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What’s hot? Cold coffee

Matt McGinn, founder of Blackeye Roasting Co., shows just-poured Blackeye nitro cold brew at Quixotic Coffee in St. Paul Wednesday, May 18, 2016. He said it is twice as caffeinated as hot coffee but 60% less acidic. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)1 / 3
Matt McGinn, founder of Blackeye Roasting Co., pours Blackeye nitro cold brew at Quixotic Coffee in St. Paul Wednesday, May 18, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)2 / 3
Matt McGinn, founder of Blackeye Roasting Co., shows cans of Blackeye cold brew coffee at Quixotic Coffee in St. Paul Wednesday, May 18, 2016. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)3 / 3

Hot joe, meet cold brew.

Coffee aficionados are increasingly forgoing traditionally brewed java and embracing coffee that is prepared with zero heat. In a nutshell, it involves soaking coarsely ground coffee in cold water for a day or so to create a heavily caffeinated drink.

It is a simple procedure anyone can try at home, but coffee fans are more likely to seek out cold brew at a local coffee shop, or on supermarket or convenience-store shelves.

Area options are proliferating courtesy of several companies that are putting a variety of creative spins on the cold-brew business.

Blackeye Roasting and Big Watt Cold Beverage Co. are selling canned cold coffee drinks at local groceries and gas stations. They also operate cafes that serve up cold brew on tap — just like beer.

Cold brew also is available as a concentrate for mixing into hot or cold drinks. Bizzy Coffee offers it in bottles online and in local stores, and it does not even need refrigeration.

As more and more neighborhood coffee shops offer the cold brew, corporate giants are starting to take notice.

Seattle-based Starbucks late last month said it too will offer cold brew coffee on tap in nitrogen-infused form. This option is part of a Starbucks cold-drink wave that the company is expecting will double in the next three years.

Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s supermarket chain, which has seven Twin Cities stores, sells its own cold-brew concentrate with several flavors in bottled form as a rival to Bizzy Coffee.

Blackeye Roasting

The clientele at a particular Highland Park drinking establishment can settle back with what looks like a proper Guinness stout. The nitrogen-infused beverage has the same dark color with the same creamy texture and the same foamy-white cap.

Only it is coffee, not beer.

Quixotic Coffee, like a growing number of coffee shops around the country, serves nitro coffee on tap, nice ‘n’ cold, as an alternative to traditional hot coffee.

And now, Quixotic’s proprietor is taking his nitro coffee on the go. Matt McGinn recently founded Blackeye Roasting, which sells it in cans found in refrigerators at supermarkets and convenience stores.

Initially, the upstart operation worked out of Quixotic’s basement, packaging the product into bottles and kegs.

“Then we’d hike them up the stairs and into U-Haul trucks to be distributed,” McGinn recalled.

McGinn and his team figured out how to create coffee on a larger scale and started looking for bigger digs. They’re preparing to fire up a new facility near Vandalia Street and Interstate 94, with lots of room for future expansion.

They are now focusing on canned coffee. It requires refrigeration in its present form, but McGinn is working on a new formulation that is shelf-stable and should be available later this summer.

The canned coffee is nitrogenated — just like nitro coffee on tap, as well as nitro beer — for a foamy cap and creamy consistency.

McGinn thinks the coffee is “going to start taking over the energy-drink market” because it has twice the caffeine of a typical energy drink, no sugar and zero calories.

Those wanting to try their take on coffee won’t necessarily need to make a Quixotic quest. McGinn has constructed a coffee tricycle that will navigate local bike paths and serve up nitro coffee on tap.

“I felt like everyone else was doing food trucks,” he said. “But we are a more playful brand.”

Big Watt Cold Beverage

Lee Carter often lacks the time and patience to brew coffee the traditional way. He wants to open up his refrigerator, see a tidy row of cans containing cold-brew java, reach in to snag one and go about his business.

Carter is co-founder of Five Watt Coffee, a Minneapolis cafe that recently spun off a business dubbed Big Watt Cold Beverage Co., which sells canned coffee along with cold-brew coffee in kegs.

Carter caters to a growing crowd of ever-harried coffee lovers who want great taste that is convenient to procure and is all natural. The cans contain nothing but coffee and water, with no preservatives, stabilizers or sweeteners.

The cans can be found in supermarkets and convenience stores. The kegs will typically go to coffee shops and restaurants that — like Five Watt Coffee — offer cold-brew coffee on tap.

Big Watt got its start during a series of west-metro outdoor events called Open Streets Minneapolis that close major thoroughfares and open them to folks on foot, bikes and skates.

Carter and partner Caleb Garn offered up cold-brew coffee out of kegs, “and we sold out immediately,” Carter recalled. “We started getting approached by distributors.”

The canned coffee is designed for convenience partly because it is shelf-stable. It is good to drink for up to 16 months without going bad. And it is ideal for those seeking energy-boosting alternatives to sugar-laden energy drinks.

Big Watt manufacturing, which occurs at a shared brewing facility in St. Paul, is “at capacity,” Carter said. The company will transfer operations to its own facility in Minneapolis’ Uptown area, and expects to be up to speed there by August.

Bizzy Coffee

Longtime friends Alex French and Andrew Healy were training for endurance and obstacle competitions, and they craved what they call “healthy sources of energy” — clean caffeine, in other words.

French recalled that he had a “terrible reputation for falling asleep in public.” At the same time, his chum “had bad acid reflux” and a low tolerance for traditionally brewed coffee.

They both hit on cold-brew coffee as a potent caffeine source that’s less acidic and easier on the stomach. And later, it dawned on the duo that this could be a business.

Enter Bizzy Coffee.

This is the simplest of companies with (so far) a single product: a plastic bottle with a cold-brewed coffee concentrate that is meant to be diluted with water or milk and can be consumed hot or cold.

The bottled coffee is shelf-stable, as well, which means it doesn’t need refrigeration and it can even be sold online. Bizzy offers the coffee on its site and on Amazon as well as in local supermarkets.

Figuring out how to make their product shelf-stable in 2014 “was a eureka moment,” said French. He notes that not all cold-brew products are shelf-stable, meaning they require refrigeration.

Bizzy said it’s not intimidated by Trader Joe’s and its concentrated coffee, sold in bottles very much like its own. They tout their cold coffee’s taste, saying they spent 18 months perfecting the flavor.

It is 67 percent less acidic than traditionally brewed coffee, added French, but it packs a punch with three times the caffeine.

“We strategically chose concentrate for many reasons — primarily because it can be used as an ingredient,” French noted. “You can add anything to it, and you can add it to anything.”

This concentrate can be used as a cocktail mixer or blended into protein shakes and smoothies, he said. And, crucially, it requires no advance preparation as traditionally brewed coffee does.

“Bizzy is coffee for busy people,” French said. “Pour it and mix it.”

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By Julio Ojeda-Zapata, St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.