Frustrated with the lack of keto-friendly cold brew coffee on the shelves, John De Robbio took the problem into his own hands. Experimenting with different nut milks and vegetable milks (yes, they exist!), De Robbio joined forces with Michael Krikorian and Richard Marrin to blend the perfect keto friendly latte—for people who follow the very low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat diet.
Now, the three men are proud partners of the Original Keto Coffee Company based in their hometown of Atlantic Highlands. Currently brewing out of a restaurant owned by Krikorian, the partners’ fresh cold brews are not meant for a long shelf life, and aren’t packed with sugars and preservatives.
“There’s a lot of innovation that went into the process,” said Marrin. “There’s something special about keto.”
We caught up with De Robbio, Krikorian, and Madden to discuss the idea behind their new product, how they got started, and what their plans are for the future.
Table Hopping: John, you were the force behind the original idea. What made you pursue keto coffee?
John De Robbio: When I started a keto diet, I had to get dairy out of my diet… One day, I was on the road and it was an August day, hot as can be. I wanted iced coffee, but everything had 60 grams of sugar and all junk and carbs and I couldn’t do it. Then it hit me that these products should be in the store. I started experimenting with different milks and cashew was the best and I liked it better than regular milk. I knew Michael, who’s a foodie, would be the perfect person to bring this to. Michael tried it and said let’s do it and that was the end of it.
TH: And since people are drinking coffee every day, you want to know what you’re putting in your body.
JD: There’s a ton of label readers today. They want to know what’s in their stuff. And you flip that Starbucks over and it’s just a sugar ball.
TH: What was the initial reaction to the product?
Michael Krikorian: When he first brought it to my attention, I gave [my daughter] a sample to take over to school one day and some of the parents started calling me asking where they can get the keto coffee. We made up some batches and we started selling through the restaurant and it kind of just snowballed from there. Once we got locked down during Covid, it was a little bit of a pivot and it was good timing.
Richard Marrin: Michael’s being a bit humble about the way these two guys reverse engineered the process to bring out all the characteristics of an espresso latte, but through a slow brew process. There’s a lot of innovation that went into that.
TH: So the process required a lot of changes until getting to the final product?
RM: We’re always adapting. For example, I put in a cinnamon stick to stir one of the cold cashew milk on ice and the cinnamon and the cashew had a really nice holiday kick to it. That’s the beauty of being a coffee company because we can continue to change and adapt.
TH: Are you currently serving the coffee out of your restaurant(s)?
MK: We are serving it out of Copper Canyon. We’re doing delivery and in house. The biggest issue we have right now is keeping up with the demand. We will brew up a batch, bottle it, then will have it set to go. Now we’re just trying to get a larger space and more bigger pieces of equipment to brew larger batches so we could get more out there.
TH: What kind of coffee is it brewed with and do you brew in New Jersey?
RM: Atlantic Highlands is a special place and it’s always historically had great water. The one we’re brewing our products with is an Arabica coffee from Central and South America.
TH: Michael, Atlantic Highlands is an important place for your personal businesses, right?
MK: I’ve got three restaurants in town [Copper Canyon, Gaslight and Higo]. They’re all within a block and a half of one another. It’s difficult to have more than one open given the current restrictions with only 25 percent [capacity for indoor dining]. The keto is a nice extra project that could be focused on now with some great results. Especially while we’re in this little downturn here.
TH: Do you have a timeline of getting a storefront or you’re really just working on manufacturers?
RM: We’re kind of half applying the brakes right now. We have a storefront that’s perfectly situated between two of Michael’s restaurants. We have to carefully consider the next steps. Our friends down the road at Carton Brewing—we watched them go from doing what we did with beer to where they are now.
TH: And I saw on your Facebook you have a small coffee cart!
MK: It’s something we did for fun! We call it “The Beast.”
RM: We’re selling mostly through the restaurant, and we do some events like the Taste of Atlantic Highlands or their classic car show or a couple other things, like the farmers market. We think the cart is attractive and it’s very practical because it’s an ice cream cart, so it keeps the coffee ice cold.
TH: What’s next for you guys?
RM: We have five products already queued up. What we really want to do is just make sure they’re done five star because we view ourselves more of a gourmet luxury product. It’s a heck of a lot healthier and it’s got a nice little kick of caffeine, too. We’re not interested in loading it up with preservatives to increase the shelf life.
The Original Keto Coffee Company, based in Atlantic Highlands, is currently brewed at Copper Canyon. Made with zero sugars and only 35 calories a bottle, it’s a shelf-stable slow-brewed espresso and cashew milk latte.Click here to leave a comment