Behind the Scenes: Cartel Cold Brew

Behind the Scenes: Cartel Cold Brew

April 04, 2021
Brittany Viar

With National Cold Brew Day quickly approaching, and the recent integration of our Nitro Cold Brew on tap, we felt it was only right to talk about – you guessed it – cold brew. At Cartel, we have a dedicated team that works together to continuously improve our current recipe and craft up new ones to provide our customers with the best. We had the chance to sit down with Cold Brew Supervisor, Marcus Murillo, discuss his background, his role, and what’s to come from him and his team in 2021.

Believe it or not, Marcus has been a coffee drinker since he was eight; he liked the combination of caffeine and sugar as a kid. Once he was grown and graduated high school, he moved from Arizona to perform seasonal jobs in Friday Harbor, Washington. On his time off, he had the opportunity to traverse Seattle, the coffee capital of the country. This was where his love for coffee really grew.

“That was the first time I'd ever really explored Seattle. Coffee was everywhere and I didn't realize,” said Marcus.

He shared a story about a cafe he visited in the area in which he had no expectations for. He wasn’t quite sure what to order, but the barista he spoke with happily helped him out.

“The barista’s just like, ‘Here you go, here’s our limited edition coffee’, and I didn’t think anything of it. I was like, ‘Alright, I hope it’s good’, and it blew me away. I didn’t know coffee and tea was like this. It tasted like pomegranates,” Marcus said. “I remember being like, ‘This is crazy! This doesn’t even make sense to me’, and then it just kind of started from there actually.”

Coming across Seattle Coffee Gear’s YouTube page piqued his interest as well, as it changed what he knew – or thought he knew – about brewing coffee. Getting educated on different types of coffee brewers, roasting temperatures, filtration, and water hardness was incredibly eye-opening to him.

Marcus’s sister would often take him to different coffee shops around Phoenix when he’d visit home. He explained that Cartel played a considerable part in him becoming interested in coffee even further as a result.

Marcus moved back to Arizona in 2017 after realizing he wanted to pursue a coffee career. Before he started working at Cartel, he held a few barista positions in Phoenix, but found that customer service wasn’t exactly his niche. Interested in espresso technician work, preventative maintenance, and fixing major equipment issues, the company he worked for at the time flew him out to Seattle to do training. Today, we’re proud to have him on our team.

On a typical day at Cartel, Marcus comes into the Quality Control (QC) Lab around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., and checks out the fridge to see what kind of batch size he’ll need to make. This depends heavily on whether or not the team needs to do canning, and how many kegs are sold each week. A large and imperative part of the cold brew process involves cleaning and sanitizing.

“Because there's so much surface area (of equipment), you want to sanitize as much as possible, so everything will be filled and cycled through with the sanitizer solution that we have,” Marcus said. “That’ll almost always be the first thing before a coffee comes into contact with it.”

Following this process, Marcus will weigh out his batch. To give you all an idea, a “full run” consists of two batches, which takes up the entire capacity of the brewing vessel, known as the Brite Tank. He weighs everything at once, then has all the coffee he’s going to use ready with him to throw up one after another. The brew itself takes less than a few hours to complete; the cleaning process is what takes up the most time.

When it comes to creating new recipes, there’s plenty of trial and error. Using available coffee, Marcus and his team will create toddy coffees and do a “cupping” (a tasting technique for brewers) to determine what works, and what doesn’t, making adjustments along the way. They set certain parameters, like grind size, weight, and water, and go from there. Recently, the team has been working with and trying out concentrated toddies, diluting them with water as needed.

Other coffee connoisseurs in the area are inspiring to Marcus.

“There are so many really cool coffee people doing incredible things. When I first started living here, I feel like Phoenix didn't have too much going on, but there's really a lot happening now and it's really cool to see what everyone else is doing and kind of be – not in a competitive way – but just be inspired by how well they're doing to do well yourself,” Marcus said.

The team is currently working on a session cold brew and other RTD canned beverages. They have other ideas in the works as well, but none that we can share just yet! Stay tuned to see all the magnificent beverages the cold brew team will bring in 2021.