By May 2013, Mike Steiner and Jake Paulson had grown weary of the years they had spent on the road touring as front-of-house audio engineers in the rock music industry, so they switched channels and founded a cold-brew coffee company they dubbed Anchorhead Coffee. Based on a single cold-brew coffee, the Duvall, Wash.-based company has grown to offer whole bean, concentrate and two ready-to-drink (RTD) cold-brew coffees.
“The first product we put out was the ready-to-drink cold brew,” Steiner explains. “We started at the local farmers market here in Duvall, Wash. That gave us the opportunity as a test market to see if this business was viable. People loved it, so that gave us motivation to learn everything we could about the coffee industry.”
But before that first cold brew came to be, the two founders were faced with a decision. “We talked about starting a coffee shop, but with no experience, it didn’t seem doable,” Steiner says. “We started making cold brew and decided to start bottling it.”
Although the thought of starting a coffee shop in 2013 seemed impossible, today it no longer poses the same challenges for the company. In fact, it has plans to open a coffee shop in downtown Seattle in early 2016.
Steiner adds that the shop will serve as a resource to expose the brand to new consumers and offer new coffees and experimental cold-brew varieties.
“Opening our first coffee shop is a big step for us, so we are excited to be able to share our love for coffee with direct contact with the customer,” he says. “Hopefully, more shops, new cold-brew varieties and new markets are [on] the horizon for Anchorhead Coffee.”
Brewing a bottle
Not allowing the future to distract it, Anchorhead has continued innovating in the meantime. In September, the company expanded to its product line with the release of a hopped RTD cold brew that uses Citra hops to flavor the slow-brewed coffee, steeping with hops layered in natural citrus and floral aromas, the company says.
“We saw big companies putting out sweetened flavored coffees like vanilla and mocha. We started bottling the coffee with my home-brew-beer equipment, so that led to flavoring a cold-brew coffee with hops,” Steiner explains. “We wanted to do something different and two of our favorite things are coffee and beer. We wanted to put something out that was really different from what you would expect to find. It sounds like a weird combo, but it works in a fantastic way.”
Anchorhead Hopped Cold Brew is made with the company’s Fair Trade house blend coffee, Narwhal, which also is used in the company’s Original RTD cold-brew coffee. According to Steiner, the Narwhal House Blend whole beans and RTD Cold Brew Original are the company’s top sellers. “Both SKUs are made with our Guatemala-Sumatra blend,” he says. “It’s a balanced blend that really works.”
With a company based on cold-brew coffee, Anchorhead places an emphasis on ensuring the quality of its beverages. It begins with sourcing beans that maintain a consistent, unique quality, Steiner notes. “Our cold brew is all natural and has Non-GMO/Fair Trade certification,” he says. “We are offering the best natural coffee beverage we can.”
Steiner hopes to continue to drive the quality and sourcing of Anchorhead’s coffee beans. “One day we are hoping to take origin trips and source directly from the farms,” Steiner says. “Some of our coffee is strictly organic. There are fewer options when buying organic. We have been lucky to have quality options thus far.”
As with any beverage, ensuring flavor quality also is essential. Steiner explains how origin, flavors and how the flavors play on each are taken into consideration when formulating Anchorhead’s coffees. “There are many flavors that are great in their own way,” he says. “We roast Arabica Guatemala and Sumatra for our cold brew. We find that the brighter Guatemala and the earthy Sumatra balance each other for a great flavor.”
The company uses a temperature-controlled slow-brew process in which the roasted and ground beans are steeped without heat for 20 hours. Anchorhead uses its own roasting process for all its coffee to offer a unique quality as well, Steiner adds.
In addition to the RTD cold-brew coffees and Narwhal whole beans, the company offers four other varieties of whole-bean coffees: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Sumatra and Leviathan, an espresso blend. The whole-bean coffees are available in 12-ounce packaging ranging in price between $14 and $16. A 32-ounce cold-brew coffee concentrate also is available for a suggested retail price of $15. Anchorhead’s RTD cold-brew varieties are available in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles that retail for $16.
Currently, Anchorhead products are available in select markets, mainly in the Northwest, Steiner says. “We definitely plan to grow to other regions when it makes sense for the company,” he adds.