Waiting rooms, gas stations, complimentary motel breakfast buffets — these are the places where crappy coffee often is the only option.
Yet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where anglers far outnumber Gibraltar-sippers, the name of a new roasting company called Crappie Coffee is an endearing ode to the popular pan fish and the folks who spend their free time catching them, rather than a description of quality.
David Grant, who co-owns the Marquette-based Crappie with Nicole Alexander, is an angler. And though head roaster and sole employee Dylan Trost is not, he does have a hearty sense of humor and appreciates the good fun that also reels in the support of sporting locals.
“We actually care quite a bit about quality in our product. It’s just kind of a joke,” Trost assured Daily Coffee News, also noting that while the name, like the fish, is most commonly pronounced “croppy,” even that’s not a hard-fast rule. “You can call it whatever you want. I call it ‘crappy;’ that’s what I’m used to.”
Born and raised in the U.P., Trost gravitated to the dry and quiet side of coffee after years on the wet and comparatively wily barista side. “I didn’t really enjoy being a barista so much. I liked actually making the drinks, but I was just so focused on roasting coffee, that’s what I really wanted to get into,” said Trost, who now relishes working in relative seclusion, in an 800-square-foot industrial space on the outskirts of town.
“We’re a little isolated, which is nice, and I work alone most of the time, so I’m really able to focus on the coffee itself. In the past I’ve worked in really busy cafés where I wasn’t able to focus on roasting the way that I wanted to,” said Trost, who also spent a year piloting a fully manual Ambex YM5 for the longer standing Marquette company Dead River Coffee Roasters prior to Crappie. “I’m feeling really lucky to have the luxury now to just really focus and concentrate on making great coffee.”
Coffees caught in Crappie’s nets these days are carried in by Royal Coffee New York and Coffee Shrub, and then brought to no darker than a medium roast as Trost strives for both consistency and a faithful expression of a given coffee’s inherent traits and flavors.
“I really want the flavors of that coffee to be perfectly brought out, and I want that the same every time,” said Trost, recognizing that his approach yields a product that constitutes a new experience for many coffee drinkers in the region. “The UP’s not exactly a coffee mecca. Everybody wants dark-roasted coffee, so we’re hoping to change that a little bit.”
Trost reported having gotten some positive feedback on one lighter roast so far. Online sales of Crappie whole beans will begin soon, and their radar is constantly ticking for a potential commercial space in which to relocate the roastery and expand into a retail espresso and pourover bar.
“We don’t have a lot of cafes here in town,” said Trost. “There are no pourover bars here in the U.P., which is alarming.”