To celebrate the launch of Sandows Nitro cans on the EatFirst menu we managed to grab 10 minutes with Hugh Duffie (co-founder) to find out where it all began and what makes this incredible brand so special.
Tell me about your first Cold Brew.
The first time I tried cold brew was back when Luke and I worked together at TAP Coffee in Soho. It was made using a Japanese drip tower rather than the infusion method we use. Water goes in a big glass orb and is dripped at one drip per second through a bed of ground coffee and filtered as it drips. It has a really intense flavour with an almost whiskey-like character. I think the fact that is was so different to every other way I’d tried coffee really intrigued me (and Luke) and we got really into it which is one of the things that led us to start Sandows.
Tell me a bit about the history of Sandows and how you ended up getting into it as there wasn’t many people making cold brew when you launched.
Sandows was launched in April 2014 when we spotted a growing interest in cold brew coffee whilst working at a cafe in Soho. Inspired by the thriving category in the US, we set out to make the best tasting cold brew in the UK. We first started in the basement of Vagabond N7 in North London, and for the first year we made everything by hand, delivering cases of raw cold brew via Zipcar. In 2015 we raised money via crowdfunding on Crowdcube.com to enable us to launch the ambient stable, specialty grade cold brew you see today.
Can you tell me a little about the process of making cold brew, how does it differ from making normal coffee?
Cold brew is coffee brewed overnight using cold water.
Normally it takes roughly 4-5 mins to brew a cup of coffee using ground coffee and hot water. Cold brewing involves taking ground coffee and infusing it with cold water for 12-24 hours.
The gentle method brings out a really smooth flavour with very low acidity, without the bitterness you usually get in black coffee.
Where do you get all your coffee from?
We partner with Origin Coffee Roasters who source our coffee directly from farms, in turn providing genuine support for growing partners and providing full traceability. Direct trade means investing in relationships and taking risks together to produce excellent, consistent results. This means paying higher prices (at least 50% over and above Fairtrade prices, without exception) and visiting these growing partners on a regular basis. Sandows is proud to have Origin as our coffee supply partner, providing us with reliably delicious, in-season and skillfully roasted coffee.
Would you look to take Sandows further than the UK?
With Sandows we’re trying to create a brand that is built on an ethos of uncompromising quality and attention to detail. I think this extends beyond cultural or language barriers and we’re keen to grow wherever we’re wanted and can surprise and delight people with our products and brand.
How did you end up being based in East London?
My co-founder Luke and I have lived in East London throughout the whole process of developing the brand and our office (in Hackney) feels right being in such a creative area.
How did the idea of the Nitro can come about?
We initially saw nitro cold brew on Instagram from some spots over in the US and we knew we had to work it out. We initially developed it on draught which took ages and we’ve only recently got it to a place we’re really happy with, but whilst we were working on that those same people had brought out cans. We wanted to have a really distinctive can which would stand out amongst the slim Red Bull style cans and 330ml standard cans whilst helping us to keep pricing at a reasonable level. It took us well over a year but we’re really happy with them and we hope you’ll like them too!
What is the secret to making the best coffee, cold & hot?
There are lots of tiny details you can tweak to go from 95%-99% but the most important things are the coffee and the water. Coffee that’s pitch black and glossy will taste really ashy and is generally unhappy, so I’d suggest trying to find something lighter (a light or medium roast).