Iced coffee? Not quite. The coolest trend in the coffee industry of the past year is frozen coffee - more specifically, frozen coffee beans.
The latest addition to the ONA Coffee family, ONA Coffee Marrickville is set to open its doors on Saturday, May 26 in Sydney. The space will house offices, a training facility and an espresso bar with a difference: a specialised coffee menu complete with frozen doses of coffee.
Freezing coffee is a phenomenon that is increasing in popularity in the specialty coffee world, with the majority of the finalists of the 2017 World Barista Championships incorporating frozen coffee into their performances. (Watch a performance here)
So, why freeze coffee beans? Head Barista and Manager of ONA Coffee Marrickville, Isaac Kim, says that freezing coffee has a range of benefits, including preservation of coffee and how the coffee acts during extraction.
“Over several years, research and testing have shown that freezing coffee can help with grinding,” he said.
“Frozen coffee is more brittle so it shatters when ground, giving us a more even distribution of grind sizes. This means we can easily focus our extractions on the distinctive flavours that make each coffee unique.”
The frozen coffee doesn’t just help with narrowing in on flavour – it can also change coffee service entirely. In particular, Isaac thinks that offering frozen coffee opens a new window of opportunity to customers.
“By freezing our doses, we can preserve a coffee at its peak when the rate of carbon dioxide release has slowed down from the roasted beans,” he said.
“So a customer can walk in and enjoy a coffee that was roasted a year ago, but tastes like it was roasted two weeks ago.”
Freezing beans has been attempted on a commercial scale in a number of cafes, including several cafes in Australia, the US and Canada.
Mike Chapman of 1914 Coffee Company in Squamish, Canada has been serving a frozen coffee menu for several years, featuring coffees from ONA Coffee, Ninety Plus and Monogram, to name a few.
“…I have a freezer menu that is over 100 coffee[s] deep and occupying 2 freezers,” said Mike.
“I often get asked ‘What the hell is a freezer menu?’… [it] presents an interesting customer as much or more for those that don’t actually order off it.”
Mike says that having a freezer menu has allowed him to have more in-depth conversations with his customers about coffee.
“…what that conversation point has provided for me is the chance to explain why I even bother going through the trouble of freezing the coffee to someone who likely doesn’t understand what a ‘varietal’ means or what coffee processing means.”
Michael Cameron, General Manager of Barista Hustle says that he believes that the use of freezing coffee on a commercial scale over time means that the focus should now shift from research to education.
“I think the public will respond positively to having a wider range of coffee available, as long as the people serving it are willing to invest some time in educating staff,” he said.
Michael also said that from previous experience working in a cafe with a frozen coffee menu, it can be met with a positive response.
“One of the main reasons for this was [that] we were able to provide them with a repeatable and predictable experience — when brewed correctly, frozen beans will taste the same as next week, or next month, or next year.”
However, freezing coffee doesn’t just aid baristas and customers when it comes to preservation and availability of coffee. The implications of these innovations have an impact on the industry as a whole, all the way back to the farm.
“Taken in the wider context of climate change and sustainable livelihoods for farmers at origin, freezing coffee is a unique way of ensuring coffee is represented as best as it can, in a repeatable and predictable manner,” Michael said.
“This allows an opportunity for baristas to champion those farmers, origins, and micro-lots that are special and unique, and provide value back down the chain.”
With less than two weeks until ONA Coffee Marrickville opens its doors, we are excited to see how the Sydney coffee community embraces a frozen coffee menu and the variety it will bring.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thank you to Barista Hustle and 1914 Coffee Company for their contributions
Edited by J. Montgomery, ONA Coffee