Coffee and interview with Sandows

We sat down with cold brewers Luke and Hugh of Sandows to discuss what makes a perfect cold brew, the secrets of nitro and their crowdfunding campaign.

LBC: Who are you guys and how did you meet?

Sandows: Luke Suddards & Hugh Duffie. We met working together as baristas at TAP Coffee in Soho, where we were involved with managing two of the shops and the early days of roasting. We learnt pretty much everything we know about coffee there and really enjoyed being part of opening the ambitious new shop on Wardour St, No. 193. 

LBC: When did you begin and what spurred your interest in cold brewing?

Sandows: We've both always been interested in having our own businesses. When we were both managing TAP cafes and cycling home to Stoke Newington, we'd often cycle together and stop off at a pub or two on the way and swap ideas. Hugh used to be responsible for brewing all the cold brew at TAP and it was really from the experience of using the drip method and maintaining stock levels between the three shops as cold brew became more popular that got us thinking about it. In Summer 2013, we noticed that plenty of independent cafes were making their own cold brew at a small scale. We knew that the complexities of running a successful cafe meant that they could really benefit from outsourcing cold brew to someone that they could trust to do a good job, so they could focus on their core offering. Understanding that cafes only want to stock products that reflect the level of care that they take led us to develop our cold brew the way we have. We launched in April 2014 and the reception has been amazing, its been full on ever since!

LBC: What does your week look like?

Sandows: It all starts on Sunday evenings, when we set off our brews before they steep for 16 hours. We spend Mondays filtering the brew, bottling, labelling and packaging it all ready for deliveries. Depending on how busy it is this can end up being a pretty late night. We then begin our deliveries early at 6am to get in to Central London and out again before 8am. We then spend the rest of the week on business development, for lack of a better word. This involves sample dropping, chasing up new opportunities, visiting our stockists, trying new coffees, producing content for our social media and our newsletter, the Sandows Journal, and working towards growing the business in whatever way possible. As we're so new to business we've spent the first eight months constantly changing our direction and working out where we're heading but it feels like we have a much clearer strategy now in 2015. 

LBC: What are the fundamentals of cold brewing? How does the process differ from regular brewing?

Sandows: Fundamentally, cold brewing is an extension of filter coffee. If you take away heat from the brewing equation, you need to make some adjustments to your approach and the result will be quite different. Essentially, cold water is able to extract coffee but it takes much longer to achieve the same kind of extractions that hot water allows. The drip and immersion, or Toddy, styles will vary but we have found that for consistency we prefer to use a sort of customised immersion style using beer fermenters. We coarsely grind the coffee and avoid agitation to extract slightly more acidity than you normally expect from cold brew, making it extra refreshing. Our cold brew goes through three stages of filtration before bottling, then we cap and label everything by hand. 

LBC: Where do you source your beans and what flavours are you looking for?

Sandows: So far we've used coffee from TAP Coffee (Hugh roasted the first couple of batches), Square Mile, Workshop and Climpson & Sons. We look for fairly light roasted, fruity coffees with plenty of sweetness that will suit our brewing style. We tend to stick with a coffee for three weeks or so, giving us a chance to improve it before moving on to a new one. So far we've been changing roaster and coffees constantly to learn as much as possible. We're moving towards developing a Sandows profile that we will maintain as best as possible by blending coffees that are available at any one time. Through this we're simply looking to achieve something reliably delicious with plenty of juicy sweetness and silky body all year round. 

LBC: Any favourites thus far?

Sandows: It kind of depends on the occasion really, we've loved sipping on some really juicy Kenyan cold brew from Workshop but the Guatemala Finca Villaure from TAP Coffee, the Ethiopia Reko from Square Mile and our current Nicaragua La Cascada from Climpsons have been really memorable!

 

LBC: What's all this nitro talk about?

Sandows: Ha! We've been inspired in no small part by the US cold brew market and when we saw the introduction of nitrogenated cold brew, we were keen to have a go ourselves. It took us a while to develop it and to get it pouring just right and tasting great consistently. In short, we put cold brew in a keg and bleed off the oxygen and then begin charging the keg with nitrogen. As opposed to carbonation, which in layman's terms is adding big bubbles to a liquid, nitrogenating introduces small bubbles. So small that they thicken up the liquid to the point where it pours with a head and will cascade, just 'like a Guinness". 

 

LBC: And where can we taste it?

Sandows: We've just launched our version into Brewdog in Shepherd's Bush for a trial but we're really hopeful that providing coffee to pubs/bars in a format that they're set up for can be an exciting opportunity for us. We both really love beer but we don't really have any clue about how to make it, so the nearest thing for us is to put our coffee on draught. 

LBC: What's ahead in 2015?

Sandows: We're currently crowdfunding on Crowdcube to raise £100,000, which will allow us to move into our own purpose built 'Cold Brewery'. This will allow us to produce more and we're hoping to push forward and really cement ourselves as the iconic British cold brew. We'd really love to make our cold brew available outside of London as we've had an overwhelming amount of interest and would love to be there! Hopefully we'll be able to bring on a staff member at some point and together we can do some awesome things!

Sandows is crowdfunding on Crowdcube here.

Find Sandows on Twitter here.

Related:

Coffee and interview with Dan Thompson

February 19, 2015 — Best Coffee