For former Stumptown Coffee Roasters food scientist Nate Armbrust, the question, “Why start a cold brew company now?” has an obvious answer.
“I love all coffee cold brewed,” said Armbrust, who a few weeks ago officially launched Riff Cold Brewed in Bend, Oregon, with several business partners. “It’s a great expression of a lot of different coffees. But it’s interesting, you can’t buy the most expensive coffee and turn it into the best cold brew. Not all coffees translate well in the cold brew process.”

Armbrust’s goal with Riff Cold Brewed is to discover which coffees do translate best. Riff has already begun placing nitro coffee kegs in a few Oregon restaurants, including Urban Farmer and The Nines hotel in Portland, and Washington Dining & Cocktails in Bend.

Consumers may see Riff Cold Brewed cans in grocery stores by mid February and eventually and if all goes to plan, the product will be available in a cold brew-centric tap room, tentatively scheduled in Bend for Spring 2018.

“Cold brew as a category is still very young and figuring itself out,” said Armbrust. “High-end coffee companies that make cold brew have done well with the black coffee offering. But cold brew as an ingredient in other beverages — or other beverages as an ingredient in cold brew — we’re very young there.”

Armbrust spent most of the past five years working directly with cold brew at Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, first as a cold brew project manager, then as director of technical services for cold brew.

“I still love those coffees, but it’s been fun to try other profiles,” Armbrust told Daily Coffee News. “I love the chocolate and fruit and lower acidity and sweetness that comes along with the cold brew process.”

Plans for Riff include a 9,000-square-foot production facility and a 3,500-square-foot tap room, though not in the same building. The company has been sourcing coffee from existing roasters and making cold brew in-house to start. Eventually the company plans to also work with copackers.

A significant portion of Riff’s inventory will be dedicated to on-premise sales at cafés, bars and restaurants that want to pour cold brew on tap. Armbrust was an early proponent of coffee infused with nitrogen.

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