Exploring Tres Picachos

The tasting room at Cafe Tres Picachos.

Over the holidays I had the chance to visit Cafe Tres Picachos in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. While I've been fully immersed in the coffee industry for nearly the past two years, this was the first chance I've had to actually travel to origin and experience coffee production up close and personal.

An overlook on the road to Jayuya.

The journey to Jayuya from San Juan was challenging and exciting, with most of the traveling done on narrow roads climbing up and down mountains into the middle of the island. 

When we arrived at the farm we were greeted by some of the family members and taken in a 4x4 up the mountain to check out some of the growing areas. The scenery was pretty incredible and gives you a real appreciation for how hard it can be to harvest coffee; very often the coffee shrubs are planted on steep inclines that can erode during rainstorms.

Rain rolling in at Tres Picachos.

Varying degrees of ripeness on the coffee shrub.

After checking out some of the shrubs, we were taken to the processing & washing station on the farm. Tres Picachos produces two grades of coffee: Regular & Gourmet. While both coffees are fully washed, Regular coffees could be harvested before they are completely ripe and mechanically dried. Gourmet coffees are harvested only at the peak of the ripeness, and dried on raised beds in a ventilated greenhouse. Almost all of the coffee is roasted on-site, but we brought home some unroasted Gourmet coffee :)

Washing station at Tres Picachos.

Raised drying beds for the Gourmet coffee.

While coffee production has been on the decline since the 1960s in Puerto Rico, the rise of specialty coffee in the United States and abroad has sparked a new interest in specialty-grade coffee for many producers. Tres Picachos still has a long way to go before specialty coffee production makes up a meaningful portion of their business, but they're making great strides and dedicating an increasing amount of resources to the cultivation of high quality coffee. 

Storing coffee in the warehouse.

Somebody forgot their Jeep back there.

If you're curious to try what high quality coffee from Puerto Rico tastes like, ask us about it the next time you're at the roaster. We will be sample roasting the pound of green Gourmet coffee we brought back with us over the course of the next few weeks and would be happy to share some with you. 

Peacock (and chicken) Party!

Posted on January 26, 2016 .

Just Checking In On Ya

steve roaster

Do you listen to Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast? If you're a fan of jokes, vulgarity, baking tips, and commentary on the Boston Bruins, stop what you're doing and start listening to it. If you don't like it, sorry. Anywho, for those that DO listen to the podcast now, you'll know exactly how the title of this blog post is supposed to be read. That's all I'll say.

It's been one hell of a whirlwind holiday season, and I can't believe it's taken so long for us to send out an update. Things are going REALLY WELL here at Tinker: our growth is strong, we're buying some of the best coffees we've ever tasted, and we're making fans all over the country. It's been awesome sharing our coffee with you guys, and we know 2016 is going to be even better. Seriously, stay tuned for some major announcements :)

Over the next few weeks we're going to take some time to spend with our families, so please check out our social media channels [Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram] for updates on our availability. The weeks leading up to the holidays can be stressful for a lot of people, so hopefully you'll be able to spend some time surrounded by those you care about these next few days as well.

While we're on the subject of podcasts, please do me a favor and check out an incredible podcast hosted by two coffee superstars: Brian Beyke and Bryan Schiele: I Brew My Own Coffee. The podcasts give the listener an insider's view to the world of specialty coffee, and I think you're really going to enjoy the conversation and depth of understanding. 

Happy Holidays Everybody

 

Posted on December 22, 2015 .

Our Amazing Partners

Small businesses stick together. I'm sure this statement is true all over the country, but it feels especially true here in Indy. Since we launched Tinker Coffee a little over a year ago we've had the benefit of making some great friends that are doing some great things around town, and we're truly honored by their support.

Please do us a favor and check out our brand new Partners page and help support these great local businesses. They've obviously got great taste :)

On the bottom of the Partners page you'll find a gallery of our corporate partners. These companies have decided that life is too short to drink bad coffee, and we've been more than happy to step in and help out. If you or your company would like to learn more about how we can help bring specialty coffee to your office, please CONTACT US today.

#nomorebadcoffee

Posted on October 28, 2015 .

Sometimes Ya Gotta Sit and Think

Howdy Yall! We hope you had an incredible summer and that your favorite football team(s) win the championship(s) as we dive headfirst in to Fall.

We've been thinking a lot about priorities lately, and have a bit of a change to announce. Not a big huge change, but a little one that should help Tinker Coffee Co. "Be All That It Can Be™". 

Starting tomorrow, we will close the roaster on WEDNESDAYS. While we hate to disrupt anyone's coffee buying schedule, this change will pay huge dividends for everyone in the future by giving us the mental capacity to crush it six days a week, and figure out how to crush it even more on the seventh.

I've been reading an awesome book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and it got me thinking about the best way to grow our humble little coffee roasting operation. Over a few beers one night, Jeff and I decided that it made a lot of sense to close the roaster one day a week to give ourselves a bit more time to think strategically about the projects we were tackling and the operations of our business, and we're ready to put those conversations into practice. I think Courtney Barnett pretty much summed up this idea perfectly with the title of her latest album.

Thanks a million for all your support to this point, and we look forward to seeing you at the roaster very soon!

-Steve & Jeff

Posted on September 15, 2015 .

Indy's Craft Food Scene

We had the distinct pleasure last week of talking with some of Indy's most dedicated craft & local food enthusiasts at Yelp Indy's Ten Minute Talks event at Wildwood Market in Fountain Square. Aside from being a ton of fun, we finally got to meet so many people we've heard so many great things about here in the Indy food scene. From small startups like Pure & Good Foods & Batch No. 2 to Indy favorites King David Dogs and Traders Point Creamery, everyone shared the same enthusiasm for our city and the local food movement we've all embraced here in town. 

It's so important to remember how much hard work and care goes into craft & local goods like these, and we should all do our part to support food makers in our local economies. Sure, you might pay a few bucks more for some of these goods, but the quality and care that goes into their production is well worth the price. Shop local, shop healthy, and help your community grow!

When in Fountain Square, please visit our friends at Wildwood Market.

If you live north of downtown, Goose the Market is a great place for local goods and produce.

tinkering outside
Posted on June 30, 2015 .

Give Old Coffee A New Life

Freshly roasted coffee is the best right? I think we can all agree on that one. While we should all strive to brew our coffee within two to three weeks of roast date, things happen. Coffee certainly doesn't go bad after three weeks, but the vitality of the roast fades dramatically as the coffee ages past the three week target.

So the big question is, what should you do with your old coffee? You can brew it regularly, but the coffee just won't have that same punch that it had before. Drinkable, yes....beautiful, maybe not. 

cold brew pour

One easy thing to do with your older coffee is to make a cold brew. To make a solid cold brew, start by grinding the coffee to a medium-fine grind. This will ensure you get a solid extraction during the full-immersion brewing process. Next, pour the grinds into whatever vessel you like (a mason jar, pitcher, whatever you like) and add water to a 1:4 ratio for concentrated cold brew, or 1:8 for a brew that won't require adding water or milk. Regarding ratios, 8oz of ground coffee to 36oz of water is a great starting point.

When the coffee has been ground, add the water and stir until the grounds are completely saturated. Cover the jar or pitcher and either leave it on your countertop or place the vessel in your refrigerator. We prefer the fridge. Let the coffee brew for 12 hours, then stir the grounds again and brew for another 12 hours. At the end of the full 24 hours, filter the grounds through a fine sieve. You can also use a Chemex filter or regular coffee filter, depending on your current setup. When the grounds have been removed, your coffee is ready to drink! A little sweetener goes a long way with cold brew, and milk or simple syrup can make a delicious cup perfect on a warm day.

Another way to get some extra life out of your older coffee is use it for cooking. There are countless recipes on the web that provide lots of ideas for how to use your older coffee in cakes, dry rubs, and our personal favorite: beef jerky!

To learn more about cooking with coffee, check out this great article from Food & Wine. Every great coffee deserves a second life, so get out there and start exploring!

Posted on April 25, 2015 .

An Interview with Brian Beyke

brian_beyke

During the Eastern Regional Aeropress Championships in Louisville I had the chance to talk to quite a few of the competitors about their approach and background in coffee. These conversations were incredibly interesting and gave me a ton of insight into some of the different coffee scenes around the Midwest. 

One person that I didn't get the chance to speak with directly was Brian Beyke, founder of Abandon Coffee and 3rd place winner in the competition. I got in touch with Brian after the competition to ask some of the questions I spoke with other folks about and think you'll really enjoy his perspective. If you're a coffee fan, be sure to check out Brian's blog as well for awesome coffee reviews and more.

Go grab your aeropress, make a cup, and enjoy the interview!


Tell me a little bit about your background in coffee: where you work/have worked, what got you into coffee, etc.

 I've never worked in coffee, just started to explore specialty coffee a few years ago through several local shops where I lived in Cincinnati, OH.  I worked in a lab at an engineering company at that time, so it allowed me to tinker [Ed.note: Love a good natural Tinker reference] with brewing coffee. Over time, I became a bit more involved with it at home as well. Before that, I wasn't really into coffee. I traveled to Brazil even more years ago than that, 2008 I believe, and it was there I realized coffee had potential to be something good, not just burnt and watery and gross like I found coffee to be in US. Sadly when I returned, it was hard for me to find a cup that had that same experience, until I realized shops and this whole "specialty coffee" thing.

How long have you been entering events like this? Do you compete in other barista competitions?

This is my first event.  I was going to do Brewer's Cup last year, but had a convention for work during the regionals and wasn't able to attend.  I plan to do Brewer's Cup this year.

[Ed.note: This was Brian's first event and he came in 3rd! Respect.]

This was my first coffee competition, and I was a little surprised to learn that each competitor could supply their own coffee. How much do you think the choice of coffee has to do with who advances versus the technique/recipe a person chooses?

I think it made a big difference.  Talking to a lot of others as well, it seems in this format the most tasty coffee will win, as opposed to the most interesting brew of that. However, day of competition there was a lot of talk about "perceived cup extraction" that was part of the judging, which I felt a bit better about, especially since extraction result is one thing I pay very close attention to.  For as much as this format could be "which cup tastes better," it also is easy to under or over do that from brew to brew depending on its tendency to swing in extraction depending on variables such as agitation.  

Talk a little bit about the coffee you selected and why you liked it for the event.

I used Ruby Coffee's Kenya Gachatha.  As soon as I tried that coffee, I knew I wanted to use it.  I did debate 3 other coffees that were all very close, one of which one of the other competitors used and I went up against in the second round. It was a very interesting coffee, one that I really enjoyed brewed other ways, but make after make gave some varied results until I found my final recipe for the aeropress. There were times it tasted very lifeless and dull, but when right it was magical to me.  What I think I loved so much about it was its inability to pinpoint the region.  The coffee has so much going on, I thought the complexity would be something that was intriguing and challenging for the judges, and (hopefully) have that something that stood out. The recipe I had was pretty daring, not necessarily just because, but daring because of its potentially disappointing outcome. However, I knew it would never taste as good as it could (to me) if I didn't do things a particular way, and I was pleased with how it turned out in my practice runs the day of, night before, and cups during competition. 

Who inspires you in the coffee world?

I am inspired by a lot of people, it is hard to narrow it down.  Maxwell Mooney from Spotted Cow, Kian Abedini from Compelling & Rich, Jared Linzmeier of Ruby Coffee all are pretty special people to me.  I am particularly intrigued by several names in the coffee realm outside of the US, Tim Varney, Ingrim Johnsen, Matt Perger.  Also Jonathan Bonchak from Counter Culture, Todd Goldsworthy from Klatch.  There are a lot of people I follow who are just worth looking up to for me, to strive to understand and present coffee like them in their various connections to coffee be it roasting, brewing, latte art, whatever.

What's your favorite coffee? [Ed.Note: this is a terribly unfair question]

Another hard one.  I try so many coffees throughout a given year, that I generally have a list of favorites.  Last year it was Verve's Green Tip Gesha, this year so far it would be one of the very great Kenyans I've had, not excluding the Gachatha I brewed with, Heart's Chorongi.  Overall I'd say I typically side with Nordic style roasts, but not ones blasting with acidity. I'm a fan of complexity, delicacy, herbals and floral, and sweetness. It is hard, though, because I find myself surprised all the time with a profile that is different than I expected, but resulting in an incredible cup of coffee. I try to have no expectations and take a coffee for what it is.


We really appreciate Brian taking the time to chat with us, and hope you enjoyed it as well. Be sure to check out his blog and follow along with his coffee reviews!



Posted on March 15, 2015 .

Aeropress Eastern Regional Championships

At the end of January, I had the chance to attend the Eastern Regional Aeropress Championship at Quills Coffee in Louisville, KY. If you're a coffee fan and have never attended an event like this, I highly recommend you check one out. The competition had an awesome turnout, with competitors traveling to Louisville from Washington DC to Nashville and nearly every state in between.

Eighteen baristas and independent coffee fans competed for the chance to represent the region at the US Aeropress Championship in NYC. After three intense rounds of competition, Chris Heiniger was crowned champion, with Dmitriy Zhigunov and Brian Beyke rounding out the top three. Check out some photos from the event below:

Posted on March 15, 2015 .

Baseball & Baristas

Finding inspiration can be a funny thing. Looking back on the things that have inspired me both personally and professionally has been on my mind a lot lately....it must have something to do with the end of one year and the beginning of a new one that causes all this reflection.

Looking back on my days as a college baseball player, I can't help but think about all the times I stayed in the night before a big game and watched the Boston Red Sox 2004 World Series DVD. Aside from being an unabashed Red Sox fan, the story of a team overcoming adversity against all odds and winning a 7-game series after being down 3-0 is just awesome. With their backs against the wall, the team fought back, Dave Roberts stole the most important base in Red Sox history, and the team found a way to win. 

What's not to love about this story? I mean I get it if you're a Yankee fan, but come on. When a team comes together perfectly at the perfect moment, no obstacle or challenge seems too big to overcome. Watching that DVD night after night inspired me to be a better leader and a better teammate, and I carry those lessons with me to this day.

So how the hell does this relate to coffee? When Jeff and I first hatched the idea to start Tinker Coffee Co. in early 2014, I found similar inspiration in a beautiful video produced by my personal favorite coffee company: Stumptown. Just like I did with the Red Sox DVD, I would watch this video late at night and get totally fired up about starting our business. The hairs on the back of my neck still stand up every time I watch it. 

My personal coffee hero, Duane Sorenson, captures everything I want Tinker to be at about the 7:00 minute mark in the video:

[...] if something is going to be special, you gotta go outside the lines and outside the box.
— Duane Sorenson

Great coffee does not come as a result of a homogenized or automated set of steps that produces the same thing over and over again. Great coffee is produced by stepping outside the box and introducing craft into each and every step of a coffee's life cycle. Be it harvesting, processing, shipping, roasting, or brewing coffee, taking the time and energy to do things the right way produces something special, something memorable. Stumptown understands this concept completely, and inspires us to follow the same commitment to quality and craft.

What inspires you to be special?

 

 

Posted on January 10, 2015 .

5 Of Our Favorite Coffee Bag Designs

When it comes to specialty coffees, image really isn't everything....but it still counts for a lot. Most of us appreciate well designed and creative packaging when it comes to things like electronics and music, so why should coffee bags be any different?

We've rounded up five of our favorite coffee packages from around this great country of ours to highlight coffee producers that are not only roasting incredible beans, but also keeping a watchful eye on the design of their brand.  

Dark Matter Coffee - Black Blood

This bag rules for a ton of reasons. First things first, it's Dark Matter's collaboration with Mastodon, which was hopefully pretty obvious. The release of this coffee coincided with the release of the band's latest album, and the artwork on the bag reflects the album art. It's colorful, it's tough, it's weird....what else do you need? The coffee is also aged in bourbon barrels, so I guess that's what else you need.

Madcap Coffee Co. - Kirura

Madcap's bag for this incredible Kenyan coffee features the classic Madcap company patch at the top of the bag (you have to actually feel it to understand what a nice touch it is), complimented with an almost shimmery purple belt that wraps around the entire bag and describes the nuances of the coffee. The purple accent really works well with the classic matte black bag to keep things simple and balanced.

Tandem Coffee Roasters - Konga

Sometimes keeping things super simple is really the best way to go. Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine have this down to a science. Not only is their kraft paper bag flawless, but the engraved company logo is memorable and simple....two great characteristics of any strong brand. The company uses color effectively to differentiate their roasts, and the use of the wrap-around sticker allows for unlimited color combinations to complement the kraft bag. Well done, gang. 

Colectivo Coffee - the whole line

Maybe I'm just a sucker for black bags, but Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee has found a way to strike the perfect balance between deep matte black and color in their packaging. On top of the great design, the bags also showcase a unique square, stand-up pouch that looks really nice out on display in your kitchen. 

Gimme! Coffee - the whole line

The choice of Gimme! to round out our top five might come as a bit of surprise given the simplistic nature of their bags, but the reason they made the list is more about what you do with the bag once you're done enjoying the coffee. These bags are unique in that you can compost the packaging once you're finished with the coffee, something we haven't seen in many other coffee roasters. In addition to their environmentally conscious bag material, the design of the bag prominently features the Gimme! exclamation point logo, which is such a strong brand mark they don't even need to print their name on the front (excluding the website). 

Posted on November 11, 2014 .