You can’t talk about Indianapolis coffee without talking about Tinker Coffee Company. While Indianapolis was making great strides in distilleries and breweries, coffee wasn’t quite keeping up the pace like it was in other cities. In 2014 Steve Hall and Jeff Johnson (who just happen to be brothers-in-law) decided to fill a void they were seeing and start Tinker Coffee Company. It originally started as a wholesale coffee roaster on 16th Street, which was once called Tinker Street. It was not just a homage to their original roasting location or a little historical connection to Indy history – the idea of always tinkering also came into play.
Now they’re eight years into the business, and Hall and Johnson have grown it in every way possible – and they don’t plan on stopping. Tinker’s coffee is incredibly attainable in various forms. Their roastery, located on West 16th Street, is where you can catch the roasting action or pop in for a bag of beans. If it’s brewed coffee or lattes you want, a quick hop, skip and jump away to the AMP will find them serving coffee in an orange shipping container. If you’re traveling out of Indy, you’ll find them in the Indianapolis airport for a little slice of something local before you take off or after you’ve landed.
Tinker Gemini is their mobile coffee cart that you may find at events around the city, and they also cater private events. You can even have Tinker delivered to your door through their subscription service. Once you sign up for the subscription, just know you may be getting exclusive coffee roasts that they don’t sell to just anyone.
In their recently completed tasting room that they named The Lab, they renovated the former Psychic Derailleur bike shop that was within the same warehouse as theirs, and it allows for classes for the community, coffee cuppings, and trainings with their wholesale partners.
Many local coffee shops, offices and churches are brewing Tinker for their own customers. One of the newest ways you can find them is actually in Walmart. Not too long ago they were contacted by Coffee Collective Co., which is a business made up of former Walmart executives who want to get great coffee onto Walmart shelves.
They came back to Tinker with 36 Walmart locations, and they decided to stock them all.
Since 2014 the Indianapolis coffee scene has expanded to include many different options, whether it be roasters or coffee shops. Tinker really led the way for them all, but how does the Tinker team set itself apart to this day?
“We really pride ourselves a lot on the quality of coffee,” Hall says. “Sourcing is huge for us. Making sure we purchase exceptional, green coffee to roast is really important.” He also notes that they have one main roaster – Johnson. Having one person roast the majority of the green coffee they buy inevitably helps with the consistency of each roast’s profile.
The Tinker staff members make sure they aren’t missing the opportunity in their industry to provide notable hospitality. This comes into play with their expansion into cafes and education of the community on the coffee that lives on their shelves at home. “We’ve all had good and bad hospitality experiences, and to me it’s a missed opportunity to not take the chance to live out your brand through hospitality and meet people where they are,” Hall says.
One of Tinker’s goals moving forward is to put Indianapolis on the map for coffee. They see this as a priority, so they’ve hosted and will continue to host many coffee-focused events. People from around the entire country attend coffee events like the AeroPress Championship. “We want to bring more attention to Indy as a coffee town through these events and experience the coffee culture here,” Hall says. “These national events will build the profile of Indy in the coffee world.”
Hall mentions the expansion of more cafes, and while he isn’t at liberty to discuss this in great detail, he says there would be more space to allow for a more expansive menu. Be on the lookout, because if these past eight years of business have shown us anything, Tinker is going to continue to fill multiple cups to expand their business, please our palates, and bring attention to Indy in a new way.
For more info, call 317-438-5728 or visit tinkercoffee.com.
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