Tinker Coffee Co.

When you’re in college, coffee is more than just a godsend—it’s a way of life. On those nights that happen all too often in school, when the clock is counting down your doom on that final research paper due date, it’s a saving grace. The student’s final hope and caffeinated ace-in-the-hole. We’re not proud of our procrastination, and we always vow to do better next semester, but it’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes, you just need a lot of coffee to finish cramming.

I have a friend who was so desperate to avoid sleep on one such night that he brewed coffee so strong that it looked more like sludge than something edible. The mixture was about 40% grounds and 60% hot water—a concoction caffeinated enough to keep you moving for days at a time, assuming it doesn’t stop your heart. It tasted terrible and you ended up chewing more grounds than I think the average person would like, but I will say this: that man finished his paper.

But coffee doesn’t always have to be such a traumatic experience. When there aren’t papers to write and tests to take, you can actually take your time to enjoy it like a fine wine. To Steve Hall, it’s a specialty drink, and he appreciates it so much that he’s helping to open a new shop on 16th Street this fall.

Tinker Coffee Co. is the brainchild of Steve Hall and his brother-in-law Jeff Johnson and they’ll be opening their doors at 212 E. 16th Street in just a few short months.

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But instead of opening another retail coffee location in between the Thirsty Scholar and the Foundry, Tinker Coffee Co. will primarily be a roaster providing single origin beans to the community. They hope to bring a more refined brand of coffee to the Indianapolis area, and educate consumers in the process.

As Steve explained, and as the website says, they’re focused on roasting only the “finest specialty coffees from around the world,” and it’s all done on-site. It’s an Indy product that’s roast to order on an intimate scale. As of right now, Tinker Coffee Co. is handling most of its product in five pound roasts and will be selling primarily twelve ounce bags when it comes time to release their favorite flavors.

But for right now, they’re fiddling with the process to make sure they have a product they’re proud of.

Roasting really is a science, and this is one roaster who wants to make an impact with its flavor and quality. To that end, they’re plugging every connection they have available through suppliers in Chicago and elsewhere that have ties to fair-trade growers and smaller countries or individual farms consistently growing a bean that’s top of the line.

They will be offering a small selection of coffees that I had the privilege of sampling last week, and it seems like their diligence and attention to detail is paying off.

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Both test samples of the Java blend and the Costa Rican roast that I tried were delicious. As Steve explained, the first is a more traditional roast with chocolaty notes and nutty aromas, while the Costa Rican was more citric and sweet with a nice cereal and grain aroma. A few others are still in beta production, but they’re determined to meet and maybe even improve on the flavor quality of the first two.

“You’ve only got one shot to make a first impression,” Steve said, and he wants to guarantee that first impression is a good one when it comes time to meet with retailers in Indianapolis who could sell their roasts.

In addition to producing and marketing a unique and first-class Indy product, TInker Coffee Co. will be offering a service most roasters and coffee shops don’t—education.

The store’s location provides a perfect site for community cuppings, which are essentially coffee’s equivalent to a wine-tasting. Those who are interested can come, sample a score of different roasts, and learn about the whole process of getting the perfect cup of joe.

As Steve said, coffee is really pretty amazing due to the journey that each bean takes as it moves from farm to processing to a shipping container sailing across the ocean before finally arriving at a roaster. Once the beans arrive at the roaster, the focus then moves to "unlocking" the unique flavor profile inherent in each bean… I think that's what makes it so special.

“We want people to be able to tell what they’re tasting,” Steve said, “like the difference between an Ethiopian roast and a Panamanian one.”

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The coffee isn’t for sale yet, but if you want to taste something fresh and exclusive to your home city, Tinker Coffee Co. coffee will be available for purchase soon on-site and online. In the meantime, you can follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to stay in the loop with the latest news. And you can do all that without being a sleep-deprived undergrad.