Baltimorean Jason Gershowitz started a business based on the idea that cold-brewing coffee makes the depth of flavor far more accessible.
Coffee Counselor treats coffee almost like wine — there are different origins, different beans and different blends. By using the same process to cold-brew beans of different origins, a broad range of flavors is created. The logic is that the natural flavor should highlight the differences in coffee based on their origin as opposed to flavoring being a result of the brewing process.
The 29-year-old is a hometown boy, having attended Owings Mills High School and growing up a member of Beth El Congregation.
How did you get into coffee?
About 10 years ago, I was trying to explore my palate and eat healthier. I did a few home batches of cold brew and realized how much more flavorful it was. Three years ago, I decided to open a pop-up coffee shop with my brother, Eric, and some close friends. We ran it out of the science club in Washington, D.C. for two months, operating out of a four-story building, which had recently closed its basement bar. I recently found out that in those two months, we served the world’s largest variety of single origin cold-brews on tap, with 30 origins that we rotated through.
How did you figure out that brewing process?
I learned at home. I just started experimenting with different types of brew methods in my basement. The research that we did, we tried between eight and 48 hours of steeping; 18 to 20 hours was ideal or it got too bitter. The theory was that we’d find one way to brew cold brew and use that across all the origins as opposed to brewing each bean differently to give them different flavors.
How did you get to where you are today from there?
We’ve been growing incrementally. We came out of the pop-up having been profitable after two months, which was incredible. We learned that we could make money, that there is a community of people that really like our cold-brew and that there were three origins of the 30 that sold the best. We were at risk for a lot of waste, so we gave a lot of free coffees to charity. I hate waste and want to run an efficient business. Right now, we are looking into a second part of the business, where coffee grounds are turned into fertilizer. Last winter, we started bottling these cold-brews for ourselves so we could take them to-go. They were received wildly by friends and family, so this summer we legitimized production, moved into a catering facility and are producing three origin “summer classics” as our core business.
Have you thought about putting together a flavor chart?
At the pop-up we used an existing coffee flavor wheel. This helped the community to explore our coffee. We also did tasting flights out of test tubes because we were at the science club. We want people to discover what they don’t like as much as what they do like.
So what’s the plan now?
Some are concerned that cold-brew is a fad, but I do not believe that. Coffee is the number two trade by weight in the world after oil. I see us expanding the reach of our products to have a national presence. I’d like to have a ready-to-drink product that provides enough flavor options that individuals can explore a bit as opposed to what is available now: a black coffee, a creamy coffee and something with an additive like pumpkin spice. We wouldn’t do that; we would find a bean that has a natural taste as opposed to adding chemicals. We work with local roasters, and the beans that we source either have organic certifications or meet those standards.
The other thing that we’re doing now is a lot of co-packing, where we’re producing for other coffee companies, for country clubs that want to white label a product. We are experimenting with formats for bottling. We have our 12-ounce beer bottle format, and I’ve got a 750-milliliter wine bottle that I am working on. What gets me going is to offer a coffee that has something juicy to it, a new flavor that someone won’t have tasted in coffee before.