UMass graduate sets out to begin coffee company
Paul Jackmauh graduated the University of Massachusetts in 2009 with a degree in English, and never had any intention of joining the business world.
But flash forward four years, and Jackmauh is now preparing to start his own company, Boston Cold Brew, with an untraditional idea of how to brew coffee called cold brewing.
“Cold brewing is a simple process where you take ground coffee, coarse ground like you do in a French press, (and) you mix it into room temperature water at a certain ratio,” Jackmauh said. “You stir it into water and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 hours. What you’re doing is a very gentle, very slow extraction of the beans and what you end up with is a chemical makeup that’s different than hot brew.”
“No one knows about it but it’s this great process,” he added. “It really produces a better product and I really believe that if people learn about it, they’ll love it. If they just try it, they’ll love it. And that’s basically my angle.”
Jackmauh learned about the cold brewing process while working in Amherst at Rao’s Coffee as a barista and manager. He says that cold brewed coffee tastes better solely based on the chemistry.
“When you take hot coffee and pour it over ice cubes you’re ruining the coffee,” he said. “You lock in the harsh sourness of the coffee that you can’t do anything about.”
“Hot brewed coffee should be hot and cold brewed coffee should be cold,” Jackmauh added.
Boston Cold Brew began as a project Jackmauh started in an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class that he took based on the advice of Bob Lowry, his boss at Rao’s. Even though Jackmauh had no plans to be involved in business, he was being given more responsibilities at the coffee shop and decided to sit in on two of the classes that Lowry recommended.
“Ken (Majka) and Bob taught me a lot and I’m really indebted to them,” Jackmauh said. “I don’t yet know a way to pay them back except to include them in what I’m trying to do now because they really taught me a lot.”
Shortly after the class ended last spring, Jackmauh went to StrangeCreek, an annual music festival in Greenfield, and brought cold brewed coffee with him. Unlike hot brewed coffee, cold brewed coffee can last over a weekend, with a shelf life of almost a week. The culture at the festival is that people trade the goods that they bring with them, so Jackmauh brought enough to trade and sell.
“Word spread through the campsite that this guy has really good coffee, he has really great iced coffee and he has a lot of it,” he said. “I was unexpectedly so busy that I missed a lot of the bands that I wanted to see because I had to stay at my campsite and just sling coffee.”
Despite selling the coffee at a low price, Jackmauh managed to walk away with almost $1,000— more than enough to cover the expenses of making the coffee and his ticket to StrangeCreek. He left the festival starting to think that his iced coffee business may be “more than just a weekend thing,” he said.
After the summer ended, Jackmauh enrolled in Lowry’s class as a legitimate student this time, spending the semester doing a business write-up for how to sell cold brewed coffee at an outdoor vending venue. He decided that his business would start in Boston.
“There’s already a bunch of street vendors, like sausage guys and roasted peanut guys,” he said. “And I grew up in Boston, I went to high school in Cambridge and I was a petty cab driver for a couple summers so I’m familiar with the tourist scene and the street traffic scene and the summer scene … so it just made sense to me. And there’s a lot of money there, and also there is no cold brew in Boston.”
Jackmauh began calling his startup Boston Cold Brew as a placeholder until he could come up with a new name, but instead, the name stuck.
Last December, he won an entrepreneurship contest sponsored by Isenberg and received money to begin his venture. He also made a number of contacts who wanted to invest his idea, which gave him confidence to move forward.
In January, some of Jackmauh’s former classmates offered Jackmauh the opportunity to vend his coffee at TEDxUMassAmherst in April, and Jackmauh jumped at the chance, spending his winnings from December’s contest on equipment. TEDx was his biggest event to date, said Jackmauh, and he met a number of people who were interested in his startup.
Last week, Jackmauh won an entrepreneurial spirit award from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation for Entrepreneurial Initiative, which was a motivational boost for Jackmauh as well as a place where even more investors approached him about his startup.
Jackmauh currently plans to have Boston Cold Brew operational by June or July, beginning with a sidewalk cart in the suburbs surrounding Boston. He hopes to eventually grow Boston Cold Brew into a brand, ultimately selling his coffee wholesale to offices like Poland Spring water since it does not go stale.
“I have a background in coffee and I’m good at public speaking and I don’t really know exactly what I’m doing, which is exciting to me,” he said. “It’s constant problem solving, which I love.
“I’m singing the gospel of cold brew,” he added.
Patrick Hoff can be reached at email@example.com.