Can you serve cold brew coffee in a paper takeaway cup?

Josephine Walbank
May 13, 2022
Can you serve cold brew in a paper takeaway cup?

In the space of a few years, cold brew coffee has become one of the most popular trends in the specialty sector. 

Made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water, it often results in a sweet, smooth finish that is particularly favoured by younger generations. Notably, the value of the American cold brew coffee market alone is predicted to reach a staggering $944 billion by 2025. 

As a result, more brands are offering their own cold brew coffee products. However, in a sector that is increasingly dominated by younger, environmentally-conscious consumers, baristas must determine the best way to serve cold brew coffee on-the-go.

Fortunately, there are a number of sustainable takeaway cup options available, such as those made from paper or recyclable plastics. 

Read on to find out how coffee professionals can capitalise on this trend, including the best way to serve takeaway cold brew coffee. 

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White V60 sitting on glass of cold brew coffee on wooden counter with white background.

What is cold brew coffee?

The history of cold brew coffee starts in Japan during the 17th century. It was served to sailors as its heat-free brewing method was safe to use on wooden boats. 

While traditional coffee brewing methods include using hot water, cold brew is made by steeping grounds in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. Additionally, it is served cold and can be bottled for later. 

This method tends to give the coffee a smooth profile, a sweeter cup, and a low level of acidity – while possessing the same complexity of flavour notes. 

In 1840, cold brew coffee became popular among French troops serving in Algeria, who used it to keep cool in the desert. Interestingly, from the 1800s to the early 1900s, cold brew coffee was consumed across the globe. 

During this time, countries including India, Latin America, and Vietnam began creating their own versions of cold brew coffee.

However, it only recently emerged on the specialty coffee scene, and many experts are attributing its popularity to the Millennial and Gen Z markets. According to a survey by the National Coffee Association (NCA), 80% of respondents aged under 40 said they knew what cold brew coffee is. 

Younger customers are choosing cold brew for a number of reasons. 

First, it presents a luxurious and entertaining experience-based drink. A growing number of young consumers are willing to pay more for a premium product that will provide them with an experience. 

Additionally, it gives them an opportunity to share that experience on their social media channels.

Second, its sweet flavour profile means it may be a more palatable option for customers who often choose sugared coffees. More so, cold brew provides a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks, a prized selling point among the rise in health-conscious consumers. 

Third, cold brew coffee is convenient and perfectly suited to fast-paced lifestyles: it can be grabbed as a takeaway or from the fridge, as many options come packaged in a can. 

White and brown paper takeaway coffee cups sitting on espresso machine in a coffee shop.

The rise of takeaway cold brew coffee orders

The surge in cold brew coffee’s popularity coincides with a rise in takeaway coffee orders. 

When dining-in options were restricted during the Covid-19 pandemic, roasters and cafes across the world introduced several takeaway alternatives. 

The pandemic caused a major shift in buying habits, which seem to have stuck. As consumers commute or shop, takeaways provide the ultimate level of convenience.

For roasters and cafe owners, takeaway coffees allow them to serve more customers without the need for additional seating. It is an effective way for businesses to increase revenue and operate faster.

Furthermore, it provides them with more flexibility during busy periods, as they will not have to turn customers away due to space limitations. 

Cold brew coffee in particular presents an opportunity for business expansion. When it comes to serving customers, it is simply a case of pouring this pre-made drink into a cup. 

If the demand for their cold brew product grows, roasters and cafes may choose to market it as a pre-packaged beverage. These cans or bottles can be sold on-site or sold to other stores. 

For baristas, this is a quick, easy way to boost profits and get their brand in front of a wider audience.

To accommodate this rise in takeaway orders and meet global sustainability targets, several advancements have been made in the development of sustainable takeaway cups

For instance, Ireland recently implemented a latte levy, and there have been calls for the UK government to introduce a similar tax.  

The development of recyclable plastic coffee cups has furthered the rise in takeaway coffee orders, as eco-conscious consumers are able to enjoy their beverage without guilt. 

Cold brew coffee with milk in a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic takeaway cup with lid and straw sitting on wooden counter.

Why paper cups are not well suited

While recyclable paper cups have helped advance sustainability efforts in the coffee industry, they are not an effective option for cold brew coffee.

As with any cold drink, condensation will form along the side of a cold brew coffee container. This happens as water vapour in the air touches the cup, cools down, and collects on the cup in liquid form.

While this is not a problem for plastic bottles, it may cause paper cups to crumple as the paper absorbs the water and quickly weakens its structural integrity. In severe cases, the paper cup can become mushy in a consumer’s hands.

Another issue many consumers have when drinking cold brew from paper cups is how the mouthpiece is designed. Primarily, paper cups were intended for hot drinks, and so they have a small opening for the mouthpiece. This is to help keep the drink hot for as long as possible.

However, many consumers prefer to drink cold brew coffee through a straw. This may be down to aesthetics, as well as the psychological enjoyment of drinking a cold drink through a straw on a hot day.

To meet consumer needs and remain sustainable, it is recommended baristas use polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers for their takeaway cold brew offerings.

PET is fully recyclable and known for its durability and affordability. Furthermore, it is able to retain its structure in the face of condensation, as the material does not absorb water.

Additionally, PET takeaway coffee cups are available in a range of ergonomic designs, including clear cups with space for a recyclable straw. This makes it perfectly suited to the trendy and luxurious impression that baristas may want their cold brew coffee to achieve.

At MTPak Coffee, we can provide a wide variety of sustainable takeaway cups, including recyclable plastic coffee cups for cold brew coffee. Our cold brew PET containers are affordable, customisable, and sustainable, making them the perfect choice for eco-conscious companies.

For more information on recyclable plastic coffee cups, contact our team

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