Maine coffee milk company rockets across New England

Carson Lynch and partner Bet Black make coffee milk in their new production facility.

It’s called Rocket Fuel for a reason.

A few slugs of Carson Lynch’s potion, made with dark roast coffee, caramelized sugar and Maine dairy, delivers lift off. Since hitting the market nine years ago, Rocket Fuel has steadily powered its way across New England.

“Coffee milk is a New England tradition, but it had fallen off in awareness,” said Lynch, the former owner of The Gorham Grind, where Rocket Fuel launched in 2008. “Because of our marketplace success we were ready to grow.”

Lynch pours coffee syrup in his new Biddeford facility.

Since 2011 Rocket Fuel sales has increased fivefold. Last year he sold $54,000 of the high-test tonic. With a new manufacturing facility up and running in Biddeford and accounts in Massachusetts such as Whole Foods Market and Roche Bros. lining up, he expects to double that this year.

“Out of nowhere there came a jump in awareness for the drink. Folks started traveling from Portland to Gorham for Rocket Fuel,” he said. And when he couldn’t keep up, “the light went off and I said I need to focus on this.”

Lynch found a partner, Saco native James Black, created a new company called Constellation Beverage, purchased a former deli in Biddeford in March, and closed the Gorham cafe in early May. Expanding from a 350-square-foot production space to 1,200 square feet near University of New England gives him room to grow.

“Most coffee milks taste like milk coffee,” said Lynch, “this is coffee milk, bold and sweet with staying power.” With the caffeine equivalent of up to three espresso shots, it packs a punch. “I wanted this milk to be coffee forward.”

Sold cold, frothed latte style or as a cocktail with Jameson whiskey, it’s a runaway hit on the brunch circuit.

“It is very popular.  We run out every week,” said Lloyd Yesberger, host at Bayside American Cafe in Portland. “It’s dangerous.”

But not too dangerous. Aware that some black coffee drinkers are hesitant to imbibe, his recipe is attuned (much like his business plan) to unfold slow and steady. “The lift from the drink is a long arc and not a spike and crash,” he said.

In October Lynch plans to open Grounds Control, 169 Pool St, Biddeford, as a cafe and coffee milk tasting room.

 

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.