You know what’s super fun? Drinking some tasty coffee, then drinking some tasty beer, and maybe shopping for some good local foodstuffs. But you know what’s *really* super fun? Being able to do all three in the same space.
Thus is the conceit behind the Ithaca Coffee Company, whose locations are a fusion of cafe, tavern, and retail environments, plus a bakery and sandwich shop (and 30-foot cheese counter, natch). Their newest location has been a work in progress for several years, but is now up and running as a coffee roasting facility on top of all the other goodness. Coffees here are a blend of old and new school—you’ll find a Monsooned Malabar in their offerings, for example—but regardless of style, this place sounds like a delicious combination of some of our favorite things.
As told to Sprudge by Aaron Rovitz.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
The Ithaca Coffee Company is a coffee roaster and retailer with two stores in Ithaca, NY. Both stores are a blend of cafe, tavern, and gourmet market. Each has its own cafe space in the front, and a tavern specializing in craft beer in the back. The space between is filled with local and artisanal provisions.
Our cafes serve a full menu of traditional coffee and espresso drinks along with seasonal diversions and weekly specialty drinks. They serve our own house-baked pastries, and make a light selection of breakfast sandwiches and panini all designed to complement our coffee service.
Our taverns feature a rotating selection on draft from craft brewers regional—domestic, and abroad—along with a selection of wines available by the glass. The taverns hold free weekly tasting nights featuring a particular brewery, as well as cask nights. Connected to both taverns is an extensive retail selection of craft beer bottles and cans for off-premise consumption.
Our flagship store in The Triphammer Marketplace has a 30-foot cheese case. We feature products from local cheese makers as well as the best domestic and imported cheeses available.
Our satellite store in The Gateway Commons in downtown Ithaca features a fully stocked home-brew supply shop. We have everything a person might need or want to brew their own beer, wine, cider, or mead.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Our new space is located on the south side of downtown Ithaca, centrally located between our two stores. It had been vacant for nearly 10 years when we bought it just over 2 years ago. The building was originally divided in half. In the front, there were offices and customer areas, and in the back a large garage and storage space.
We gutted the garage space and spent the next three months modifying it into our new roastery and production facility. Once we had the back half of the building ready, we moved in with our roaster, packaging, and production equipment.
We have since continued developing the facility. Last year we expanded forward, renovating the front space into a board room and building the Ithaca Coffee Company Bake Shop. The Bake Shop is run by a small, two-person team producing a line of baked goods made from scratch to sell in our stores.
This year, we took delivery of our new Diedrich CR-50 drum roaster which marked yet another round of construction. The installation of the new roaster this year marks the final step in the original development and layout plan we made upon our initial site visit.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Our mission? To explore strange new origins and processing methods, to seek out new flavors and aromas, to boldly roast coffee that no one has seen before…
Seriously though, our approach to coffee is to embrace the diversity coffee offers us. Variety, terroir, processing style, roasting style… there is no right or wrong way with most of these things. Rather, there is an infinite number of variables coming together. The synergy of just a few of the key variables is something we are striving towards, but it is always a process, always a journey. That means remaining fluid with how we talk about our coffee.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
Obvious or not, we are extremely excited to be roasting on our Diedrich CR-50. It was worth the wait. The roaster has such a broad range in terms of capacity we are able to roast consistently and completely to order. The Diedrich profiling system gives us access to hither-to unknown flavors, aromas, and textures.
We moved all of our training equipment from our old store. The fully equipped barista training area of the roastery floor features a La Marzocco Linea Classic, and Mazzer grinder.
We have a full array of manual coffee devices on hand to taste, train, and develop coffee brewing skills. All of our sample brewing and brew training coffees are ground by hand on our HG one, classic Zassenhaus, or Hario Skerton. The layout has proven very functional for training new baristas, ongoing barista development trainings, as well as account and public outreach.
Having our staff trainings in the same space the coffee they serve is being roasted and packaged emphasizes the gravity their new position as a barista carries. It serves to highlight the fact that they are the very last step in a long chain, from coffee grower, to roaster, to barista. It increases the respect with which our coffee is handled in their interactions with our customers.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We are presently up and running. We didn’t skip a beat when we moved from our store in Triphammer Mall to our roastery, a task we accomplished over one single weekend with a crew of four. Our old coffee roaster was running all along the installation, ducting, seasoning, and calibration of our CR-50. Basically our mantra was: The coffee must flow…
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Almost everything so far has been handled internally by our fantastic and experienced staff with the exception of the certified contractors responsible for running our gas, electric, and duct work. It is a real pleasure to see such a large project come to reality and know it is all our own doing.