The future of frozen coffee

Cafés Innovation
Matthew Hill

Frozen Coffee at ONA

Here at Ona Coffee we have been experimenting with frozen coffees since 2016, and we aren’t talking about freeze-dried instant powder, we are talking about the finest single origins and blends out there!

Years of research have shown that freezing coffee for later consumption can be the most optimal way to preserve flavour and sensory experience. Through this method, both home-brewing enthusiasts and professional baristas alike can enjoy the original brilliance and vigour of a coffee frozen years before, as if it was roasted just yesterday.

Ona’s central tenet is boundless innovation. We strive to continually stretch the confines of the modern coffee world to deliver increasingly better experiences for our consumers. We have been thawing the space of frozen coffee for over eight years, from the competition table to the café counter.

Incredibly exciting things are on the frozen horizon but first, a little history.

In 2016 and 2017 our wonderful Director of Sales Matt Lewin began experimenting with frozen coffees whilst prepping for competition. At the time Matt was using his freezer at home, little bar freezers, essentially anything he could get his hands on. He started freezing whole beans in small doses as well as coffee that had been pre-ground at room temperature.

Lo and behold, he found that the frozen doses actually tasted better than their room-temperature equivalents. They performed differently in the grinder, shattering into a more evenly distributed and optimally shaped powder. The extraction of frozen coffee in the espresso machine was also slower and more intense than the normal pace of a room-temperature dose.

We have come a long way since those early days of Matt’s bar freezer experiments. We have continually added to our frozen coffee menus, found in every one of our flagship locations. These reserve menus allow our customers to experience the joy of frozen coffee with us. Our finest single origins and unique cultivars are often available, sometimes costing up to $50 a brew! And yes, they are worth every cent.

Except for our Aspen or Maple milk blends, we’ve frozen it all. Our monthly filter coffee rotation, frozen. Our espresso and fruit milk blends, frozen. A 90+ scoring fine Arabica, yep, we've frozen it. And why not? If we love it, we think you will too.

Plus, it’s easy! As Matt found in his experimentation, a simple freezer and a decent grinder (we use an EK43) will do the job. We make sure to get the coffee into the freezer at its post-roast peak flavour window, locked away in test tubes. Then, when we get a craving, out it comes, and we simply prepare it as we would any room-temperature coffee.

However, April 2023 brought something even more exciting. Having a frozen brew made for you in-store is one thing, but we know that brewing your favourite coffee at home is as important. Falling in love with a coffee in a café is often the beginning of a repeatable morning ritual conducted in the comfort of your own kitchen.

That’s why on April 28th our Canberra flagship store, ‘The Cupping Room’, launched the first Ona Coffee Retail Freezer!

Just like buying fine wine at premium cellars or vineyards for home display and later consumption, we want to offer guests the opportunity to do the same with their dream coffees. Going forward, our retail freezers will allow patrons to select specific coffees, some of the rarest lots available on the planet, aged to precise flavour windows, to take home with them. Our baristas will provide a sommelier-like experience, ensuring a complete understanding of the guests’ preferences before assisting with a perfect selection.

The Retail Coffee Freezer enables even more control over the craft of amazing coffee experiences. Specialty coffee is a fine art, with many variables that can cause disaster. Roasting, grinding, preparation and brewing must all be perfectly managed. By freezing coffee, we can mitigate potential errors and capture attributes that might have been lost. Doing it right is key!

By early 2024, every one of our flagships will have its own Retail Coffee Freezer, and our guests will have the opportunity to take home a frozen coffee and recreate a thrilling coffee experience whenever they wish.

The future is chilly!

Author Bio

Matthew Hill