A couple of years ago I popped into one of my favorite Nashville cafés and ordered a beverage that I’ve since concluded might be the perfect iced coffee: the Matchless Coffee Soda. It was bright, effervescent, slightly sweet, and refreshing. I caught up with Matchless Coffee Soda’s inventor, Nathanael Mehrens, as he prepares to launch a Kickstarter campaign to take his coffee soda to the masses.
So what’s your elevator pitch? What is Matchless Coffee Soda?
Matchless Coffee Soda is a locally roasted, flash-chilled coffee, lightly sweetened and carbonated to sublimity. Think bright, fizzy, refreshing iced coffee.
Obviously, a lot of your process is proprietary, but can you give us any hints how you make Matchless? How is it different from those nitro cold brews that are so popular right now?
It’s actually very different for a few reasons. One is that we use flash-chilled coffee instead of cold brew for our base. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to develop equipment and a process that allows us to brew huge batches of hot coffee to the same standard you’d expect from a high-quality shop. We have precise control over water temperature and flow rate, and can now crank out batch after batch with a consistent extraction so we end up with a fully expressed and nuanced coffee that maintains its unique character and terroir. We then flash-chill it using the brewery’s heat exchanger and demerara and citric acid are added to balance and stabilize the drink. Another huge difference is the carbonation. Nitro cold brews are silky and creamy whereas CO2 makes everything bright and refreshing so it dances on your tongue. Carbonation is what really defines coffee soda as a separate category.
It seems like the coffee read-to-drink market is getting more crowded by the day. Are you worried about competition?
I think the cool thing about Matchless is that it’s a totally different experience than other RTD coffee, which is the whole reason I wanted it to exist! When I first started making coffee soda at CREMA back in 2012, I couldn’t find anyone else doing it and even now that more folks have caught on, I think we’re in a good position to bring it to market as the gold standard. It’s really funny and surprising how many people want to shake my hand after trying it – like they’ve been introduced to something they didn’t even know they needed in their lives. It’s that genuine pleasure and response that has driven this whole company and is now driving our campaign to get into cans. People ask for it every single day – we’re just trying to meet the demand.
For those of us who have had Matchless around Nashville and are already big fans, how will the cans stack up? Can you scale coffee soda without affecting quality?
The great thing about partnering with Fat Bottom Brewery and spending the last couple years in R&D is that we built our entire process around scalability. We have the equipment and the methods already in place, we’re literally just putting the same product in a package that is easier to distribute to the countless number of folks who are asking for it all over the country. We’re really looking forward to being able to finally get it to them.
How big do you hope to grow this? Think we’ll ever see a Matchless Coffee Soda vending machine?
I hope so! We’re focused on responding to the current demand right now, but I would love to see Matchless grow as big as it possibly can. Maybe you’ll even find us across the globe someday!