Like Asheville’s notoriously crafty beer community, Waking Life Coffee co-owners Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens take their brewing seriously. By borrowing the concept of flash-chilling from brewers, the two say they’ve surpassed other methods of preparing iced coffee, including the popular cold-brew process. And with a new distribution deal with locally based beverage distributors Sour Grapes, a recently launched online sales portal and a promising second location in East Asheville, Waking Life’s caffeinated creations are poised to please coffee lovers near and far.
THE VALUE OF FLASH CHILLING
A blend of factors determines each morning java or afternoon pick-me-up’s final taste, but Rutledge and Owens focus on brew temperature over time.
“The core concepts you have to use when brewing coffee remain the same, no matter what,” Owens explains, “and the previous cold-brew methods were breaking all those rules” by attempting to replace higher initial water temperature with a lengthier brew time. Even in the recommended 12- to 24-hour steep, room-temperature water can’t extract each bean’s unique terroir, he says. That often results in a “flat, generic taste — maybe with some chocolate notes.”
Another common mistake is slow cooling after a hot brew, say both baristas. “Coffee oils are volatile, and they degrade very quickly,” says Rutledge. “So if coffee cools down slowly — especially as it goes through the food-temperature danger zone — the aromas degrade, and you get a nasty, funky taste like cardboard.”
Waking Life’s 4-minute method resolves both problems — incomplete extraction and flavor degradation — by brewing hot and chilling quickly.
“The water goes in at 200 degrees, and by the time it’s done brewing, it’s below 80 degrees,” says Rutledge. The pair credit Wicked Weed’s Walt Dickinson and Mountain Air Roasting’s Marshall Hance with the suggestion of using a wort (pre-fermented beer) chiller on their coffee in early 2014, when the three companies teamed up to make a collaborative coffee stout.
While the process of manipulating temperatures does require additional energy and, thus, added expense, Owens and Rutledge say their unique beverage will continue to impress casual drinkers and fellow coffee geeks alike — especially when the Flash Dream slushy (made with Waking Life’s flash-chilled coffee plus other local ingredients) debuts later this summer.
“It’s kind of a shame to brew [coffee] any other way than perfect. [The flash-chilling] method allows us to do that,” says Owens.
“We’ve been doing it all ourselves,” says Owens of the new brew’s local distribution. Waking Life’s cold elixir is already available at many grocery stores and specialty shops around Asheville. The Sour Grapes partnership, however, will introduce the product to consumers in Charlotte, the Research Triangle, Greenville and Charleston in South Carolina and Atlanta in addition to smaller towns in between.
The busy partners also launched their product for sale online at avl.mx/0ul in February, making their bottled four-packs accessible anywhere in the U.S.
Waking Life’s draft nitro coffee (yes, you read that correctly), which they hope to start canning later this year, will also be available in both the West Asheville shop and the soon-to-be-finalized East Asheville location.
Stay tuned for details about the new East Asheville store. Waking Life Espresso is at 976 Haywood Road in West Asheville. More info: wakinglifeespresso.com