This post is another in our Cafe Case Study series. We interview cafe owners to learn about the vision behind their space and then ask them a bit about the equipment they chose and why they made that decision.
Use these case studies as inspiration for your own cafe dreams or simply to get a behind-the-scenes look at some beautiful coffee spaces around the world.
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Tinker Coffee Co. Indianapolis, IN, USA. Founded by Steve Hall and Jeff Johnson in 2014.
As told by Steve Hall.
All photos courtesy of Tinker Coffee Co.
What made you want to open a cafe?
While we started Tinker Coffee as a wholesale roasting operation, we always knew we wanted to run cafes as well. Frankly the biggest thing that held us back from opening cafes sooner was expertise. Through many years of roasting and supporting our wholesale customers we picked up tricks, good habits, and a much stronger understanding of the things you need to do well to run a café effectively. When we felt like we had learned enough to be successful and were able to hire people to help bring the café vision to life, we went for it! It was also a huge benefit that the location of our first café was extremely close to the roastery, it makes deliveries and tech support a breeze.
How would you describe the brand of your cafe?
Our first café is located in a contemporary food hall /artisan marketplace concept called The AMP. The building was an old factory that has been completely rehabbed into an industrial-chic food hall with most tenants operating out of shipping containers that they’ve built out to suit their needs. It’s a very modular set-up that allows you to walk around the space freely and visit lots of different vendors at once… it’s really a fun experience.
Since our space was limited to a shipping container size, we need we needed to be deliberate with our choices of equipment. We wanted to be able to rock out drinks and breakfast sandwiches quickly and have our workflow maximize efficiency so that one or two people could handle any rush. It’s a fun challenge when there are limits or restrictions in a café that you have to work around, it forces you to be creative.
What equipment are you using to make coffee? Why did you choose this equipment?
Since we’re so limited with space in our shipping container café we’ve taken a few other creative approaches to serving coffee at The AMP and beyond.
We recently took our single group Modbar EP cart to a custom leather goods store in town called Howl + Hide and did a seated espresso tasting of three of our current favorite coffees. That was super fun and the coffee was tasting delicious. We use our Modbar cart for everything. It goes with us to every coffee conference or convention we attend, and we also use it as a backup coffee station whenever there’s a big event at The AMP with lots of people. We love to experiment with pressure profiles on that machine and have gotten really good at making our coffees sing on the Modbar. We generally use a Mahlkonig E65S with the espresso cart.
Describe the location/demographics of the area where you opened. Why did you choose this area?
Our roastery and café at The AMP are in the Riverside neighborhood on the near west side of Indianapolis. We moved our roasting operation here in 2018, we had previously been a few miles east of this location in a much smaller building.
As our roasting volumes increased we knew we needed to find a bigger space to expand, and when we toured this building we knew almost instantly that it would be our new home. There was plenty of space for roasting and production and areas that could be used for a training lab, basically everything we wanted. We also knew that there was a lot of investment coming into this area of town through projects like The AMP (and the broader development called 16Tech) and felt like that would draw a lot of attention from folks all over Indiana. It felt like a great place to be and we couldn’t be happier to be here.
We’ve very close to a few big employers in this neighborhood as well, including a university (IUPUI) and several large hospitals and manufacturing facilities. That keeps a lot of people around the area that love drinking coffee. The sense of community is strong in the neighborhood as well, and I think everyone really does a great job supporting all the local businesses around the roastery and café.
What’s one thing that makes your cafe special?
Honestly, I think that due to our space constraints we do a really exceptional job putting out super high quality drinks and food in a small space. It’s also really cool to share a space with so many different restaurants as well… you can grab whatever you’re feeling that day for lunch and your favorite coffee on the way out. Everybody wins!