Fresh Cup Magazine | August 2018

Page 32


BACKYARD BEANS established food safety protocols for service of their cold brew on tap and for their canned product (below).

Making Sure Cold Brew Is Food Safe Food-safe cold brew is the future, if coffee is to continue as an enjoyable, low-risk drink, whether served boiling hot, ice cold, bottled, canned, nitro’d or concentrated. By Rachel Northrop


t’s just coffee and water, right? What’s the big deal about food safety regulations and cold brew? Actually, it’s quite a big deal, according to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which became law in the United States on January 4, 2011, ushering in a new era of stricter regulations on food manufacturers of all sizes. The focus of this food safety legislation is on the prevention of food-borne illness outbreaks rather than reactions to contamination. It also comprehensively approaches all angles of our food supply system. Every part of the coffee supply chain has some requirements to comply with the law.

RETHINKING COLD BREW Cold brew, unlike iced coffee, is made with water that is never brought to a boil and therefore carries a higher risk for mold or pathogens to grow. A risky rumor in the industry is that coffee is its own antiseptic, which is only marginally true for coffee, where certain concentrations of caffeine are inhibiting, but not necessarily killing some strains of bacteria.

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“It’s partly cultural that coffee is assumed to be safe,” says Matt Adams, owner at Backyard Beans Coffee Company, a Lansdale, Pennsylvania roaster, retailer, and wholesaler that cans and kegs nitrogen cold brew for distribution. Among consumers and manufacturers, hot coffee bears the generally accurate connotation of being a safe product, with less of the risks inherent in other café products, such as dairy-based drinks. But the difference between hot coffee and cold coffee is major, and any product that

is bottled, canned, kegged, boxed, or otherwise packed for distribution must have stringent food safety protocols as part of its manufacturing procedures. To produce food-safe cold brew, manufacturers must have a “Food Safety Plan” explaining how they will prevent any contamination or adulteration in their products. The plan should include a formal hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls, as well as a supply chain program, validation, verification, stated corrective actions, and a recall plan. “We spoke to our Food Lab and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture about microbial spoilage and professionals in the [beer] brewing and food industries,” Adams says of the process he went through when Backyard Beans began building their new roasting and canning facility in 2015, back when few coffee professionals were yet familiar with FSMA and FDA regulations. Adams worked backwards from the question of how to make a food-safe product to the requirements of national distributors and accounts. The requirements of those who stock cold brew and


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