This Small NYC Cafe Is Bringing Canned Pour-Over Coffee to the Masses

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Some coffee drinkers aren't picky with their brew and having a big red tub of the instant variety in their kitchen works just fine. Others are more discerning, happily shelling out extra for specialty brew methods, like French press or pour-over.

There's a reason why many coffee connoisseurs are obsessed with pour-over coffee in particular. Of all the accessible at-home brewing methods, the pour-over technique has some of the highest caffeine extraction, meaning you get higher levels of caffeine and brain-boosting polyphenols per cup than you would by, say, a French press. But getting the perfect cup of pour-over coffee at home requires three things: good quality coffee (what you brew matters), special equipment, and patience.

Experts In This Article
  • Lee Zheng, Lee Zheng and her husband, Sid, own Saltwater Coffee, which has two locations in New York City and a retail line that ships nationwide.

A small, New York City cafe, Saltwater Coffee, is changing that by selling canned pour-over coffee and shipping it nationwide—and it's just the beginning of what the brand plans on offering coffee lovers everywhere.

Watch the video below to learn about the health benefits of coffee:

An idea born during the pandemic

Just like other restaurants and cafes across the country, Saltwater Coffee co-owner Lee Zheng says 2020 was a very tough year for her cafe. "When we first had the lockdown in March 2020, that was definitely the hardest, she says. "When the cases were soaring in New York City, our first priority was the health of our staff and customers so we chose to close temporarily, and that lasted about three months."

Even more challenging was that the second Saltwater Coffee location had just opened in February 2020 and Zheng explains that for any new business, the first months are crucial for establishing a neighborhood presence and forming relationships with new customers. With the stores temporarily closed, Zheng and her team turned their attention to retail. Selling coffee beans was a no-brainer, but the idea for pour-over canned coffee took more thought.

"Canned coffee was something we always wanted to do, but we didn't love the idea of making cold brew canned coffee or milk-based canned coffee because that has already been done a lot," Zheng says. "We wanted a coffee that was accessible, high in quality and taste, and transparent in its ingredients," she says. To her and her team, the answer was clearly pour-over. The next question was how to make it at a scale big enough to sell nationwide.

How canned pour-over coffee is made

Normally, pour-over coffee is made by putting freshly ground coffee beans in a filter and special filter holder, and then pouring hot water over the grounds to filter into a cup below. If you're an iced coffee lover, then you add ice to the carafe before putting the dripper on top. It isn't always a coffee-making process that works for big batch-making. Zheng says the first step was finding a company that had the technology to rapidly cool boiling liquid at a volume more than she could do in the cafe.

This led her to partner with Elemental Beverage Company, which uses patented technology to extract the aroma and flavor you get from the pour-over method, creating a cold coffee that maintains the same integrity as the pour-over method at your local coffee shop. "Brewing the coffee similar to a pour-over allows for a more complex extraction of the coffee oils which leads to better aromas and flavors. So this lets us showcase the same coffee we use in-store, that you can't do with a cold brew method," Zheng explains, adding that no preservatives are used during the process, something else that was important to her.

Zheng and her husband, Sid Chitnis, first started selling the canned pour-over coffee at the two Saltwater Coffee locations. "People would buy their coffee and also purchase a can to have later in the afternoon at home," she says. Now, the cans are sold in over 30 boutique healthy grocery stores in Manhattan and are now available online for people to purchase no matter where in the U.S. they live.

There are two options to choose from: a Colombian coffee and an Ethiopian coffee (both are $40 for a 12-pack and Well+Good readers can get 20 percent off and free shipping with the code WELLGOOD). "The Ethiopian coffee is a more fruity and floral flavor profile, while the Colombina is more malt chocolate caramel profile," Zheng explains. Now that both are on the market, the Saltwater team is hard at work expanding its offerings. Next up is a coffee from Costa Rica which Zheng says has a taste profile similar to cherry cola. "All the coffees are single-origin, so they're coming directly from a farm," Zheng says. "Each can has the story of the region, and for [the] Costa Rican coffee in particular, I love the sustainable initiatives that the farm and region are embarking on."

Zheng says she and her husband are also working on a whole new coffee drink, a sparkling coffee fruit beverage, which will be coming out in April. She explains that the drinks are made with coffee fruit husks, which are usually thrown away. "We loved the upcycling aspect of it. The husk is usually thrown out and used as compost, so this literally gives farmers a second revenue stream," she says. Zheng says the coffee fruit drinks are sweet on their own so there's no need to add sugar, and they're also high in antioxidants, which makes it a brain- and heart-healthy drink.

Talk about making lemons out of lemonade, right? The pandemic has certainly been hard for small business owners and it's been no exception for this NYC cafe. But closing shop temporarily did birth a whole new line of coffee drinks. And the best news is that you can live anywhere to enjoy them.

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