When we meet Jason Shein and Justin Gutman at Pablo and Rusty’s, they’re sitting outside with two small, vase-like glasses filled with what looks like a well-brewed stout. They aren’t midday beers, they’re coffees and they have just been poured from a tap inside the cafe.
The two entrepreneurs run Harbourside Coffee, a start-up that makes what Americans call Nitro Coffee. It’s coffee that’s been infused with nitrogen in kegs to give it a creamy texture and a Guinness-like appearance. They’re calling it Draught Coffee and this week, via the taps at Pablo and Rusty’s, it has made its debut in Sydney.
“We saw this taking off in the States and we like the idea because there are so many unhealthy iced coffees out there, and we live in such a hot climate. Come summer time all you really feel like is a really cold, refreshing coffee,” Shein says. That’s exactly what we thought when trying our first one. It’s zestier, more tart and generally less earthy than most cold brews. Shein and Gutman describe it as tasting like lemon, sherbet and chocolate.
Despite the immaculately frothed tops and gaseous cascades, it’s still simply coffee. There’s no fermentation, maturing process, alcohol, sugar or preservatives. It’s simply coffee produced in a different way to showcase the bean’s flavour. “The taste is all brought out by the brewing process,” Shein says. How exactly they brew it before it’s barrelled is a business secret they discovered with help from Pablo and Rusty’s coffee guru and founder, Saxon Wright. Gutman says they were working out of their garage when Wright first got involved. “We had it set up in there and he came across and said, ‘This is really cool, I wanna help you guys perfect this’. He's our Gandalf; he's taking us on the journey.”
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Having tried a few below-par nitro-coffee products, Wright was initially sceptical of the project, but he changed his mind when Shein and Gutman made him a draught with his own Pablo and Rusty’s beans. Now Wright is roasting beans specifically for the Harbourside Draught. “We’re really dialling in to try and get this type of coffee the best we can,” Shein says.
At this stage it’s only available in Pablo and Rusty’s Castlereagh Street store but the pair plans to expand to other cafes and pop-up stalls when summer hits. “If people are enjoying a cold drip in winter, then during summer they'll really like it,” Gutman says.
Harbourside Coffee is available on tap at Pablo and Rusty’s.