When one of my most inspiring friend’s band, PAPA, isn’t opening for Cold War Kids, he’s fast at work growing his quickly expanding cold brew coffee company. Recently over a couple of Moon Juice smoothies, he told me a great holistic tip to takeaway caffeine jitters when you’ve had a bit too much. Potassium. Bananas, dark leafy greens, coconut water—anything high in it. I loved the tip and asked him to share some more information with readers. Meet Ben Usen of Installation Cold Brew.
How did you get into the coffee business
Back in my struggling musician days I came home from a year of touring to find myself broke and confused, so I picked up a night-shift job at a cafe called Paper or Plastik doing dishes and counting money. It was far from exciting until I tried the coffee they were serving, and got super into it. Once I became a barista I started studying coffee in my spare time and became a trainer/consultant. I loved sharing coffee with others and wanted to start a company that made great coffee accessible and easy.
Why cold brew
Although my initial idea was to set up individuals and offices with espresso machines and DIY coffee equipment, I quickly realized people didn't want to spend a few minutes to make a good cup. Everyone is used to pressing a button on a coffee pod machine because it’s fast and easy, but sadly they are made from bad coffee with an incredibly low dose.
So cold brew is a great alternative to pods. It's fast and easy—except it's made from great coffee and lasts six weeks. It's kind of a "gourmet" instant coffee.
My goal is to use my cold brew as an introduction to good coffee for the regular coffee drinker. I think once people try coffee that's naturally delicious, they’re inspired to kick the habit of pouring cream and sugar into coffee which is used to mask the bitterness of a mediocre cup.
What's unique about your cold brew
I roast a blend of seasonally sourced coffees to consistently yield a rich, chocolaty-sweet flavor profile with low acidity. I wanted it to taste great on its own, with water or with milk, and I couldn't be happier with it. It's accessible and doesn't need a complex palate to understand it.
It's always changing since coffees are seasonal and different farms use different techniques in different regions. Also the same small farm might produce a better grade one year over the next 'cause there are so many factors in growing, processing and then roasting.
It also depends on what brewing method I'm using. For espresso or cold brew, I like sweet chocolate tones with a ton of body (which some Guatemala farms nail as well as many other countries and regions). If I'm drinking a hand-brewed coffee (pour over), I'm really into a few high altitude Kenyan coffees right now that have a lot of density and acidity.
How is coffee beneficial for the body
Coffee is a super food. It's rich in antioxidants, and believed to greatly lower risk of diabetes, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, Alzheimer's disease and more. It keeps your brain active and also enhances muscle recovery. However caffeine has a few negatives such as dehydration and increased anxiety if that's already an issue. So stay hydrated and if you're stressed out don't drink too much!
You travel a lot with your band, what are your favorite coffee houses that you've come across
I love going to places that roast their own coffee so I've fallen in love with 49th Parallel in Vancouver, Heart Coffee Roasters in Portland, Toby's Estate in Brooklyn, Verve in Santa Cruz. I love the original Intelligentsia in Chicago. And I dig being surprised by unsuspecting cafes, whether they are in airports or I just stumble into them while walking around random towns.
What are some tips a coffee novice should know
+ Always grind your beans with a burr grinder right before brewing as coffee goes stale almost immediately after being ground. When buying coffee, always look for a roast date and purchase within seven days of being roasted. If it doesn't have a date on it, it's stale.
+The darker the roast, the LESS caffeine it has (that one is always a shocker).
+ If you consume too much caffeine and get the jitters, try eating a banana or drinking coconut water, for over-caffeination can cause depleted levels of potassium, and when that's the case refueling helps.