Around Town

Coffee-meets-science concept joins Costco development

by Christiaan Mader

The nitrogen-infused coffees and ice-creams at Professor Bob Bean's will add an element of laboratory fun to the storefront lineup at Ambassador Town Center.

A recent aerial of Ambassador Town Center with Professor Bob Bean's pictured in the yellow box.
Visual courtesy Stirling Properties

The franchisees behind Subzero Ice Cream’s Lafayette location are adopting a lab-themed approach to cold brew coffee with Professor Bob Bean’s Nitrogen Infused Coffee and Ice Cream Lab, set to open this year in the Costco-anchored Ambassador Town Center.

Coffee lends itself well to the language of science. The various tinctures and temperatures involved in the connoisseur’s cup of joe have added a steeper and steeper learning curve to the barista’s craft. It doesn’t seem that long ago that proper caffeination was an art. But here we are, boxing water specifically filtered for brewing coffee. Yes, that's a thing.

The kid-friendliness of the name evokes a Beakman’s World or Bill Nye kind of lab more so than your Hawkings or deGrasse Tysons. Still, it's a science-oriented approach that touts technological improvement in the making of time-honored favorites.

Nitrogen infusion gives cold brewed iced coffee a cappuccino-like frothiness and a crisp, filtered finish. While we’re not exactly sure of the infusion method at Professor Bob’s, nitro-infused coffees are often served from a tap system like beer or soft drinks. Professor Bob’s will also serve more traditional barista array, featuring lattes, cappuccinos and a pour-over variation called poursteady.

Poursteady automates the pour-over process with a robot that systematically drips filtered water into porcelain cones filled with organic, fair trade coffee. The automated system allows a barista to fill several pour-over orders at once, with added benefit of enjoying the servitude of a robot not yet self-aware.

Ken Bobbs, the local Subzero franchisee, was clearly inspired by his other enterprise in terms of method for this café concept, and Professor Bob’s will feature a line of nitro-infused ice creams not unlike what is served at Subzero. At Subzero, customers choose from a selection of cream bases — e.g. custard or lactose-free — then choose flavorings and mix-ins to complete a customized cone or bowl.

Flash-freezing reportedly renders a denser, creamier ice cream, and is obviously much more interesting to watch than one of those tiny churn windows you see on Chopped. While the method may be similar, Professor Bob’s will use a different ice cream manufacturer than Subzero, so the product will certainly be somewhat different.

The nitro tanks will be kept outside of the dining room for a more open feel, according to project architect/designer Brent Frick of Don J. O’Rourke & Associates.

The Ambassador Town Center, under development by Stirling Properties, is set to open with Nordstrom Rack as its first fully operational business in early March. Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Costco and others are soon to follow, with a Grand Opening celebration set for March 23. Professor Bob will open his lab sometime later this spring.