King Bean Coffee Roasters serving up cold brew.
Story by Robyn Passante + Photography by Abby Murphy
For almost 25 years, King Bean Coffee Roasters has been providing local businesses with the specially roasted coffee beans and brewing equipment needed to serve some of the best coffee in the Lowcountry. Now King Bean’s owners, Kurt and Katie Weinberger, are jumping into a new lane of the caffeinated beverage game by offering a brand-new wholesale product: Cold brew coffee.
“Cold brew is one thing we have talked about doing for several years, but it’s been trendy, so we wanted to make sure it wasn’t going away,” Katie says. “So we didn’t rush out to do cold brew. We waited, did our research, and we know it’s here to stay – especially in hot climates like Hilton Head.”
Unlike iced coffee, which is regularly brewed hot coffee that’s quickly chilled using ice cubes, the cold brew process includes brewing the coffee cold, at around 40 degrees, in a special vat over a period of 12-18 hours. Then it’s filtered and put into kegs.
“We’re selling kegs of it to our customers, so they have it on tap,” Kurt says.
It’s a big step in a business that started small nearly 25 years ago, when Kurt returned home to Hilton Head from Seattle, where he had been stationed with the Navy. Intrigued by the burgeoning coffee scene in the Pacific Northwest, the young entrepreneur purchased an Italian espresso machine in Seattle, drove it across the country and set up shop in his parents’ Hilton Head garage to make a go of a specialty coffee business here.
Now King Bean’s home base is Charleston, where the couple roasts their own beans and sells them, both wholesale and retail. Locally, you can sip King Bean’s coffee at the SERG Restaurant Group’s restaurants and on Palmetto Bluff, and their beans are available at The French Bakery in Shelter Cove.
After nearly 25 years of sourcing coffee beans from countless countries, Kurt says he can identify the origin of a coffee bean based on its size and shape. “We source our beans from all over the world. Coffee, much like wine, is constantly changing with each new crop. We buy on taste,” Katie says. “That being said, there are regions that are our favorite coffees year after year. Ethiopia grows exquisite coffee. And we always have coffee from Central and South American countries.”
Straight to the Source
As the specialty coffee business has grown into a sizable industry, opportunities for coffee farmers have grown — and with it, the number of flavor profiles we coffee drinkers get to enjoy. “Before, single farmers didn’t get a lot of attention, they would put their coffee into one big bulk for their country,” Katie explains. “But now single farmers, or even little micro lots — one piece of their farm — you can go and get that coffee now. Coffee’s a lot like wine in that the growing conditions affect it so much, so experiencing coffee from different farmers and different regions is a different experience.”
The duo says their experience in the coffee business is what sets their coffee apart. “To roast beans and develop profiles that people love takes time and training. Coffee buying, cupping, roasting, blending—there is a background of work that goes into getting the flavor profile just right,” Katie says. Their bestseller is a blend they didn’t intend to be a long-lasting favorite. “Our 20 Strong was created for our 20th anniversary. We created it as a one-time coffee, but people loved it so much we decided to keep it around. It’s a dark-roasted, full-bodied coffee. It’s a good everyday coffee.”
While Katie has become an integral part of the business, coffee also brought them together in 2005 when Kurt came into Java Joe’s to repair a coffee grinder. Katie happened to be working there that day, covering a shift for her sister. “I knew enough about coffee then to warrant me having a job in a coffee shop, but what I soon found out is that coffee is like the rabbit’s hole in Alice in Wonderland — you keep going and it gets deeper and deeper, you just keep on learning.”
Is ‘Coffee’ a Flavor?
“A ‘roasty’ coffee has been roasted a little longer and you have that distinct roasty taste. Usually that’s the ‘coffee flavor,’” Katie says. “A lot of people think of coffee as one flavor and what they’re thinking of is that roast on it.” A specialty coffee, on the other hand, showcases different flavor notes of things like chocolate, berries and nuts. The Weinbergers say the best way to experience all of that flavor is with a pour-over.
“With a pour-over you can be very, very precise. There’s an exact amount of weight grams to an exact amount of grams and weight of water, so you have a very controlled environment to brew just one or two cups with,” Kurt says. “So if you want to enjoy a real special coffee, you brew it that way so you have total control over it.”
While Kurt opts for espresso (with a bit of sugar if he’s feeling indulgent), Katie enjoys a pour over every morning. “You can get the water temperature just right that brings out the special compounds and nuances of that coffee.”