Cold-brewed Coffee – On Tap

Local coffee sellers, a bar and a growler shop have teamed up to create delicious coffees for the bar

Cold-brewed coffee has hit the taps at Delaware Growler in Newark and Trolley Tap House in Wilmington.

Mike Slattery of the one-year-old growler shop on Main Street had the idea to sell cold-brewed coffee on tap more than a year ago, when a West Coast growler distributor recommended doing so. Over the past six months he waited for the right coffee shop partnership. He only had to look a few doors down to the new Brewed Awakenings owner, JD Willetts, who took over the Main Street establishment this summer. Their cold-brewed coffee on tap partnership started in mid-August.

“There’s a direct correlation between craft beer drinkers and craft coffee drinkers,” says Slattery. “It’s a nice crossover. I thought there was something here for everyone before, but now it’s hitting a whole new category.”

Growlers range from a few dollars to $16.99 for the largest size, a 64-ouncer full of Willetts’ coffee. As of press time, Delaware Growler featured an African blend of Ethiopian, Ugandan and Democratic Republic of the Congo coffee, blended together and brewed at a high concentration at Brewed Awakenings.

The nitro cold-brewed coffee on tap at Trolley Tap House forms a frothy head, like Guinness. (Photos by Dennis Dischler)
The nitro cold-brewed coffee on tap at Trolley Tap House forms a frothy head, like Guinness. (Photos by Dennis Dischler)

Slattery says the coffee has been received well. “A lot of customers come in for coffee for their growler without ever having been in here before,” he says.

Brittany Simoncelli, general manager of Trolley Tap House, says for $5 customers can grab a 12-oz. cold-brewed nitro-infused coffee for an in-house glass or to go. The local coffee, from Brandywine Coffee Roasters, is a Brazilian Cerrado blend.

“Customers love it,” says Simoncelli. “We sell it around the clock. It’s becoming a trend across the country, and unsurprisingly it came down from Portland and California and made its way over here. Our customers could not be more enthusiastic about it.”

Slattery sees cold-brewed coffee on tap becoming a bigger sensation, too. “Just like growlers [for beer], it’s something in its truest form, so I think it’ll be here for a while,” he says.

When Slattery approached Willetts with the idea, Willetts was all for it, but had one obstacle: he knew very little about cold-brewed coffee at the time.

“What I lack in knowledge, I make up for in effort,” says Willetts. “I did a lot of research and networked. Customers here get a lot of credit for our iced coffee, because they tasted batch after batch of it for feedback.”

The process and result of cold-brewing is very different from traditionally-brewed coffees.

With cold-brewing, acids aren’t released that create the “bitter bite” of regular coffee, says Willetts. This means stomachs won’t be upset by the acid, and there’s not that back-of-the throat bitterness.

For brewing, Willetts will usually grind almost nine pounds of coffee into a mesh bag and let it brew in almost eight gallons of water for up to 18 hours. Then the mix is drained, pulled and filtered up to four times with fine filters to create a very clean finish.

Photo by Dennis Dischler
Photo by Dennis Dischler

Willetts used to sell regularly-brewed iced coffee, but now when he refers to Brewed Awakenings’ iced coffee, he’s talking about cold-brewed. Customers have remarked about the difference, and there’s no going back for him, he says. In fact, he’s planning to take the coffee one step further within the coming months by nitro-infusing it, which gives it a nice head like a Guinness. And better yet, even though the processes are far more labor intensive, the price stays the same at $1.50 for a 12-ounce.

“We’re very community focused here, so it’s not more expensive,” says Willetts.
Because growler content needs to last longer, Willetts says that Slattery’s on-tap coffee is a very strong, concentrated version, which needs to be diluted before customers drink it.

“We’re doing different things—he’s selling it by the growlers so people can take it home, mix it at home, and it’ll last longer,” says Willetts. “Here, we’re selling by the glass.”

Simoncelli says staff at the Tap House love to experiment with drink mixology—so customers can even buy a coffee stout with North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, in addition to a coffee blended with varying pumpkin ales, and also a cocktail.

For Brewed Awakening customers, Willetts recommends adding water or extra cream since it’s so strong. The question is whether to drink it hot or cold. It’s all about preference, Slattery and Willetts agree. For hot, Willetts says to just heat the coffee—since it has already been brewed, the expected sour bitterness will not occur, and depending on caffeine preferences, customers can add water to dilute it.

“That’s what’s nice about what Mike is doing at Delaware Growler—all winter long, people can go in there and grab a growler, heat the stuff up, and they’ve got a really good cup of coffee,” says Willetts.