Year: 2016

Nitrobrew

10 Minutes with NitroBrew Inventor Dr. Murthy Tata

10 Minutes with NitroBrew Inventor Dr. Murthy Tata

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Inventor and engineer Murthy Tata talks about the invention that made him an unlikely coffee leader, the NitroBrew.

You probably don’t see a lot of coverage of engineers here, but at Barista Magazine we want to expand the coffee community and share stories from a wide variety of its members. We’ve covered the NitroBrew, the device that allows you infuse nitrogen into any drink one cup at a time, on this blog before. Now, we sit down with the inventor, Dr. Murthy Tata, to talk about the intersection of coffee, science, and the how his passion for food and drink led him to invent the NitroBrew. 

Ashley Rodriguez: What was your first experience with coffee?

Murthy Tata: I was probably 8 or 9 years old when my grandma filled milk in a glass that had a little coffee in it and gave it to me. I remember initially complaining about having to drink ‘contaminated’ milk. But to my surprise, it tasted better than usual milk. Over the years coffee replaced more and more of the milk.

AR: Have you always had a knack for inventing things?

MT: I am always tinkering. Thankfully, I was able to follow through on some of my projects, including NitroBrew and put them out in the marketplace as mature products. I usually take an unconventional approach to familiar problems. We are known for our innovative and novel solutions at QuantiPerm (a company I started in 2003 with products in food and beverage, biotechnology and brewing industries).

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Murthy is the founder of QuantiPerm, and has since opened a separate branch to respond to the popularity of NitroBrew.

AR: What inspired you to invent the NitroBrew?

MT: Inspiration for the NitroBrew idea comes from my career in the brewing industry. Nitro-style beers, in my opinion offer an amazing drinking experience with a silky-smooth texture, and a very different way of presenting flavors.

I developed a process to infuse nitrogen for Leinenkugel Brewing during the early 1990s. It turned out to be an amazing beer called Creamy Draft. People just loved it. But after the initial excitement, we learned that the customer experience didn’t work out the way we had imagined. We learned quickly that no matter how great your nitro style beer is, maintaining a consistent quality throughout the distribution system and at the bars was going to be a very difficult proposition. With these beers, unlike the normally carbonated beer styles, any changes in temperature, beer gas composition or pressure changes at retail adversely affect the quality. How many times have you had a nitro beer at a bar that had no head of foam? That was disappointing.

Infusing coffee with nitrogen is a more recent phenomenon. Initially, I was skeptical. I reached out to some specialty coffee folks around here to learn about how to do nitro coffee and experimented with a few of their coffees. It was a learning experience. We learnt that the coffee variety and the roasting style may either go very well or not so well with the typical beer gas infusion. The carbon dioxide levels in the gas can impart really astringent taste for certain styles, although the effect can be mostly overcome for certain styles when you use sweeteners, flavorings, or cream.

 

Murthy is an avid outdoorsman, and enjoys rock climbing, sailing, and running.

Murthy is an avid outdoorsman, and enjoys rock climbing, sailing, and running.

AR: What type of coffees do you enjoy on the NitroBrew?

MT: I like all varieties. That said, low-acid, medium roast varieties are my favorites. While almost all of these styles work amazingly well with NitroBrew, many of them don’t even need to be cold-brewed. Often at home, I just collect my drip coffee onto ice and NitroBrew it right away.

AR: What other jobs have you had? How did you get to this point?

MT: I am a chemical engineer. I had a brief stint in the petroleum industry. After graduate studies in biochemical engineering, I went to work in the brewing industry R&D for several years. I worked in all areas: fermentation, brewery processes, and also a little in chemistry of beer. Later I also worked in beer packaging and had the technical responsibility for putting beer in plastic bottles for the first time in North America. I accepted an invitation to work in Motorola’s Biochip development business in Arizona where we were developing chips to study gene expression profiles in biological samples.

I founded QuantiPerm in 2003 producing R&D instruments on a technology I patented (for rapid, nondestructive testing of packaging materials). QuantiPerm diversified its product offerings over the years to include carbonation systems, dissolved gas analyzers, bioprocess monitors, water treatment systems, etc. NitroBrew happens to be one of the recent QuantiPerm products, and since it caters to a different market, it was spun off as a separate company in 2014.

Murthy cites being outdoors as his way to relax.

Murthy cites being outdoors as his way to relax.

AR: Are you working on any other projects? Any other ways to improve coffee?

MT: We are eager to finish up some projects relating to fermentation monitoring and control systems for both commercial breweries as well as the home brewer market. In general, we don’t like to launch into a product line unless we feel like we can make a strong contribution.

In the coffee realm, we had been asked about kegerator-style in-line nitrogenation systems and we are looking into the possibilities and are working with larger commercial partners.

AR: What do you want people to know about you?

MT: As a consumer, I am very demanding of what I buy. So as an entrepreneur, I strive to offer the finest products that our customers are thrilled about. This is something the entire crew here strives to provide to our customers. Today, more than ever, it is our customers that come up with amazing and creative drinks. It is an entirely new level of satisfaction whenever our customers share their creations that include NitroBrew.

I draw inspiration from my family, friends, colleagues, and also our customers. I feel awed by the fact that all these amazing people share a part, however small, of their lives with me. While money can be important, I derive most pleasure from doing the little things everyday that make a difference.

Murthy and his wife, Sabitha.

Murthy and his wife, Sabitha.

My wife Sabitha, is a source of stability and inspiration. She and both my kids let me be a kid myself in my interactions with them and for that, I am forever thankful.

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NitroBrew featured in Barista Magazine

Make Nitro Cold Brew, One Cup at a Time

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Café owners rejoice! There’s now a way to do nitro without breaking the bank

BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Nitro cold brew is big—like, really big. “Nitro” refers to coffee that has been infused with nitrogen. Unlike regular carbonation, nitrogen creates small air bubbles that keep their shape longer and give the coffee a heavy, silky texture. Think of the difference between any ol’ beer and a Guinness. When you infuse coffee with nitrogen, the coffee takes on a very similar texture and mouthfeel.

However, unlike Guinness, which is delivered to your favorite bar ready to pull from a keg tap, most coffee shops make their cold-brew coffee on-site, and having a nitrogen keg can be incredibly cost-prohibitive and wasteful. You have to ask yourself, how many of these am I going to sell in order to justify the cost of not just a keg, but the dedicated tap space? If only you could make nitro cold-brew to order, right?

You can see the cold brew beginning to cascade, just like a Guinness.

You can see the cold brew beginning to cascade, just like a Guinness.

Mark Kim, owner of Amis Creperie and Café in South San Francisco, asked himself that very question, and then one day, he found the solution. He was researching different beer-dispensing technologies when he discovered NitroBrew, a handheld device that nitrogenates anything you put into it.

The NitroBrew looks like sort of like a hot glue gun fused with a moka pot—you open up the bottom portion that has a container for liquid, put whatever you’d like into it (coffee, of course, would be our choice), close it up, and place a nozzle into a charging station, and then pour your drink out of the nozzle.

The NitroBrew has an interior chamber for liquid—coffee, beer, tea, etc. After a quick charge, the NitroBrew dispenses smooth, nitro-infused beverages.

The NitroBrew has an interior chamber for liquid—coffee, beer, tea, etc. After a quick charge, the NitroBrew dispenses smooth, nitro-infused beverages.

Along with preventing waste since it allows you to make one cup at a time, the NitroBrew is also an inexpensive way to introduce nitro coffee to your customers. “Since the cost of the system was so low—especially in comparison to a fully kegged system, which was turning out to be prohibitively expensive—I thought it was worth a try, and if it didn’t work as advertised, I could just call it a loss,” Mark says.

For Mark and Amis Creperie and Café, it proved its value almost immediately. “People have responded well to us using the NitroBrew,” he says. “Most are surprised at the method we use [when they order a nitro] as they typically expect us to dispense from a beer faucet.”

You can see the cold brew beginning to cascade, just like a Guinness.

You can see the cold brew beginning to cascade, just like a Guinness.

Aesthetically, the NitroBrew is completely different than a keg system. “First of all, there is definitely a presence associated with having a chrome tower and dispensing a nitro-coffee from a beer faucet,” says Mark. “Second, no matter how you spin it, it takes longer to put the coffee into the [NitroBrew] kettle, fill the kettle with the nitrogen, shake to incorporate the gases, and dispense, than to just dispense straight from a faucet.”

You can loosely compare the NitroBrew-vs.-keg argument to the pourover-vs.-batch brew. The benefits of the first ones—NitroBrew and pourover—include allowing you to customize and offer a wider, fresher selection. And challenges? A little extra time to prepare, and some explanation for customers who might ask about this new preparation method. Not too big a deal, when you think about it.

Sonja Zweidick, who graced the cover of the June+July 2016 issue of Barista Magazine, was an early adopter of the NitroBrew.

Sonja Zweidick, who graced the cover of the June+July 2016 issue of Barista Magazine, was an early adopter of the NitroBrew.

Regardless, the NitroBrew allows for experimentation and play, and it delivers a solid nitro coffee that might have been unavailable to many coffee shop owners previously, and it’s a fun way to add a new drink to your menu and be creative with how coffee can be served.

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