Like all of the great companies of this world, Nitro Bros Cold Brew started with a garage, well a garage, an idea and a trike, but you get where we are going with this. It is no surprise that Canadians are loco for coffee both hot and cold. We follow up with Kyle Shaughnessy and David Piotto, co-founders and owners of Nitro Bros Cold Brew to see how they are keeping the wheels turning on the brand during the pandemic, expanding to Kelowna and offering coast to coast delivery for their Nitro Cold-brew Coffee products.
We know from our previous conversations with Kyle Shaughnessy and David Piotto they are entrepreneurs that put the cart before the horse. To understand their seat-of-their pants approach to business, we must take a minute or two to revisit how things got started. Shaughnessy was on a trip to Columbia visiting family and friends, when he had the opportunity to taste some of the best coffee on the planet. When he returned to Calgary, he shared his experience with his then University roommate, now business partner, David Piotto, the two started to grind ideas on how they could offer this amazing cold brew coffee to others and they brewed up an idea that they knew could turn this nitro infused cold beverage into a Business.
The first major hurdle after getting the business up and running was explaining and educating coffee lovers on what their product was. Cold brew is not just iced coffee, it is so much more than that. Most of the conversation the Nitro Bros had with customers when they first started the business, was educated customers to understand that “it’s cold brew, not iced brew.” The benefits of cold brewing over just iced coffee are, “that cold brew yields more caffeine and provides a smoother taste of coffee,” explained Shaughnessy.
So, why is there difference between cold brew and ice brew, well it is all in the science. When you brew traditional coffee, you get the delightful aroma of coffee from the steam. “It smells great, but through the boiling process you are burning off the natural caffeine and sugar,” explains Shaughnessy. However, when cold brewing, the process calls for a 24-hour steep in an airtight container (Nitro Bros uses kegs) so the natural ingredients remain in the product.
Shaughnessy then explains, “After we keg the cold brew, we charge it with nitrogen, like Guinness, so when it’s poured out into a glass, you get that lovely cascading effect – visually beautiful,” he continues. “A caffeine cloud that looks like cream in the coffee and gives a creamy mouth feel.” This eliminates the need for additional sweeteners or creamers giving you a “better for you” brew to satisfy your caffeine cravings.
In May of 2017, with product in-keg, as it were, they literally began peddling their nitro cold-brew beverage around town and at events on a customized tricycle.
“That was our initial business plan,” said David Piotto. “To sell coffee off the nitro trike – and things changed drastically after that.” As the Nitro Bros brand and nitrogen infused brew was a huge success, much to Shaughnessy and Piotto’s surprise.
“A business can’t just be a product, it has to be a brand that people can identify with, understand and feel that it represents who they are,” said Piotto. Both Shaughnessy and Piotto believe that building a brand is not something that you can be passionate about and full vested in and have someone else do it for you. That is why, since day one, they both have been in the trenches everyday promoting their brand and educating potential customer and coffee lovers on the benefits of their cold brew. It is their enthusiasm and energy that fuels the brand and builds a following among coffee lovers for their products.
Shaughnessy and Piotto have been involved in every aspect of building this brand, from website development to physical set up of production with zero outsourcing, nothing but “sweat equity.”
Piotto says with pride, “Instead of hiring anyone else we did everything on our own. We truly grew it from the roots up.” Piotto goes on to say, “we realized we were trying to save money by doing it all ourselves, but we were then forced to learn everything. Any self-respecting business owner should be able to play any role from janitor to CEO and take pride in it.”
Piotto explains that because of the success of the brand, “We had to find a different niche to move away from the bike. So, we got kegs and approached restaurants and bars to make sure we had a constant turn over and it really changed our business model,” he goes on to say, “we still want people to feel connected, but we are more than just coffee – it’s about the proper selling culture and excitement.”
Although the company has no official brick-and-mortar store front as of yet, they have been able to transition from peddling a tricycle around the city, to a label product that can now be purchased, and you can have in your fridge by focusing on what they do best.
A major part of this transition happened in early 2020, one of the few good things to come out of last year, when in addition to offering kegs of nitro infused cold brew to businesses, Shaughnessy and Piotto launched their first canned Nitro Bros Cold brew making the brand and the brew truly mobile. By keeping the caffeine dream alive for their customers and making it easier than ever for their brand to get into the hands of customers not only locally in Alberta but nationally throughout Canada.
Over the years Shaughnessy and Piotto have perfected their craft, never the easy way, but you can rest assured their knowledge and technique are undeniable and well honed as it comes out in the taste of their product.
Knowing how Shaughnessy and Piotto like to stay involved with the business, when they encountered their first supply chain issue, they decided to strap on the rocket packs, and by rocket packs we mean that they got on a plane, and they headed to Nicaragua to source their very own direct trade beans.
It was important to Shaughnessy and Piotto to know the farm where their beans were grown, working conditions were fair and we could integrate into a brokerage thanks to global shipping solutions.
At first, they fire roasted the beans themselves and got pretty good at it only to realize the process was not efficient enough, so they decided to have their direct-trade Columbian and Nicaraguan beans professionally roasted locally to the perfect medium dark roast. Shaughnessy and Piotto’s trial and error approach with the start to the business is very different now however, all the challenges they have faced and overcome eventually lead them to the efficient and passionate way they now get their 100% Arabica and 100% Organic Coffee to you.
If you are the do-it-yourself kind, then why not grab a bag of Nitro Bros’ tasty beans and try hot brewing or with a little instruction, which can be found on the back of the bag, DIY your own Nitro Cold-Brew at home. Whether it’s hot or cold, you can experiment with your grind size to yield different flavour characteristics to match your personal tastes. For us here at the office we prefer it professionally brewed, packaged and ready to drink right out of the can, ice cold.
When asked about the effect that the pandemic has had on the business Shaughnessy said, “Well, put simply, it’s been an interesting year watching all of the businesses, who support us and serve our product, be brought to an abrupt halt, now for an astonishing 3rd time. Ambiguous help from the government, seeing the service pivot and watching people show their support for local has been nice.”
Shaughnessy went on to say, “The service industry which we so closely associate ourselves with, took a beating. Yet the necessary perseverance was evident, and well received by many. At Nitro Bros, we have appreciated the support as we pivoted to online sales and quick delivery.”
Nitro Bros offer free doorstep delivery in the Calgary and Kelowna areas. If you just want to have our amazing high caffeine product readily on hand, they can ship anywhere coast to coast for a flat fee; so coffee enthusiasts and clients from Victoria to Halifax to enjoy and share this amazing, caffeinated beverage with friends and family.
If your business would like to carry Nitro Bros nitro cold-brew reach out to them at email@example.com as they do have wholesale rates available. Whether for business or pleasure or maybe a little of both, go to NitroBros.ca to order today.
“Hopefully we will all see an amazing roar back in 2021, your support to us and all local small businesses is extremely appreciated,” said Shaughnessy, with the sincerity of someone who is truly thankful for the support of his customers.
So, let’s raise a cup, glass, or can, to the good life and remember keep caffeinated and support local our friends!
by Lee Ann Atwater