Andrew Miller (left) and Rachael James created and brought to market two canned cold brew drinks in just 100 days. | Photos by Anna Laura Sommer

Andrew Miller and Rachael James had a dream at the end of October to launch a brand new coffee brand in time for Charleston Wine + Food (W+F). That dream came from their shared love of cold brew and a desire to fill a hole in the small market of canned cold brews that had more body and flavor than mass-market brands. On the last day to apply as a vendor at W+F’s Culinary Village at Riverfront Park, the pair was given an opportunity that would set them on a nonstop 100-day race to the finish line. Urban Alchemy was born, with two products to line shelves: the OG Cold Brew and Nitro Cold Brew. 

“We didn’t have a name. We didn’t have a product. We had nothing,” James said. “So I pitched them a concept. And they said, ‘Yeah, let’s get on a Zoom call.’”

Miller and James had a clear vision for the coffee they wanted — a smooth cold brew highlighting the natural flavors of the coffee bean.

Photo by Anna Laura Sommer

“We wanted a coffee that you could just open from the can, and it’s beautiful and smooth,” James said. “The notes in the beans — what exists in nature — is leveraged in the cold brew process because that’s what cold brewing does, whereas heating a coffee kind of masks imperfections. It dulls things, but a cold brew opens it all up.” 

After the success and go-ahead from the Zoom meeting with W+F — along with the decision to name the company “Urban Alchemy” during that meeting — it was full steam ahead. The next step was to find a roaster. She pitched that coffee concept from the Zoom meeting to a family friend who is a local roaster and they were on board. “They shouldn’t have, but they said yes,” she added.

Once James and Miller partnered with a small local roaster, it was time to fine tune the flavor profile envisioned in the pitch. 

“We went through four or five test batches of different cuppings and different single origin beans and multiple flavor profiles,” Miller said. “We took our first test batches home right at Christmas to taste with our friends and then came back and sort of refined what would be our flavor profile.”

Urban Alchemy uses an organic single origin coffee bean from Guatemala, so when it’s brewed in a 34 -degree cold steep with triple-filtered water, the flavors of the single bean are highlighted in each batch. The batch provides flavor notes of chocolate, vanilla and berry for a dynamic taste for the OG Cold Brew. The Nitro is the same brew, but fully integrated with nitrogen for a silky smooth finish. 

“We actually bumped up the Nitro psi [pounds-per-square-inch] a little bit just to give it that extra little creamy kick,” Miller said. “We kind of wanted it to cascade out like a Guinness and give that nice, creamy mouthfeel.”

But the flavor of the coffee wasn’t the only thing considered for the product; The design of the can was just as important. 

“When you look at the cold case for beers, especially our local breweries, it’s a wall of insane-looking cans,” Miller said. “The artwork is incredible. The beers are incredible. And then when we looked at the cold brew space, we thought it was a little bit boring. So we wanted to come in with something that popped off the shelf.”

The cans of Urban Alchemy might remind you of a psychedelic rock poster with abstract shapes and vibrant colors. It’s definitely an eye-catcher, and that’s what Miller and James wanted. 

The OG Cold Brew comes in a blue can covered in a hexagonal pattern with a weathered look to integrate the silver of the can. The Nitro Cold Brew can fuses the natural silver of the can with orange and yellow for a swirly, psychedelic sunset. 

The duo wanted to brew and can everything in Charleston, but because of the time crunch and self-imposed goal to launch by the first weekend of March, it didn’t work out. The coffee is currently canned and brewed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  

“There’s a specific chemistry between us and the roasters and the brewers,” Miller said. “It’s sort of a multi-faceted formula that gets tested three times just to make sure that it’s exactly what it should be.” 

Each batch is cupped, or tasted, three separate times before being canned and put out into the market for a precise and consistent product. 

“It was like a beautiful marriage of our roasters and our brewers working together to say this is what we’re going for,” James said. 

Urban Alchemy cold brew is available online at or at select locations throughout the Charleston area including Cold Shoulder Gourmet, goat.sheep.cow., Brewlab Charleston and more. 

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