Today’s article is about Tinker Coffee Co., a new specialty coffee roaster in Indianapolis that focuses on providing the finest specialty coffee from around the world and offering visitors an awesome educational experience. An in-the-know friend connected me to these two entrepreneurs, explaining how I just had to drop everything and schedule a coffee cupping.
So let’s back up a second. I love coffee. I prefer to drink mine as is, with no cream or sugar, and I consume copious amounts of it throughout every single day. It wasn’t until I was in college that I really started to drink coffee on a regular basis. Maybe it was those late nights followed by 8 AM classes, but somehow, I got hooked on the dark brown drink. Since then, I’ve been drinking coffee nonstop, but I recently realized how little I knew about the process. How are coffee beans grown? How do roasting times, temperatures and techniques change the flavor of the end result? What the heck is a Chemex and should I be using it?
The answers all came from a Sunday morning coffee cupping with Tinker Coffee Co.
A coffee cupping, also known as a coffee tasting, is the practice of smelling and tasting coffee in all of it’s forms, from whole bean to ground to brewed. Tinker Coffee Co offers coffee cuppings on Thursdays and Sundays to anyone who is interested in learning more about their morning cup of Joe. Rahul and I stopped by a few Sundays ago to try this experience out, and I took a few photos to share the experience with you.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of them yet, don’t fret. The idea for Tinker hatched in February 2014, and once all of the product was sourced, Tinker officially opened for business on 16th street (historically known as Tinker Street) in November 2014.
Stephen Hall and Jeff Johnson are brothers-in-law and knew each other for quite a while before starting the business together. Both held successful positions that led to the experience needed for successful entrepreneurship; Steve was leading the digital marketing realm at One Click Ventures while Jeff was consulting in finance for IBM. Their passion for coffee came about once they started brewing and drinking specialty coffees at home. You know, the ones not found in the coffee isle at Kroger. “When you get the chance to try a really awesome coffee for the first time, it’s pretty hard to go back to whatever coffee you were drinking before,” Steve says.
When asked “why start a coffee roasting company,” Stephen explains “There’s something fun and unique about being part of an industry that prides itself on quality and education. We also really appreciate the educational opportunity that specialty coffee provides; teaching people how to do a pour-over or use an aeropress is awesome, and having the chance to open someone’s eyes to a whole new coffee experience is really exciting and rewarding.”
The four pages of notes I scribbled during the coffee cupping experience tells you that yes, you’re going to walk away from their coffee cupping with a lot of information.
FAST FACTS ABOUT COFFEE
If you needed any more reason to brew a cup of coffee, it’s this: It is estimated that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee each day can lengthen our lifespans. A 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that greater coffee consumption (caffeinated and non-caffeinated) was linked with a lower risk of acquiring the disease. According to the March of Dimes, even pregnant women can safely enjoy up to 200 milligrams of caffeine, roughly one or two cups of home-brewed coffee, though less than even the smallest Starbucks option. Higher consumptions of coffee is associated with decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer.
Coffee beans are actually the seeds of a cherry-like fruit. These fruits grow on trees and are hand picked. Yes, your coffee was hand picked, fruit by fruit, as the fruits on each tree limb can ripen at various rates, so there’s no automation process. Each coffee tree produces about 1 pound of coffee beans. Talk about a labor intensive product!
The seeds inside the fruit (the coffee beans) are actually an odd color of green and only turn brown after roasting. As with many products, beans of high quality can be roasted for a shorter amount of time. “Dark roast” often relates to coffee beans that may not have been as high of quality to begin with and are roasted longer to mask any imperfections within the coffee. This changes everything for Rahul and I, because we always chose dark roasted beans thinking we were getting a heavier flavor within the coffee, but that is not the case at all.
What’s interesting to note is that all coffee trees originated from Ethiopia before they spread to other parts of the world such as Mexico, Columbia, Kenya, and Guatemala. Each of Tinker Coffee Co.’s bags explains not only where the beans were sourced, but offers tasting notes and as much information as possible that can help you determine which coffee is right for you.
A COFFEE CUPPING
There are dozens of ways to brew coffee at home (Chemex, V60, and aeropress, just to name a few), but before you learn the differences between them, you should understand where coffee beans originate, how they are harvested, and how their region affects their taste. This is where the coffee cupping at Tinker Coffee Co comes in.
A coffee cupping at Tinker Coffee Co consists of:
- Smelling whole coffee beans
- Learning about how coffee beans are sourced and how each regions are different (Kenyan, Ethiopian, ex)
- Smelling freshly ground coffee beans
- Experiencing a coffee bloom and breaking the crust
- Tasting the coffee
- Basic explanation of coffee brewing methods
This experience is something I would do over and over again. It is a similar process to learning about wine and beer, where you smell and taste the individual ingredients so you can understand why the end product is the way it is.
Rahul and I participated in Tinker’s first official coffee cupping with one other couple and it took about two hours, but that’s because we walked through the roasting process, brewing methods, and we asked a lot of questions. The process felt informative but casual, and I felt at home as I smelled and sipped my way through four different varieties.
After each of the three coffees we were smelling were ground, hot water (200 degrees) is slowly poured into each cup, allowing a crust to form on the top. It settles for five minutes before we break the crust.
What I found to be the most exciting part of the coffee cupping was breaking the crust.Using two spoons, the crust is carefully scooped up and discarded, all while holding your nose as close to the cup as possible. Then, using the spoons, you slurp the coffee, creating some air while you taste the coffee all throughout your mouth. It’s the one moment in life where it’s OK to make noises while you slurp some coffee. Here you can see Stephen demonstrating the proper method.
Tinker Coffee Co.’s beans can be purchased at their location on 16th street near Delaware or at Goose the Market on 22nd and Delaware and Wildwood Market in Fountain Square. You can also try their coffees on pour-over at Milktooth in Fletcher Place. They are currently offering five blends: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Columbia, and Guatemalan.
Of course, you could try them for yourself by entering this giveaway of a coffee cupping at Tinker Coffee Co! That’s right, I have partnered with Tinker Coffee Co to offer you the chance to schedule your own coffee cupping for two people on either a Thursday or a Sunday (at the discretion of the folks at Tinker). You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the same coffee cupping Rahul and I participated in and ask as many questions as you like. This is a $15 value per person and is open to one central Indiana resident who enters via the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway will end at noon on Friday, January 23. Good luck!