By Riley Kaminer
From the freely flowing taps of cold brew at West Palm Beach innovation hub 1909 to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s iconic cafecito talks and Panther Coffee tech meetups, South Florida’s coffee and tech scenes are deeply intertwined.
Kendall-based startup VAC is developing tech-powered coffee devices that enable caffeine junkies to brew a faster, tastier cup of coffee.
The startup’s key differentiator lies in their flagship product, VacOne, which uses an air pump instead of a water pump. This process eliminates the bitterness you might get from similar products, getting you your coffee fix in record time.
VacOne, which costs $89, is especially impressive when it comes to one South Florida staple: the cold brew. “Our machine can make cold brew with the ideal TDS level,” CEO Eduardo Umaña explained.
TDS stands for total dissolved solids. Umaña said that this bit of coffee jargon is crucial. “TDS is what makes coffee taste like coffee. Otherwise, it is too bitter or too weak.”
Timing is also a crucial advantage of VacOne. While cold brew typically takes 14-36 hours to perk, VAC’s machine can deliver a refreshing cup in just four minutes. According to Umaña, “usually for cold brew, it takes a long time to achieve this level of TDS because cold water does not extract well. Our machine uses pressure to do this more quickly.”
Co-founded by Umaña and COO Otto Becker (pictured above), VAC has been in business since 2018. Umaña, an engineer by trade, has always been interested in coffee culture and started VAC as a way to make better tasting coffee more quickly. In late 2018, he led a Kickstarter campaign that raised the company $162,000 in 30 days, plus an additional $10,000 through Indiegogo. “That’s what allowed us to grow as a company,” Umaña told Refresh Miami. Since then, they have also received a loan from the Miami Bayside Foundation, a non-profit that supports local businesses.
The startup doubled its sales figures in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of last year. Umaña plans to start fundraising again in the next few months to further accelerate this growth. His ambitious plans include “making a more complex, more innovative machine” to help elevate his consumers’ coffee making game.
New: A coffee subscription service
The VAC team has also just announced a new coffee subscription that’s perfect for even the most discerning coffee connoisseurs. Umaña and 2012 World Barista Champion Raul Rodas have developed relationships with farms across Latin America. Their limited supply ensures that consumers will enjoy the rarest of beans.
“Our big differentiator is that we roast at origin, so it’s faster from origin to user. Usually coffee spends months getting shipped and sitting in a warehouse before it gets in the consumers’ hands.”
Originally hailing from Colombia, Umaña has lived in Miami since he was 15 years old. His South Florida roots were only part of what made him decide to base the coffee company in Miami.
“I think we’re in the perfect place for what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re at the gateway to Latin America, which has many major coffee producing countries. At the same time, we’re in the US so we have access to the US market.”
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