Mastercoldbrewer is using new technology to share the true potential of coffee, from unlocking new sensory qualities and beverage innovations to sustainability and value creation at origin.
When a Swiss apple juice company asked Roland Laux to help it find a point of difference in the market, he didn’t expect to discover a technology that could revolutionise apple juice, let alone coffee, chocolate, and many other products.
But when a research and development engineer handed Laux a glass of white liquid that looked little like traditional apple juice, that’s exactly what happened.
“I’d never tasted something so similar to freshly cut apple. I asked him how it was made, but he couldn’t tell me. He said this strange professor from Zurich was working on experiments with them, but it was all highly confidential,” Laux tells Global Coffee Report.
That professor was Dr Tilo Hühn of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), and Laux reached out to him to learn more about this mysterious technology. Hühn revealed the apple juice was produced using a specialised decanter technology. The whole apples were milled down to a fine particle size and run through a centrifuge that separated it into two phases – solids and liquid. That liquid is what Laux drank at the factory.
“We were looking for new ways to use the full intrinsic value of the fruit, extracting all the flavours we could to create a special product for the customer,” Hühn explains.
“There is so much wasted potential in the ways we process foodstuff, not only in terms of the sensory experience but nutrition and overall composition. When I first spoke with Roland, we aligned on this passion for product quality. We realised combining my knowledge of technological processes with Roland’s consumer and marketing understanding could serve as the basis for creating innovation.”
Laux, a former Manager of Nestlé in Chile and the United States prior to starting innovation consultancy firm Unico-first, quickly realised this technology’s application in cocoa. With coffee an outwardly similar product, he filed patents for the technology’s use with both products at the same time, around 2008. The cocoa patent was sold to Swiss investor Dieter Meier, who will soon open the Oro de Cacao factory with a capacity of 5000 tonnes per year, and Laux turned his attention to coffee with Mastercoldbrewer.
Naming the decanter technology the Spin Cold Brew process, Mastercoldbrewer began producing its own ready to drink (RTD) coffee products under the brand RE-Coffee, which has built a loyal following in Switzerland.
Similar to the apple juice production, lightly roasted whole coffee beans are milled while submerged in water – to preserve their aromatic compounds – then run through a phase separation process to produce the cold brew, as well as a coffee oil and coffee powder. The fine milling of the coffee beans enlarges its surface area, bringing out its recognisable sensory attributes, which at the same time are encapsulated in the solvent, the water.
Spin Cold Brew not only extracts more aroma, flavour, and compounds from the coffee beans, it works as a continuous method, reducing process time from many hours to only minutes.
When the cold brew first exits the machine, it has a “cloudy” appearance, due to the dispersion of fat from the coffee bean, almost as if it contains milk. While RE-Coffee filters this cloudy coffee to more closely resemble typical cold brew, Hühn says the beverage could appeal to a growing global market of non-dairy drinkers.
“This cloudy coffee is an entirely new beverage, that no-one had ever tasted or experienced before. It’s a coffee that seems to contain milk, but is entirely vegan. It doesn’t taste like it has cow’s milk in it, but the fats give it a similar creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel,” Hühn says.
“The most exciting, and also most difficult part is that this is a new product. It means you may have to challenge the user’s sensory expectations but there is such huge potential to bring more of the good from the raw material into the final product.”
Over several years of working with the coffee industry, Laux and Hühn saw that the applications of the Spin Cold Brew technology went beyond a more aromatic cold brew.
The two developed a Continuous Coffee Cherry processing method that uses freshly picked whole coffee cherries, instead of lightly roasted beans, to produce a nutrient-rich coffee powder, coffee oil, and fruity coffee drink which Laux says is unlike anything else on the market.
“You need about six kilograms of freshly cut coffee cherries to produce one kilogram of green coffee beans, five kilograms of cherry and moisture are lost on the way. Some is used as fertiliser or for cascara, but the vast majority is wasted, losing that nutritional value and negatively impacting the environment,” Laux says. “There is a huge pressure on the whole coffee industry to improve its sustainability and that heavy load is not getting any smaller. Boosting value creation onsite in coffee growing countries, while further exploiting the natural beauty of whole coffee cherry – which is usually lost or thrown away – is one way the industry can face the future.”
Continuous Coffee Cherry processing creates products that are antioxidant rich, appealing to the health foods market, and could help a coffee business or retailer diversify their offering.
“While the industry starts to commercialise dried cascara powder, we go for the undried, fresh whole coffee fruit, as, for example, the antioxidant activity in coffee fruit extracts is up to 25-fold higher than in powders. Patents are granted now in Europe and first Asian countries,” Laux says.
However, Laux believes there is another application of the technology that takes this diversification to new heights.
Co-extraction involves processing coffee together with other ingredients in the Spin Cold Brew method to produce even more entirely new creations. Instead of using water as a solvent, other ingredients with a high-water content, like fruits, can be directly co-extracted together with roasted coffee beans or fresh coffee cherries. This results in a product with a unique sensory profile, colour, and higher content of value determining substances like vitamins and polyphenols, compared to simply mixing them.
“The idea behind co-extraction is to use the beneficial composition of other raw materials or other substances from the original plant to prevent the ingredients from oxidation and improve the composition of the end product,” Hühn says.
“It’s basically what we do with the whole coffee cherry in Continuous Coffee Cherry processing, combining the fat content of the bean with the acids and antioxidants of the fruit.”
Over the years, Laux and Hühn have applied this technology to a number of different food and beverage products, from fruit juices and wine to herbs and spices and edible nuts. Displaying the ability of this fine-milling and phase separation to extract all of these different materials, Laux says combining them is a natural next step.
“We don’t sell decanters or mills, we commercialise their application in form of new, patented methods like Spin Cold Brew,” he adds.
Other possibilities of co-extraction he tested include co-extracting coffee with milk for a new dairy-based beverage, with nuts like hazelnut for plant-based drinks, or with herbs and spices like vanilla or cinnamon for a flavoured beverage.
“Coffee becomes an ‘ingredient’, delivering the caffeine, the fat, and the aroma components, which can be combined with the mentioned other ingredients,” Laux says. “This offers completely new taste sensations and differentiation potential in terms of quality for RTD coffee beverages in a highly competitive global market.”
With the decanter technology starting to be embraced in other industries, Laux says he is excited to see coffee, a product that could particularly benefit from it, used to its full potential.
“We’re convinced we’ll be able to get there soon and are looking for the right business and licencing partners to make this happen,” Laux says. “The world can expect new taste and flavour experiences from coffee.”
For more information, visit re-coffee.ch/en