The best stories often start over a cup of coffee. This particular story—the story of Miami-based Relentless Coffee Roasters—spans from Nicaragua, on a woodsy slope of the Nueva Segovia coffee region, to a small cold brew trailer in Miami. That small trailer, about the size of a walk-in closet, is where Relentless serves coffee with big flavor—and it’s what allows owner Daniel Paguaga a certain freedom, both in business and in life.
From Mountain Top to Coffee Cup
“My grandfather has been a coffee producer for the last 70+ years,” said Paguaga. “He lives in Nicaragua, 30 minutes from the Honduran border, in a very rural, coffee farmer town. At 91, he still goes to the farms to oversee everything.”
Paguaga was born into the coffee business with a passion for great coffee brewed into him at a young age. “One of the leading factors for starting Relentless was my passion for coffee, and also my grandfather’s passion for coffee,” said Paguaga. “I actually spent a lot of time on the ground in the farms, learning about all the different aspects of [it].”
The business has grown steadily, dipping into all aspects of the coffee business, from production to distribution. “We focus on wholesale and commercial distribution, but do offer retail via online sales. So you can definitely purchase a bag of our amazing coffee online.”
As a boutique coffee roaster, Paguaga is able to work with various cafés and shops in Miami to meld their vision and his product into one incredible customer experience.
“It’s a very hands-on interaction between myself and the [café] owner,” he said. “They have a set profile and experience to give to their customers, and my goal is to provide the best coffee to reach that result. It can be a lot of back and forth, trying different coffees until we finally find the one that they like. But that’s part of the process, and we make sure we keep going until everyone’s happy.”
The testing of each cup of coffee goes beyond a general description on a chalkboard. Relentless “cups” their coffee, testing its honesty by pressing it through an espresso machine. “Cupping is really important. Roasting is used to qualify and classify coffees and pick up any defects and really hone in on what the coffee possesses,” he said. “But we want to go in a little deeper and really start to manipulate the coffee in ways that the café is going to use it.”
The result nearly fillets the coffee, cutting it open and revealing its true flavor and character. This thoroughness allows Paguaga’s team to understand the depth and character of their coffee instead of simply telling the customer that it’s a good coffee.
Relentless is just that—relentless in making sure they oversee each batch of coffee from start to finish. “[In the industry process], it’s very common for the coffee to switch hands multiple times,” he said. “We’re able to actually facilitate every aspect, from the growing all the way down to the serving of the coffee. That is something really special, and something that I’m really proud of that we’re able to facilitate.”
A connected, hands-on approach is what keeps his business process streamlined. By understanding what it takes to create an experience for the consumer, as well as through experimentation and research, Paguaga was able to literally tap into a new product for Miami—nitro cold brew.
Tapping into a Better Cold Brew
The cold brew process from Relentless is a great example of the multitasking personality of entrepreneurs working in a small spaces. By using nitro and giving their coffee a frothy, smooth flavor, Relentless combines the best aspects of craft coffee and craft beer without a brick and mortar taproom.
“We were actually the first ones to offer nitro brew commercially here in Miami, and we wanted to keep pushing that cold-brew envelope,” Paguaga said.
In the nitro cold brew process, hot water never touches the coffee. Without heat, the oils and acids in the coffee beans are retained. After it’s brewed, it’s refrigerated overnight. “Nitro cold-brew is made by taking cold-brew concentrate and infusing it with nitrogen gas. It’s a process [that’s] very similar to brewing a Guinness,” said Paguaga. “You completely change the complexity of the actual cold-brew coffee. The nitro adds a smooth, crisp, rounded mouth feel to the actual cold-brew coffee through these little cascading bubbles of nitrogen.”
Relentless offers coffee lovers, who may not have time to prepare their own cold brew, a way to enjoy their coffee on the go. “We wanted to have something on tap for people that are always on the go, or for those that appreciate great coffee but don’t have the time to prepare at home.”
Relentless Flavor in a Small Space
The Relentless cold brew station is a mobile trailer that is roughly the size of a walk-in closet. With a few taps, a register, and just enough space for three people, things gets cozy quickly. “We’ve made the best of out of the space provided to us,” said Paguaga. “We’re very good at making things work in tight spaces. The truck is honestly the perfect size. It allows us to maneuver into tight spaces and into other places where perhaps someone wouldn’t want a full-blown truck.”
The coffee truck is a result of a new wave of entrepreneurial thinking—creating a business around the customer rather than breaking ground on a solitary space. “We wanted to move around and test different market areas and really find where are target client was, through actual [research and development],” he said. “So this has turned into a mobile laboratory where we’re experimenting with drinks and creating new things.”
The freedom to move around the city has not only opened up their market, but has also turned the concept of space on its head. “It’s helped us realize that we don’t need a full-blown 2,000-square-foot café,” Paguaga said. “We can literally do and accomplish this concept with something that’s around 300 to 400 square feet. That was a revelation for us, and when we do look for a brick-and-mortar spot, we can hone in on a completely different area than what we originally thought.”
Miami has slowly been seeing more small businesses trying new ways to lay roots. “These small spaces—they didn’t exist when we first started out. It was very hard to get into an existing spot because someone already had a plan for the whole building.”
Now, pop-up concepts are sprouting throughout the area. “Pop-ups are common across the nation. It’s an easy way to get your foot in the door with your business and test out your concept. For a long time in Miami, the only way you could do something similar to a pop-up would be doing a farmers’ market.”
Entrepreneurs in the area have been splicing together the genes of a farmer’s market, a proven successful model, with the guts of energetic pop-ups, creating a hybrid business model in a community that provides stimuli to hungry masses that are looking for local companies and artists to support.
Setting Up Shop in Wynwood
Wynwood, Miami, is a revitalized arts district that’s home to over 70 galleries. Warehouses and industrial spaces in former decay have been reborn as the embodiment of commerce and spirit in the Miami area. “Wynwood is a huge driver when it comes to anything artisanal and craft in Miami,” said Paguaga. “People that are attracted to that area definitely facilitate really cool stuff.”
The Wynwood Walls in particular are a treat for all the senses, combining incredible art with cafés and other small businesses. The ability for this area to offer up a consumer experience that isn’t contingent on one particular space shows the pride of an innovative community that wants to break down barriers.
“One thing I’ve learned from working in Wynwood is that it’s okay to challenge tradition.”
The 10,000-square-foot, open-air Allapatah Market was created out of the nontraditional sentiment that growth doesn’t always equal a massive brick-and-mortar space. The market will allow numerous vendors, including Relentless, to set up shop.
“Something is definitely happening in the Miami area because there are enough people and entrepreneurs in Wynwood that want to keep doing what they want to do, and they can expand to other places,” he said. “It’s just hard to pinpoint on what aspect or where exactly it’s going to be.”
Finding Freedom in Living Small
Lack of space is the protagonist in this story, opening up new avenues and freedoms that may not be possible in a traditional business model. Paguaga and his team have combined their passion for coffee and life into a smaller, but no less impactful space, making it easy to market their brand in pop-ups and parking lots throughout Miami. The reward is being mobile and free.
When Paguaga isn’t serving cold brew to the thirsty masses, he takes advantage of that freedom in the massive backyard that is Miami. “My favorite thing is to get on my motorcycle and just cruise,” he said. “It’s amazing being able to travel to the Keys, a place where everyone wants to go, and it’s only an hour drive and in my backyard.”
From Nicaragua to Miami, from coffee truck to the Allapatah Market and beyond, a cup of Relentless cold brew coffee has quite the story to tell. And after trying a velvety cup, maybe it will inspire you to explore and share your own as well.