Friends Zach MacAffer and Collin Ricker dreamed of creating the perfect espresso martini. When that didn't pan out, they shifted their focus to creating the perfect cold brew. After months of research and development, they think they've accomplished their goal with NuRange Coffee and its new line of canned cold brew drinks.
MacAffer and Ricker met while attending college at the University of Denver, and bonded over their love of espresso martinis, which they considered a more sophisticated version of the vodka Redbulls that many college students consume to get through parties and late-night study sessions. They made it a point to try espresso martinis at every bar they went to, and even started an Instagram account dedicated to documenting and rating their sips.
Long after college, the two found themselves in the position to quit their corporate jobs in 2018 to take their coffee-tasting expertise to the next level. They teamed up to create a pre-batched, kegged espresso martini. "It was a terrible idea — we fell so flat on our faces," MacAffer recalls. "Bars told us, 'All you're going to do is ruin our tap system.' Plus, it's super illegal — most states don't allow pre-batched, wholesale alcoholic drinks."
After the espresso martini dead end, they shifted their focus. "A big part of what Collin and I were taste-testing were cold brews for the cocktail — about seven or eight cups of cold brew a day," says MacAffer. They encountered many of the typical side effects of consuming high amounts of caffeine — anxiety, upset stomach, dehydration — so they set out to make a cold brew with fewer negative effects.
They two had no professional coffee experience; they were just avid consumers. "We thought we knew something about coffee, but we weren't pre-disposed, so we were open to trying anything. Really we wanted to figure out, how do we make the best-tasting coffee?" says Ricker. They dove into the science behind coffee's pH balance — which affects its taste and mouthfeel — and sought advice from professionals in the coffee industry. They also consulted with friends in the cannabis industry, because they knew they wanted to incorporate CBD into one of their drinks.
"The market was full of lattes packed full of dairy and fat, and all these black coffees that don't really bring much as far as flavor — they're typically bitter and very strong," says MacAffer. "We wanted to roast the bean to create a rich, chocolatey flavor without any additives."
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Their caffeinated tastebuds led them to a fair trade, single-origin arabica coffee bean from Guatemala. They contracted with a solar-powered roaster in New Jersey to air-roast the beans, which yields a consistent dark roast. "High heat actually brings out the acidic parts of the coffee and lowers pH level; the darker you can get the bean before burning it, the better," MacAffer says. The result is a cold brew that naturally tastes of chocolate and coffee without any additives.
Ultimately they decided to incorporate CBD isolate into one of their drinks. Whereas many coffee shops use a powdered version, they needed something that would hold up during the canning process."Legally, we can't make any claims, because we don't have half a million dollars to fork over for a scientific study — but the science is sound in theory," says Ricker.
After eighteen months of long, coffee-fueled days and lots of trial and error, NuRange's cold brew hit the market in January. It was followed shortly thereafter by the company's Cold Brew Drink (which, fittingly, contains CBD), then a Cold Brewtini (at 10 percent ABV) and, most recently, the Cold Brew Latte, made with coconut milk. All four beverages are gluten-free, vegan and shelf stable for up to one year. The duo worked its way through a learning curve and over lots of setbacks to live up to its "By any beans necessary" slogan.
You can find NuRange across the Front Range and beyond: The products are now in ninety different stores, including Whole Foods Markets, independent grocers in every major ski town and online.