Some days you have the luxury of heading to your local coffee shop, ordering your favorite drink, grabbing a table, and leisurely sipping your beverage of choice. But many days, even sparing the time to stand in line, order, and wait for your latte seems impossible. Sometimes you just need to grab a coffee and go, but your options are limited. You can duck into the nearest gas station for a watered down cup of Joe, or run into the grocery store and pluck a cold bottle of (very) sweetened coffee off the shelf.
Until now. Over the past few weeks, cans of Big Watt Circuit Bender cold press coffee have been hitting the shelves at local convenience and grocery stores. Big Watt is brought to you by the folks at Kingfield’s Five Watt Coffee. The people who put cocktail bitters in your coffee drinks are now putting their coffee in a can. A $3 a 12-ounce can, to be exact. Circuit Bender has about the equivalent amount of caffeine as a double espresso, but it’s what it doesn’t contain that makes it stand out from other canned or bottled coffees: There are no added flavors, no stabilizers, and the drinks are not pasteurized. The cans contain “just coffee and water,” says Lee Carter, Five Watt’s co-founder, and one of five partners in Big Watt.
Making the cans shelf stable without pasteurization and stabilizers was a challenge, but makes for a better product, Lee says. “Any time you add a preservative, you have to add sweetener to cover up the taste,” he explains. And while there are plans for flavored cold press drinks to be incorporated into the line this summer, those versions will stay true to the no artificial flavors ethos; ingredients like juniper and maple will be infused during the brewing process, not come from chemicals made to mimic juniper and maple. You can get a preview of what that tastes like by ordering a Brewer's Press at Five Watt. It’s a hopped cold press made with hops and malt from Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul, infused with juniper, basil, mint, and grapefruit.
Bringing a canned coffee to market has been a dream of Lee and Five Watt co-founder Caleb Garn since the beginning. A month after they opened the coffee shop, Jason Westplate, a beverage consultant, came through the door, and a plan began to take shape. They added two other partners to form Big Watt Cold Beverage Co., and started experimenting with flavor profiles and brewing techniques. This past summer, they hand bottled 200 samples of cold press for their local Open Streets celebration. It was a huge hit, and led to them being approached by their distributor, Core Beverage of Edina.
Big Watt has been using the bottling equipment at St. Paul’s Burning Brothers Brewing to perfect their product, but will be moving into their own production facility at 29th and Harriet in south Minneapolis. Plans are for the facility to include a storefront that will be a combination coffee bar, tap room, and café, due to open this spring.