Considering the number of days Dallas reaches 100 degrees in a year, it’s surprising we don’t have people producing cold brew coffee in every neighborhood. Even though we’re comfortably removed from those triple-digit days, there are still good reasons to go cold for your morning or afternoon cup of coffee.
For one, Dallas has a new local company making cold brew coffee. Airto “A.C.” Castaneda-Cudney is constantly working in the Cedars to produce small-batch cold brews for his company, Night Rider Premium Cold Brew Coffee Co.
Castaneda-Cudney, 31, started thinking about cold brew when he was living in Dallas years ago and his childhood friends started a company in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.
“I moved back home and I learned the business. They taught me everything they knew. I had the intention of franchising and bringing them down here … then they basically were like, ‘Hey, we’re not going to move that way; you can take what we taught you and you can start your own,’” he says. “So I was like, let me start something up that’s more North Texas. Night Rider is what popped in my head.
"The night rider is the cowboy that has to watch over the cattle at night, and so I was like, that guy probably needs some cold brew coffee in order to stay alert.”
Castaneda-Cudney is entering his second year with Night Rider. From the day he started, it’s been just him (with occasional help from friends). He brews everything as a small batch, currently producing 20 to 30 gallons a week.
“Right now we have our signature, two-bean blend; it's a Guatemalan-Peruvian blend, 50-50 blend,” he says.
He has a few individuals who order from him directly, and he’s targeting employees of the restaurant industry who have become fans of the drink while on the job.
Even when it expands, though, he says his process won’t change much.
“It’s all small-batched, and it’s going to stay that way no matter what. I’m going to brew it the same way even if I’m making 2,000 gallons a week,” he says. “I want it to be human labor. I kind of want it to be more crafty, more premium: hand-bottled, hand-brewed.”
If you’re questioning why you might opt for cold brew even when it’s not 100 degrees, he already has reasons for that.
“Since there’s no heat during that brewing process, it’s naturally less acidic,” he says. “You’re not burning caffeine off while you’re brewing it, which means it’s actually more concentrated; but it’s less acidic, which means it’s healthier for your teeth and easier on your stomach.”
Brewing in the Cedars, Castaneda-Cudney keeps it in the neighborhood by getting his beans from Full City Rooster. He says it costs him more than going to a competitor for beans, but it’s worth staying in the neighborhood and getting top quality.
“I walked over there and fell in love with what [Michael Wyatt] does and really more of his story,” Castaneda-Cudney says. “He goes out of his way to do his craft. He and his wife, they’re not looking to be in every store … They’re like, 'Hey, you come to me because we have some good stuff.' That’s how I want Night Rider. You come out of your way because you know it’s going to be delicious; you know someone took their time on it.”
If you want this cold brew coffee, you can message him directly over social media (yes, he’s still that grassroots) or go to Night Rider's website. He can do cases of 12-ounce bottles, six-packs, gallons, half-gallons, growlers — anyway you want it, he says.
The growlers are proving to be the most popular.
“I use glass for my bottles and it's meant to encourage more of a milkman transaction: You leave me your empty and I give you a new one, I take off a little bit of money off of the sale. That way we just keep on recycling, we’re not really using any waste,“ he says.
“That’s pretty much how I brew it, as well. I’m not using anything that’s really wasteful except maybe the back of the labels and the cap,” he says. “That’s a big thing. I feel like with the way the world is going right now that businesses have to make that type of decision. Obviously it costs me more, but I feel like we need to lead the way in that type of philosophy: Let’s not make it easier on people. Let’s make people go out of their way for it.”
Before getting into the coffee-brewing business, Castaneda-Cudney was doing marketing, and he still has his own promotion company.
This made it easier for him to establish what is now Exodus Thursday, a weekly event at Mac’s Southside in the Cedars.
“It’s sponsored by Night Rider, but at the same time, I’m bringing all these local bands in from the Deep Ellum area and bringing them this way,” he says. “We’re getting a lot of the locals that turn out from Southside, so they’re coming in and there’s something kind of there instead of just grabbing a beer and pizza; they might sit there for a couple of drinks and eat their pizza there.”
He’s also working on promotions for local artists.
“I have that background of putting events together, so I’m working with local creatives, being involved with not just the bands and Mac’s Southside on Thursdays, but Boom Boom Pum … right now we’re at Wit’s End once a month and Ruins once a month. I kind of see that we’re in Texas and I don’t really see the Latin crowd having a stage in the arts in the community, so being involved with Boom Boom Pum is great.”
At those events, Boom Boom Pum brings DJs, musicians and artists together for an event. They’re not charging much at the door, just enough to break even.
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“I feel like that is a staple to what is happening,“ he says. ”I feel like Dallas is a lot more creative and new age than people think, and they’re not realizing that there’s so much talent here. I see Dallas becoming a mecca and also a leader in that.“
Castaneda-Cudney has goals for cornering the cold brew market in Dallas, and maybe even beyond. But it will always have its base south of Interstate 30.
“I’m trying to grow it organically, and it’s actually built for this side of the neighborhood, of Dallas, the Cedars neighborhood. I moved out here in 2013 to the Cedars neighborhood and I just fell in love with it,” he says. “It’s perfect access, everything just kind of meets right here. And then you’re five minutes away from Deep Ellum and whatever else there is to do here in Dallas; everything’s just kind of right here. So I built it around that.
“I’m not from Dallas, but I designed Night Rider for Dallas and I put South Dallas in there, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the area. I’m definitely looking to represent Dallas. I want [Night Rider] to be everywhere."