From modest beginnings as a popup in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, Steadfast Coffee is currently making some big plays, not the least of which is the unveiling of its permanent brick-and-mortar bar and cafe in the expanded space off Taylor St. and 6th Ave N.
Founders Nathanael Mehrens, Sean Stewart and Jamie Cunningham — who have combined coffee programming and training experience at other Nashville shops and roasteries including Crema and Bongo Java — are planning a second Nashville cafe in bustling SoBro, while Cunningham tells us that the team is planning to launch its own roasting company within five to six weeks out of a space in Franklin, Tenn.
The Germantown cafe, still in a soft opening phase following a complex buildout, includes a Modbar setup for espresso with batch filter coffee brews and numerous experimental coffee drink options, including a “flash-chilled” cold brew alternative, and a Matchless coffee soda with carbonated coffee, demerara sugar and a touch of citric acid. (The Matchless drink will be available in cans later this year, the Steadfast team said.) The culinary program at Steadfast Germantown includes fresh, seasonal menu items created by Chef Julia Sullivan, formerly of Per Se and Blue Hill in New York City and Pinewood Social in Nashville.
Considering all the company’s new adventures, we followed up with Cunningham to hear more about what’s on tap, aside from the craft beers and sparkling wines at the Germantown flagship.
Let’s talk about this flash-chilling process. Are you able to divulge any details?
We brew coffee with hot water to our exact extraction and TDS specifications, then we instantly drop the temperature by running it through a custom heat exchanger. This stalls oxidation and locks in flavor. Larger versions of these systems are used in beer-making and distilling all the time.
While still not currently roasting, where is the coffee coming from?
We will be opening our own roasting company shortly, out of a space in Franklin, Tenn., under the guidance and expertise of Steadfast Co-Founder Sean Stewart. In the meantime, we are featuring Slate Coffee in Seattle and Sweet Bloom Coffee in Denver. We love their roasting philosophies and the coffees they source.
Where does the emphasis on food come from? And are you seeing similar approaches from your colleagues in coffee?
We love coffee culture and watching it progress. Answering the question, “What do we want the coffee shop of the future to look like?” often informs our decisions. In Nashville, coffee shops are quickly becoming cultural hubs. It’s where people from all over meet to work and play. We believe that coffee culture should evolve to include food, pastry, and alcohol programs that rival the quality of a shop’s coffee program. Offering more than just great coffee extends a shop’s reach, making it an important fixture in communities for all hours of the day, not just morning.
Can you give us a bit of background on the Germantown space?
From the very beginning of our journey, which started three years ago, we wanted to be in Germantown. We realized that it didn’t have a neighborhood shop of its own and we wanted to meet that need. We looked at tons of spaces but eventually fell upon this spot. Our space was once a stonemason’s warehouse and showroom. The first time we visited, that company had just moved out. The developers gutted the building and started fresh. Now we have a beautiful space with a wonderful outdoor patio area. We couldn’t be happier.
How complicated was the buildout?
The buildout felt very complicated. We had big plans and very little space. So we knew we had to carefully lay everything out. The bar area specifically was designed down to the inch in every direction. In fact, during construction, some of our plumbing was laid just a few inches in the wrong spot. Unfortunately, we had to dig up the floor to get it right. It cost us about four days.
What are some of the design touches you’re most proud of?
I feel like our general aesthetic is relatively unique in coffee right now. We wanted our space to be bright and clean and to make people happy when they walked in. We worked really hard to design space enough in the cabinets to keep almost everything off our counter tops. One highlight of our back bar is the shelving. We’ve all worked on bars that forced you to reach into cabinets and stack cups. They are inefficient and difficult to keep clean. To address the issue we built racks that hold baking sheets that function as our shelves. This way they slide out like drawers during service and can be thrown into our dishwasher for easy cleaning.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.