Coffee had not been a primary focus for the seven-year-old Los Angeles-based B Sweet catering company before they opened their brick-and-mortar café in western L.A. about a year ago.
Better known for their 40-plus flavors of bread pudding, B Sweet offered foods both savory and sweet at events and through their two food trucks, but as the store is strictly a dessert shop, a stepped-up cup of coffee was essentially non-negotiable. And seeing as how cold drinks are always in style in Los Angeles, including a cold brew was also a no-brainer. Yet not even the business owners could have predicted how popular that cold brew would turn out to be.
“I did not know that we’d get into coffee, or that we’d get as much love from the coffee,” B Sweet Co-Owner Kurt Steinitz told Daily Coffee News, as his company rolls the first 100-percent made-in-L.A. canned RTD nitro cold brew coffee out to stores and restaurants. With help from the Beer Monks mobile canning service, brewing and canning of the beverage is completed entirely on the compact site of the B Sweet dessert bar at 2005 Sawtelle Boulevard.
Originally, coffee offerings at the bar included only a basic hot drip and an immersion cold brew — not even espresso. “We’re in a very old building, and with all our machinery in there, we tried a bigger coffee brewer, and we kept tripping breakers,” said Steinitz. “We tried an espresso machine, and we were tripping breakers.”
While they do appreciate the inadvertent simplicity of the coffee menu as it is, they will eventually get their wiring issues sorted and incorporate espresso. Meanwhile, getting their cold brew nitro-pressurized and served on tap was not only more feasible but a higher priority upgrade that clearly paid off.
With the growing popularity of Stumptown’s nitro around Los Angeles, Steinitz knew from the beginning it was a direction he wanted B Sweet to take. “I saw a video of a pour of Stumptown nitro on YouTube and I had to replicate that result. I thought it was so pretty,” Steinitz recalled, noting that while nowadays the Internet is teeming with information on how to infuse coffee with nitrogen, even just one year ago that info was much harder to come by. “I knew we could do it, but it took about two months of guessing and checking and trial and error to lock it down. We had to learn ourselves, but it was fun.”
Unlike Stumptown and Cuvee Coffee’s Guiness-style widget cans, which contain small pocket of nitrogen that’s ruptured and added to the liquid as it’s opened and poured, B Sweet’s RTD canned nitro coffee is widget-less. Nitrogen is added to B Sweet’s coffee at several different stages and again upon sealing the can at the end, so that consumers must shake the can and pour it rapidly to create the ideal cascading effect.
“I kind of suck at it. Every time I do it I get it everywhere,” admitted Steinitz. “Everybody else seems to be able to do it the right way.” Steinitz explained that the contents do flood out under pressure when the can is opened, but no special technique is needed for a neat and dazzling pour. As it says on the can, just shake it well and pour it hard.
As coffee remains a relatively new concern of theirs, roasting it themselves wasn’t much of a possibility for B Sweet, although they knew they wanted to be as involved as possible. So they opted not to form a new relationship with any of the established local roasters, and instead reached out to friend-of-the-family Kurt O’Brien, a Culver City-based roaster that operates his own coffee catering, wholesale and private-label roasting business under the name New Frontier Coffee.
Since then, Steinitz reported having received a lot of emails from other roasters offering to help B Sweet meet their rapidly growing demand, although Steinitz said they prefer to remain loyal to O’Brien, who also assures them he’s up to the challenge. “We’re a small company and we’re big into family and connections like that,” said Steinitz. “We’re going to grow with him.”
With cold brew being as hot as it is, growth is certainly on the horizon. Whether that means bringing New Frontier under one roof with B Sweet or continuing on as two independent companies remains to be seen. “We’re still in talks about that,” said Steinitz, noting, “It’s a decision that’s going to have to be made pretty quickly.”
Upcoming products include their nitro matcha green tea, and they’re playing with the idea of a canned nitro latte, which would most likely incorporate a non-dairy milk and remain majority coffee. Flavorings such as chicory or hops are also ideas on the table, but none of these have really gone through the R&D process yet. “We don’t want to do it just to do it,” said Steinitz. “We want it to be because wow, that’s amazing.”