The box arrived in our office with a warning on the outside: “Keep chilled." Were these Omaha steaks?
Nope, inside was a six-pack of gorgeous cans of coffee, nestled against cooler packs. The beans for each began their lives in three far-flung regions in Colombia, Ethiopia; and Burundi. They were subsequently neither iced nor cold-brewed, but instead “Snapchilled,” a trademarked process that chills hot, fresh-brewed coffee to 40 degrees in a minute, exponentially faster than blast chilling. This happens inside a Snapchiller, a machine crafted to “do away with ice, dilution, oxidation …” according to Massachusetts-based Elemental Beverage Co., the company founded by David Dussault in 2012 that is the owner of the Snapchilling process.
Also inside was a heavy glass bottle that appeared to be liqueur but was actually a “Founder’s Selection,” of Gesha coffee from Ninety Plus Gesha Estates in Volcán, Panama. (Gesha coffee, which is especially prized and grown mostly in Panama, sometimes sells for upward of $600 a pound at auction). The 750-milliliter bottle, which retailed for $235 until it sold out, came with two tulip glasses.
Before you say “dear Lord,” consider that in the ever-competitive, multibillion dollar world of cold-brewed coffee, there are people who geek out as intensely over it as others might about grand cru Champagne. If oxidation is the enemy of coffee, the quest to capture it at its apogee — just after brewing — and minimize volatile compounds drives multimillion-dollar initiatives such as Snapchilling, as well as some cold brewers to intense secrecy about processes. This is all to say: there is a market.
I open a can of the Colombian; it pffts a gasp of air, then tastes faintly of chocolate, plus pebbles and citrus. The Ethiopian brew is even fruitier, floral and bright. When I pour milk into the Colombian, as a test, it ruins it instantly.
That Gesha coffee is — well, it’s striking, a swirl of overripe raspberries, cocoa, maybe quince. Am I am searching too hard for complexity, based on perceived value? Maybe, but it’s unlike any chilled coffee I’ve tasted.
For now, Elemental's Snapchilled coffees ($29.95 per six pack) are only sold around Boston and online via elementalbeverage.co. If you get hooked, you can also preorder a Snapchiller, due to launch this winter for $5,995 each, also via the website.