Technologies (including the RDC and SCC) in a continuous, automated processing line. It has proven its versatility and flexibility by providing solutions.

The SCC can be used to increase the use of Soluble solids from coffee in the following way:

Step 1 – The coffee beans are milled and mixed with the appropriate amount of water and this slurry is passed through the SCC at room temperature to produce Cold Brew coffee

Step 2 – The spent beans from the Cold Brew process above are mixed with a specific amount of water and passed through the SCC at a temperature of 90 to 100oC to produce coffee extract that can be used for RTD Coffee products. At the same time coffee aroma can be recovered for complete or partial addition to the collected RTD extract or used in other products.

For both cold brew and RTD coffee & tea producers. The continuous of roasted coffee beans, mixing with water and processing of this slurry through the RDC and/or the SCC at room temperature produces a more desirable product (responses from customers) than standard batch methods. Furthermore, for larger producers, coffee extracts can be gently concentrated to high levels using Flavourtech's thin-film Centritherm® evaporator. Concentrated coffee products can then be shipped to various locations ensuring that there is no product variation and that customers can remain loyal to their preferred brand when travelling. Alternatively, the coffee concentrate can also be dried to produce a super-premium instant coffee!

The continuous processing of roasted coffee beans, mixing with water and processing of this slurry through the RDC and / or the SCC at room temperature produces a more desirable product (responses from customers) than standard batch methods. Furthermore, for larger producers, coffee extracts can be gently concentrated to high levels using Flavourtech's thin-film Centritherm® evaporator. Concentrated coffee products can then be shipped to various locations ensuring that there is no product variation and that customers can remain loyal to their preferred brand when travelling. Alternatively, the coffee concentrate can also be dried to produce a super-premium instant coffee!

Beverage companies have to find ways to continuously excite consumers with coffee and tea products at both the retail and food service levels. Having a brand that is available at many retail stores will allow consumers access to their favorite brand wherever they are. For producers of Cold Brew and RTD coffee this means being able to brew these products easily and consistently with a minimum floor space and labor requirement. Flavourtech equipment allows these producers to have the tools they require to maintain innovation and take advantage of new opportunities while producing consistent high quality products easily and flexibly.