Brewing a cup of coffee seems relatively simple: you need water, ground, roasted coffee grinds, and a method of brewing. The truth is, it is a complex beverage that is the result of several complicated processes and many different players. Urnex, a manufacturer of cleaning and descaling products, is one of those players.
Behind every great cup of coffee is the coffee bean, the region of the world it was grown in, the farmers who planted, cared for and harvested the beans, the soil, the latitude, the weather and environmental patterns in the region in which it is grown, storage, and roasters, as well as finer details such as water temperature, filtration, equipment, the barista – the list goes on and on.
While all of these things are important, something that many people overlook is the role cleaning agents play in the delivery of a consistent and true coffee flavor. Cleanliness is key to an optimal coffee experience.
“Better tasting coffee is Urnex’s goal at the end of the day. Safety is hugely important; hygiene and safety and better tasting coffee. A lot of roasters, specifically, look to us because they can make the most out of their brand they’ve established by using products that help them make consistently good coffee,” explained Vice President of Marketing Isaac Cohen.
Urnex works closely with leaders in the coffee industry – distributors, retailers, machine manufacturers, roasters, cafés – those who have a shared interest or common “grounds” in making better tasting coffee for consumers to enjoy, regardless of whether it is in the café down the street or in the comfort of their own home.
“All these different people [are involved] and it’s all done with an incredible amount of care and time and effort and it all ends up in a single cup. At any point in that process, not doing the right thing can mess it up, and Urnex falls somewhere into that process – very much at the end of that process from a time standpoint, but we see ourselves as an integral piece to delivering that quality cup of coffee,” said Cohen.
Urnex understands that coffee can impart more than 800 different elements of flavor and aroma. Compared with wine, which has only 200, coffee is truly a complex beverage that in order to be truly enjoyed requires a team effort. The company’s role is to take cleaning seriously.
“A lot of people have put in a tremendous amount of energy and effort to create a single cup of coffee, and we want to make sure that when it is consumed, people really appreciate the work that’s gone into it,” Cohen explained.
One important aspect is that coffee is inherently oily. Its oils can pose a challenge for machine manufacturers, baristas and home brewers alike, as it accumulates within the machines and equipment that are responsible for delivering your daily cup of joe. From residues and clogs to horrid smells, poor maintenance can lead to big problems.
Clogs cause machines to break down and residues can have serious implications for the taste of the beverage. As the Urnex website states, “Dirty machines can be the downfall of an otherwise great coffee program.” Working with industry partners, Urnex has developed specially formulated cleaning products to meet manufacturer-specific and general coffee equipment cleaning needs to ensure that a dirty machine never results in a soured coffee experience.
“We have strong relationships with very large roasters and equipment manufacturers and then everyone in between as well, on a local and a global scale. I think what makes Urnex unique from a cultural standpoint is the fact that we work with so many different types of customers,” said Cohen. “We work very closely with them to develop products specifically for their new equipment, understanding the technology behind it and advising where cleaning is necessary and where there could potentially be problems down the road unless the appropriate cleaning product is put in place.”
One such example is GRINDZ, which is a grinder cleaning tablet that has been designed in the shape of a coffee bean. The product was developed with industry-leading grinder manufacturer Mahlkonig and offers a safe, all natural, organic, gluten-free product that when ground through a coffee grinder absorbs the oils and particles left behind to promote consistent extraction.
What many people aren’t aware of is the fact that the wrong detergents and cleaning products can be just as detrimental as the dirty machine itself. Certain soaps can leave residues and buildup or cause damage to the equipment, and even homemade vinegar solutions aren’t as effective as believed.
Beyond better tasting coffee, Urnex helps equipment last longer and work more effectively. Its professional and household cleaning products, under the Urnex, Puro and Full Circle brands, are developed with technical knowledge of how the equipment works and as a result, clean and maintain equipment with ease.
Urnex’s focus has been and always will be coffee-centric. Cohen noted, “Urnex has been in the coffee business for a very long time. We specifically understand coffee equipment. We hire a lot of people who have worked for equipment manufacturers, so they know the ins and outs of the machines.”
The company has been in business since 1936, when it made filter bags for coffee urns, and as relationships with coffee companies in New York City grew, it found itself integrating coffee cleaning products as well.
The Urnex business has grown significantly in the past decade, as the worldwide demand for higher quality, better tasting coffee has increased, as has the technological complexity of coffee equipment. The popularity of milk-based beverages such as cappuccinos and lattes has also fueled growth, as milk fats and minerals, if not properly cleaned from integrated frothers and steam wands, can pose health risks. Urnex has anticipated these trends and has met the demands of roasters, coffee shops and equipment manufacturers with new products and formulations.
Urnex is proud to be a domestic manufacturer with a global reach. Headquartered just outside of New York City, its products ship to 70 countries worldwide. Global customers are supported by sales representatives in China, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United States. Warehousing and distribution hubs can be found in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and New York, while distribution partners including equipment manufacturers, roasters, and local distributors supplement that network.
Urnex maintains a global reach not only with its products, but also with its relationships to other players in the coffee supply chain, and it brings its employees along for the ride. Cohen provided some insight as to why the company supports and invests in origin trips for its employees.
“As a company we have long prioritized exposing our brand and our employees to the people at the initial part of that chain where all the labor takes place in the field, whether it’s going on an origin trip or attending events where farming and processing techniques are being discussed,” he shared.
“By interacting with the individuals and organizations that are critical to the coffee farming and processing chain, you have much more appreciation for all of the work that goes on across the entire industry. It’s much less about, ‘I need a cup of coffee because I’m tired,’ and more about this incredible mixture of agriculture and technology, science and art that a cup of coffee truly is.”
To be sure, talent is part of the reason for Urnex’s continued growth and success throughout the years. Its team is composed of industry experts who bring a broad range of experience and technical knowledge to the table. “We understand coffee because the people we hire have coffee backgrounds, so they know what makes a good cup of coffee,” said Cohen. “The chemistry of it is very important as well. We hire people with chemistry experience on the R&D side and people with equipment knowledge and coffee experience, specifically on the sales side.”
As a result of the care and attention to detail Urnex offers, it has become so much more than a cleaning and descaling product manufacturer and supplier; it is a partner in great coffee and a trusted advisor to its partners.
As Cohen noted, “At the end of the day, we make soap. We make soap for coffee machines, so it’s this market niche, but we bring a lot more to the table, and I think that’s what has helped Urnex be successful over the years and maintain a lot of really strong relationships with our customers. We want to continue to bring our expertise from different backgrounds to support our customers’ evolving needs, whether domestically in the U.S. or in markets like China,” as the Asian market opens itself up to a coffee culture.
There is more than enough opportunity in the market for Urnex to take advantage of to grow, especially in the automated equipment manufacturing space. As new technology is developed, the Urnex team will be by its customers’ sides as a partner to ensure that cleaning is integrated to guarantee their equipment is working optimally and that coffee beverages taste their best.