Oxygen is the enemy of liquid coffee concentrates, and Paul Kalenian is taking great pains to ensure it doesn’t degrade the flavor of his premium extracts.

Automatic dispensing machines meter out coffee concentrates and hot water in the correct ratio, allowing restaurants to offer fresh-tasting java and multiple flavors without waste.

Kalenian is founder and president of XCafe LLC, a Northborough, Mass., company with production facilities in Portland, Maine. The firm is one of several coffee processors hoping to grab a share of the $8.9 billion foodservice coffee business by helping restaurants slash waste and serve better brew with on-demand dispensing systems.

Coffee concentrates are nothing new. George Washington served it to his Continental Army soldiers, adding to the bitterness of the Valley Forge experience. “It’s traditionally been not very good,” allows Kalenian, “but we’ve developed brewing, extraction and packaging technologies that create coffee that tastes professionally brewed.” Processing in an airtight environment is part of the process, and if hermetic conditions can be maintained with bag-in-box packaging, his extract will remain shelf stable for 120 days before any off-notes develop.

Hot water is mixed with concentrate in dispensing machines equipped with peristaltic pumps. A 1-gal. bag of XCafe produces 500 cups of coffee.

Oxidation turns concentrate stale and bitter, and Kalenian is in the process of testing several bag-in-box systems to determine which can maintain oxygen impermeability throughout distribution. Spent bags are shipped to the labs of Mocon Inc., a testing service in Minneapolis, to determine which provides the greatest product integrity.

Coffee concentrates currently account for less than 3 percent of foodservice coffee sales. Explosive growth is forecast, however, with XCafe, Sara Lee’s Douwe Egberts unit and Lykes Pasko vying for a share, along with Javo Beverage Co., which uses a cold brewing technology.

For more information:
Bob Maxner, Mocon Inc., 763-493-6370