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HPP Cold-Pressed Citrus Juice: Process, Sustainability, Consistency at Twisted Alchemy

I've been curious about HPP juices for a few years now, and  over the past year have had a chance to email with Kim and Scott Holstein, Co-Founders of Twisted Alchemy. They provide a range of juices and some mixers for corporate and individual bar accounts as an alternative to heat pasteurized or self-squeezed juice.



HPP Background 

Foods preserved by HPP (High Pressure Processing) are pasteurized without heat but instead by using pressure to squish any bacteria or other forms of life on the food products into oblivion. 

Or, more accurately, according to the company that makes these machines, "High Pressure Processing (HPP) is a cold pasteurization technique by which products, already sealed in its final package, are introduced into a vessel and subjected to a high level of isostatic pressure (300–600MPa/43,500-87,000psi) transmitted by water."

This is commonly used for things like cheeses, packaged guacamole, deli meats in the soft clamshell-type containers, other packaged meats and seafoods under plastic, dips, salsas, and prepared salads, but importantly for our purposes: cold-pressed juices - the type you see at Starbucks and Whole Foods that are refrigerated, as opposed to the bottled juices like Santa Cruz brand that are shelf-stable at room temperature until opening.

In the bar world, HPP technology can be used to produce bottled citrus juice, bottled mixers/sour mixes, and even bag-in-box (BIB) mixes. A few years ago I went to Las Vegas to report on the then-new cocktail program using custom HPP BIBs at a new hockey stadium/arena for Popular Science. (Unfortunately there was an editorial change and the story never ran. I'm still bummed about it.) 

Twisted Alchemy's Process and Big Clients

Twisted Alchemy's juices (previously called Industry Juice), are, according to the website:  

They have a shelf life of 120 days when kept refrigerated and 7 days once opened (compared to about 2 days max for freshly-squeezed citrus at the bar). 

They compost their produce, and are able to use "ugly" produce that might go unused if meant for stores. 

They also promise consistent BRIX and pH levels so that juice should not differ from bottle to bottle and from season to season. 

They ship to any state in the continental US within in 48 hours, either via a division of SYSCO for the bag-in boxes or in plastic bottles for home/small orders via FedEx. For the latter, "We utilize Green Cell Foam which requires 70% less energy and produces 80% less greenhouse gases than petroleum based foams. It is also backyard compostable, biodegradable and water soluble. This is the foam used in the coolers that we custom developed." 

By the way, here is some sustainability info for bag-in-boxes. 

Their juices are used by big accounts, including (note this is a year old info and could have changed):

  • Speed Rack
  • World Class
  • Think Food Group in DC
  • Land and Sea including Paul McGee's Cherry Circle Room
  • Two Roads Hospitality hotel group bars
  • All Live Nation VIP stadium Bars

Looking Deeper

I emailed some questions to Kim and Scott Holstein. Below are questions and their answers: 

Your juice is pH adjusted to hit a certain mark: Can you tell me what that pH level is for the different juices?

The reason we chose to curate for Bx (Brix) and pH balance has all to do with taste. Early on in our product development we did not like certain ratios of Bx to pH and noticed that when Bx was high and acidity was low (high pH) above 4.4/4.5, we would get way too much of a "syrupy" taste...almost too sweet for what a fresh juice for a cocktail should be. We researched the wine industry where Bx nerds go to geek out and confirmed some of our own findings. (Here is a wine blog in which they discuss a similar issue with grapes.)

So we started to blend different Bx and pH levels together the way that wines can be done to get certain flavors and pay very close attention to our sweeter flavors where Bx levels were important to flavor including Blood and Valencia Orange, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Pineapple and Watermelon and soon to add Passion Fruit.

We also went through every company that makes industrial juicing equipment to get lime flavor right. Without lime being right we knew we would fail at the bartender level. So we ended up customizing our own because too many of the high speed equipment companies completely destroy the produce with a pulverizing or reaming the fruit completely and releasing a ton limonene oil and pith into the juice. We do not.

To match what craft bars were doing with lime on-premise we needed a much gentler process which did not exist so we worked with a manufacturer to help us get there and we think we did. Guys like Donny Clutterbuck, Peter Vestinos and Tad Carducci to get their take on taste with our early batches to get validation. We even went into bars and restaurant groups such as Three Dots, Lost Lake, Frontera, Hogsalt and Lettuce Entertain You and got validation on flavor.

What do you use (what ingredients) to adjust the pH to reach those levels?

We blend with different crops, we do not add anything. We pick fruit based on Brix and test from pH so we can blend low and high acid together.

Where is the HPP done? What city/state?

We are pressing our juice in Milwaukee and Central America, and HPPing in both places. We have storage facilities in both locations and in Sacramento. We can hit any US bar or Home in the lower 48 states in 48 hours.

You're only in plastic bottles, correct? Are you near any local accounts where you do reuse bottles?

Unfortunately, FDA with HPP does not allow for re-using of bottles. But 25% of our bottles are made from recycled PET plastic. We have a BIB (bag-in-box) item launching next month that will hold 10 liters per BIB. It also has a tap system option along with a manual dispensing option. [picture below]

ASSY-BIB-10L-SS-ISO Twisted Alchemy Updated (1)

They cite reasons that bars should buy their juices, including:

  • No labor cost
  • No spoilage of unsqueezed fruit, and probably less squeeze juice, as they last for a week before spoiling even after opening
  • Eco-friendly shipping, they compost all of their spent fruit, and using "ugly fruit" lessens some environmental impact
  • The juices last longer not just before opening (as long as they're refrigerated), but after opening as well. Donny Clutterbuck reported on HPP juices that these juices were just-like-fresh-squeezed in quality when first opened (weeks after being delivered to the bar) and that lemon/lime juices lasted 3 full days after opening, grapefruit, pineapple, and orange juices lasted up to 9 days. 

Reasons to Not use this or a similar service:

  • Single-use plastic bottles or bag-in-box that otherwise wouldn't be needed if squeezing your own
  • Shipping costs, food miles of refrigerated shipping (from Central America, they ship via refrigerated cargo ship to Houston; trucks I assume from there)
  • Shipping must be done with refrigerated trucks and/or with ice in the packaging. (Note: "We work with European Imports, a specialty division of Sysco, and can ship anywhere in the country via refrigerated trucks. We also ship direct via Fedex in our cornstarch eco-friendly coolers." )
  • No citrus peels to use as garnishes getting a second use out of the citrus (though fruit is composted at the source)

Considerations before using Twisted Alchemy or a similar service:

  • Does your municipality not offer composting? Then this saves a lot of volume sent to landfill. 
  • How far is your location from where the juice is processed or stored (Sacramento/Milwaukee)? The closer the better, as the cooled/refrigerated shipping comes with a high energy cost. They ship from Milwaukee and warehouse also in Sacramento, so the closer you are to one of those two places the better. 
  • Events - Is the juice for events where you need quality juice but don't have the facilities to squeeze? 
  • Labor costs - Is labor prohibitively expensive in your area? Then bottled juice might save money. (This is a cost as opposed to environmental consideration.)