With Bigger Beverage Focus, Comeback Coffee Reinvented in Memphis
The owners of the Memphis multiroaster cafe Comeback Coffee have reintroduced themselves with a new beverage production facility, in-house roasting and a combined company by the name of Comeback Beverage Co.
With more than 10,000 square feet of space in an industrial building in the Pinch District, the production facility includes upstairs offices, lounge areas and a roastery built around a Diedrich IR5 machine. Downstairs is equipment for cold brewing, soda making and canning, with a particular focus on the brand’s ready-to-drink (RTD) canned coffee soda.
“We’ve always had it as a menu item since day one,” Comeback Beverage Co-Owner Hayes McPherson recenly told Daily Coffee News. “We weren’t sure how it was gonna go; it is a little bit of a unique beverage. We had it on tap for our grand opening and we went through I think seven gallons of it that first day.”
After its founding in 2019 as a single retail coffee shop, Comeback started canning the fan-favorite beverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, a 100-can batch took three workers roughly four hours to complete and would sell out in a day, McPherson said. The popularity prompted Comeback to convert a garage behind the cafe into a dedicated soda production and canning kitchen in 2021, which hit a 600-can batch limit.
Now, with larger stainless steel equipment supporting a proprietary flash-brew method, cans of tart, sweet and fizzy elixir are numbering in the thousands per batch. A soda called Southern Style features a carbonated mix of flash-brewed coffee, lemon and thyme. Field Day mixes strawberry and lime, and a pineapple cinnamon coffee soda is soon to come.
Coffees for the drinks now come from the house roastery overseen by former Comeback baristas and now co-head-roasters Kelsey Taylor and Hannah Sisson.
“When we started the idea was never to be a roaster ourselves. I personally was against it from the very beginning,” McPherson said. “I fought it tooth and nail, because so many people were doing it much better than I thought we could have been doing it at that point in our lives, and we trusted those folks to do it. We focused on making really good coffee here in Memphis.”
Comeback employee Ethan McGaughy, who now serves as head of operations for Comeback Beverage and oversees new recipes, was the person who won McPherson over on the idea of roasting in-house as the soda business picked up.
“It was more of a business decision than anything else,” said McPherson. “We just said, maybe now is the time for doing it, and let’s not do it half-heartedly. Let’s not half-ass it. Let’s do this to the fullest that it can be done. So that’s when we changed our [company] structure.”
In the new digs, Taylor and Sisson are working with a range of green coffees, including some recent experimental beans like an anaerobic-processed Colombian offering purchased through Forest Coffee, and a strawberry-wine-yeast fruit-maceration coffee from Cofinet.
“That’s what we love drinking as a staff,” said McPherson. “A few years ago, [producers’] experimentation with all that stuff wasn’t quite the same and was pretty inaccessible to farmers in a lot of ways. We’re starting to see that shape out a little bit differently now, so we wanted to showcase that.”
Comeback’s coffee operation will continue to embrace the multiroaster model, while also introducing more interesting and experimental coffees of its own.
“It felt weird to get rid of that completely,” said McPherson, noting the shop’s embrace of beans from roasters throughout the world. “It kind of feels like it goes against who we were at our core, so we’ll always be a multiroaster and will keep roasters like that on our shelf and on our bar forever. The idea was less about modeling after them, or even standing out against them, and more about how can we provide this for Memphis, and what can we provide for the city when it comes to uniqueness and a new experience in coffee.”
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.
Source: Daily Coffee News