What does it take for two US Barista Championship competitors to leave coffee and open a bakery, only to find themselves back in coffee due to the pandemic? The answer, as it turns out, is the same as the result. It takes a lot of Try Hard. That's the position former USBC vets Raechel Hurd and Jon French found themselves in, who along with co-founder Gabrielle Rose, created Austin's Try Hard Coffee Roasters as a means of keeping their baking operation afloat.
After operating out of a temporary space—and a few COVID-related false starts—Try Hard has put the finishing touches on their permanent home on Austin's East Side, just a stone's throw away from the renowned barbecue spot Franklin's, where, as expected, they've already become a big part of the city's flourishing coffee scene.
As told to Sprudge by Raechel Hurd.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Try Hard Coffee Roasters was started in March 2020 by three folks: Raechel Hurd, Gabrielle Rose, and Jon French. We were career baristas who made a transition to a wholesale bakery that supports local cafes… and then we also decided to open a cafe together. The shop was birthed out of a COVID-necessity to continue our bakery operation, but, what barista doesn't want to open their own shop one day? We roast our coffee, make everything from scratch, and enjoy what we do. We care a LOT about delicious food, good music, and over-the-top hospitality.
Our team is much larger than meets the eye. We have a team of amazing, warm, welcoming baristas who genuinely care that your day gets better because you came into our shop. Our service model is a combo of counter and table service, so you can relax and soak up our daytime disco atmosphere while we prepare your food. There are more than seasoned baristas behind the counter. You'll hear a lot of laughter from behind the cafe wall because our bakers and kitchen staff know how to have a good time while working out of our teeny kitchen. They must be magicians, because they somehow manage to roll tortillas from scratch and sling tons of tacos and beautifully plated dishes out of a 100-square-foot kitchen. They work shoulder-to-shoulder to make koji-innocculated sourdough bread, fresh tortillas, and fermentation experiments.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
We'll have the music blasting on our front patio as you walk up, and you'll be greeted by one of our rad baristas at the register. Our indoor space is quite small, so you can expect a short wait outside if there is a line—don't worry, the line moves quickly and we'll have you eating and drinking in no time. Trust us, you'll want to stand in line because that's where you get the best quality stereo sound from our speakers. We'll have DJs spinning vinyl almost every morning and they've got pretty sweet record collections… so listen up and soak it in! After you place your order, go ahead and have a seat (yes, even if you ordered everything to-go). We'll bring everything to you. You've just done all the work you need to do, so kick back and relax. If you need anything else, we have a designated floor member who will make the rounds and get you whatever you need. Our front patio is non-smoking and pet-friendly, but you will smell something a little funny out on our back patio… this is because it is smoking-friendly. We also sell CBD rollies from Redeemer CBD for you to enjoy with your drink… so it might smell a bit like hemp out back. Not your thing? No worries, our front patio will always remain smoke-free.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Coffee is fun! We didn't get into coffee to make a bunch of money, we got into coffee because we loved the community and culture that is inherent in the environment it's consumed in. In other words… the people are RAD! Our cafe and coffee line-up has a little bit of something for everyone. We've got a seasonal drink menu with playful ingredients like oleo saccharum, coffee shrubs, and coconut foam. You can “kickflip” those drinks and add vegan ice cream or a popsicle (because why not?). You can try any of our roasts as either a pour-over or espresso in your beverage. Our approach to coffee in the cafe was really just “anything goes” as long as it tastes good and is made from scratch. It's really just a barista's playground.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We've got two very different espresso machines on bar. The first is a two-group Slayer Steam that we purchased from another shop in town, and the second is a single-group Astoria Gloria lever machine. We pull decaf and single-origin shots on the lever machine because we've found that it is more consistent with the Mahlkönig EK43 grind settings. The lever machine was originally supposed to be converted to run off of propane for our coffee cart, but we ultimately decided not to go down that rabbit hole. The star of the show (in my opinion) is our Waring milkshake machine. You can get a vegan milkshake with Luv Fats avocado/coconut-based ice cream. It's the most delicious milkshake you will put in your mouth. I miss having that machine at my house for R&D…
How is your project considering sustainability?
We sourced most of our decorative items from facebook marketplace and vintage stores. All of our artwork was either sourced from local artists (shoutout Goodsnake) or given to us during our soft opening. In regards to cafe day-to-day operations, we don't up-charge for plant milk and we encourage folks to bring in their own mugs. We compost and our plants are thankful for the nutrients. The kitchen works with the bakery to re-use any scraps. They even boil our corn cobs to make a broth! We're always looking for ways to make our cafe more sustainable.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We are now open! Our target month was March 2021, but we ended up opening on June 20th 2021. Woohoo!
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Kalyn Bauer was our General Contractor for our renovation and we're pleased to say that we're still friends after. We really appreciate how dedicated he was to the timeline we set, and he handled a LOT of hurdles during the renovation. Not only did he oversee the project, he also built our bar and did all of the trim out.
Small-business and neighborhood community support is the reason we are here today, and we will always be grateful for this. We're committed to supporting our neighborhood and beyond. Right now, there are few ways we support the community. A portion of every bag of coffee purchased at Try Hard is donated to Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM). You can also support local Austin musicians directly by buying their vinyl at our shop, where 100% of album sales go to back to the artist. You can purchase a bag of Give (in store or online), which is a “pay-what-you-want” model that donates 100% of our profits to a community-focused organization. Currently, the non-profit we support is Front Steps: dedicated to supporting un-housed folks in Austin, TX.
Photos by Cameron Kisel.