Keeping cold hot: 3 things every cold brewer should know about food safety

By William “Bill” Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association USA


While not a new format by any means, cold brew has shot up in popularity in recent years and is expected to keep growing. About 16% of coffee drinkers reported having had cold brew in the past week, according to the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends report – up from only 8% in 2016.  What hasn’t kept pace, however, are clear food safety best practices, guidance, and regulations to help keep this massively popular product – and the customers who demand it – safe. It is crucial to stress that cold brew coffee, like traditionally prepared coffee, is generally safe – but changing times and evolving brew methods call for food safety vigilance – despite coffee’s long, safe track record.

That’s why, with help from our team of scientists on the NCA Science Leadership Council (and support from our cold brew partner BUNN), NCA has created the all-new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers along with several other new resources to help coffee retailers safely brew, store, and serve cold brew – one of the hottest drinks in coffee today.

Here are three key things every cold brew retailer should know to help keep their cold brew coffee food-safe:

1. The “danger zone” for cold brew where bacteria can grow is 41-140˚F. 

Brew, store, and serve your cold brew at a temperature of 40˚ F or below to minimize the risk of pathogens like botulism that could cause foodborne illness. Above 140˚F, most toxin-producing bacteria are killed. However, while cold brew doesn’t technically have to be served cold, it may lose some of the smooth taste and flavor your customers have come to expect from cold brew if heated above this temperature. 

2. Retail dispensed cold brew (i.e., made on-premises in a coffee shop) and RTD cold brew are not created equal – and each requires special safety considerations.

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RTD packaged cold brew is cold brew that is manufactured and bottled under aseptic conditions in a manufacturing facility following FDA’s low-acid food regulations (21 CFR Part 113), whereas dispensed cold brew is often prepared and served on-site at a retail location and is regulated by a local health inspector following FDA’s Food Code

Dispensed cold brew is generally prepared at 40-70˚F overnight at a retail location using roasted coffee and filtered water and can be infused with nitrogen to make nitro cold brew. The cold brew can be stored in airtight or covered (non-airtight) containers.

Health inspectors examining a retail dispensed cold brew operation may require a HACCP Plan – see more on HACCP Plans below. 

NCA’s 2018 Cold Brew Toolkit for Industry dives into RTD cold brew safety considerations, while dispensed retail cold brew (and its potential food safety risks) are covered extensively in the just-released NCA Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers (2022). Both are available here

 3. You might need a HACCP Plan.

Every retail cold brew operation should determine whether a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan is necessary. This seven-step framework is critical in reducing hazards in food to acceptable levels, and consists of:

  • Hazard analysis.
  • Critical Control Point (CCP) identification.
  • Establishing critical limits.
  • Establishing monitoring procedures.
  • Setting corrective actions.
  • Setting verification procedures.
  • Establishing record-keeping and documentation.

A HACCP Plan is generally not required in retail locations unless the cold brew is brewed, held, and served above 41˚F, or if it is held in a container with an airtight lid for over 48 hours.  NCA offers a model HACCP Plan that our Members can refer to when developing food safety protocols for their own retail cold brew business.  

You can learn more about NCA’s Cold Brew safety resources in our NCA Cold Brew Toolkit, which includes our new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers, our 2018 Toolkit for Industry, a model Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan, answers to frequently asked questions about cold brew and a compliance checklist to ensure you’re ready when the health inspector comes knocking. 

NCA: We serve coffee (and want the cold brew coffee YOU serve to continue its long record of food safety.)

NCA Member Spotlight: Driftaway Coffee

Company: Driftaway Coffee
Location: Brooklyn, NY
NCA Member Since: 2019
Website: driftaway.coffee
Facebook: facebook.com/driftawaycoffee
Twitter: twitter.com/driftawaycoffee
Instagram: instagram.com/driftawaycoffee

What does Driftaway Coffee do?

We are a direct-to-consumer coffee roaster, offering personalized subscriptions in an environmentally and socially conscious manner.

What drives your passion for this industry?

We started this company out of an urge to create. Create something we were passionate about. Something we could be proud of. And for our need for and interest in great coffee.

Why did you become a member of the National Coffee Association (NCA)?

I am interested in networking with other members and learning from everyone.

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NCA Member Spotlight: Vinh Hiep Co. Ltd. / L’amant International Corp.

Company: Vinh Hiep Co. Ltd. / L’amant International Corp.
Location: Pleiku City, Gia Lai Province, Vietnam
NCA Member Since: January 2019
Websites: vinhhiepgl.com or www.lamantcafe.com/
Facebook: lamantcafe.vn

What does the Vinh Hiep Co. do?

We export green coffee beans and roast coffee.

What drives your passion for this industry?

Our love for coffee beans and coffee flavor

Why did you become a member of the National Coffee Association (NCA)?

We joined because NCA is the leading trade association for the U.S. coffee market. NCA members are comprised of organizations from across the industry. NCA is an advocate for the entire coffee industry, an educator who leads the industry in market intelligence and a conduit for networking with industry peers to address key industry issues.

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NCA Member Spotlight: Nano-Purification Solutions

Companynano purification solutions
Location: Charlotte, NC
NCA Member Since: 2018
Twitter: @npsi_USA
Facebook: /nanopurificationsystems
Instagram: @nanopurificationsolutionsusa

What does nano-purification solutions do?

Nano is a manufacturer of nitrogen gas generation systems used for coffee packaging, manufacturing, cold brew coffee production and nitro draught service.

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NCA Submits Comments to 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

Related: NCA Update from the 2020 US Dietary Guidelines Scientific Review

The following is an excerpt from the latest NCA Member Alert

Do you remember the Food Guide Pyramid or MyPlate?

Every 5 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines.  These are dietary recommendations for Americans to practice healthy eating habits. 

Shaped by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), these guidelines have an enormous impact on US perceptions and behaviors regarding nutrition and health, which is why it’s critical to communicate the science on coffee and health.

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NCA Update: 2020 US Dietary Guidelines Scientific Review

Setting the stage for the next evolution in dietary guidance to Americans for 2020-2025

Editor’s note: The connection between lifestyle and health is increasingly being recognized by the medical and scientific communities. We know that diet, exercise habits, and smoking and alcohol consumption impact our health. And as the science continues to advance, it seems there are new discoveries weekly.

To help Americans make healthy food and beverage choices, the U.S. Government issues Dietary Guidelines, which in the past have been communicated by USDA guides such as the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate.

When the USDA last undertook this exercise, the NCA formally recommended that the healthy aspects of coffee be recognized – and they were.  The 2015-2020 Guidelines acknowledge that coffee can be part of a healthy diet.

And the process to update these guidelines is now well underway.


By Dr. Mark Corey, Director of Scientific & Government Affairs, National Coffee Association

Over the past two days, I attended the meeting of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) in Washington, DC, focused on creating the protocol and guidelines shaping US nutrition and guidance to Americans for the next 5 years.

Panels of experts are examining every aspect of the American diet, inside and out, and have outlined their process for evaluating the science-based evidence. Subcommittees are focused on a range of topics such as dietary patterns and looking across different age groups from birth to older adults.

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A Partnership to Protect the Future of Coffee

The NCA is working with the Sustainable Coffee Challenge to help make coffee the world’s first agricultural product

By William (Bill) Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association


Here at the National Coffee Association (NCA), we like to say that “we serve coffee.”

With the rising threat of climate change, serving coffee today also means serving the planet. We know coffee’s future depends on coffee being the world’s first fully sustainable crop.

To help make this vision a reality, I am immensely proud that the NCA has joined the Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

(Read the official news release.)

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Consumer Insights: Coffee Claims [Video]

From sourcing to roasting, coffee companies can have a lot to say about their product. These messages can majorly influence consumer perception and behavior – but not necessarily in the ways you’d expect.

A new NCA Consumer Insights report (based on NCDT data) takes a closer look at coffee claims – which include general statements, perceptions, or things that people find motivating about coffee.

For example, said Cheryl Hung, VP of Research at Dig Insights, during a recent webinar: “What kind of equity does coffee have with consumers? Are there positive and negative associations with coffee among different demographics? Who perceives coffee in a negative light? And what can we say to persuade them from a marketing perspective, or via point of sale?”

Get more highlights in the video below – and to learn more, check out the webinar (on-demand playback free for members) or NCA market research:

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Infographic: What’s Brewing in 2019

Highlights from NCA market research on coffee consumption trends in the US

NCA National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) Consumer Insights at a Glance

via Dig Insights

For yet another brew-tiful year, Dig Insights has partnered with the NCA to create five new consumer insight reports, to supplement the annual NCDT market tracking research:

  • Single-Cup Brewing
  • Coffee and Gen Z
  • In and Out of Home Coffee Consumption
  • Understanding Attitudes Towards Coffee
  • Cold Brew and Ready-to-Drink

Explore some highlighted insights from each of the mini reports below – and NCA members can check out the on-demand webinar, Single Cup & Consumer Insight Reports, featuring Cheryl Hung, Dig Insights VP.

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