Despite its proximity to Cleveland in Northeast Ohio, Akron remains a relatively untapped territory in regard to specialty coffee. “It’s definitely growing and people like it, but it hasn’t been here for a very long time,” said Tim Bechtel, proprietor and roaster of the Artisan Coffee shop that opened on October 1.
Bechtel told Daily Coffee News that turnout in the first week of business far exceeded expectations, with almost 400 cups served on their first Saturday alone, suggesting Artisan is planted firmly in fertile coffee ground.
The Artisan Coffee shop is in the Ellet area of Akron, which Bechtel describes as more of a suburb but still technically within city limits. Bechtel grew up nearby, and now he and his wife and business partner Emily are raising three kids in a house about five miles from the shop, with plenty of family on both sides also still in the area. The home-roaster-turned-pro sites Bent Tree Coffee Roasters in nearby Kent, as well as Akron’s Angel Falls Coffee, Nervous Dog and the “up and coming” downtown Akron Coffee Roasters as specialty coffee colleagues who are all poised for success in a metropolitan area of more than 700,000 people.
Bechtel has been hand-roasting about 20 pounds every day on the Diedrich IR-2.5 that is proudly displayed in the café, and there are manual methods such as Chemex at the brew bar next to a three-group La Marzocco GB5. Yet it’s not just the coffee that makes Artisan true to its name. Bechtel poured his own concrete counter and had a hand in plenty of other buildout elements. The hanging pendant lights feature hand-blown glass, and the shop also houses a bakery in which Bechtel’s sister-in-law Julie Harlos conjures a variety of baked goods and snacks from scratch. The café’s mugs are also hand-crafted by a local potter only a couple miles away.
With greens sourced from Café Imports, Bechtel has come up with his own house espresso blend and offers a variety of single-origin coffees. The Artisan approach is to roast each coffee to whatever degree best highlights its unique, natural characteristics, while curating beans that shine at various levels so that there’s always something on offer that accommodates customers whose preferences are oriented more by roast level than by origin. “I’ve got Papua New Guinea and Guatemala that I do in a lighter roast, I’ve got an Ethiopia that I do more on a medium, and I might do Nicaragua and Sumatra on a darker roast,” Bechtel said.
Flavored syrups are another artisanal matter at Bechtel’s shop, with about a dozen behind the bar all made in-house. Crowd-pleasing standards such as hazelnut and caramel are represented, while Bechtel also likes to get a little creative with flavors such as lavender and an experimental apple pie syrup he’s tinkering with. “I like to try new things,” said Bechtel, “so I’m sure I’ll have more interesting ones to come.” All of his sugar, cocoa powder, and coffees as well are certified Fair Trade and organic.
As for what else is still to come for Artisan Coffee, Bechtel hasn’t had much time to speculate since the whirlwind grand opening. Breaking into wholesale is a consideration down the road. Prior to opening, Bechtel provided coffee catering service for a handful of graduation, weddings and other events, which is another avenue he could see resurrecting when the new shop settles into a groove.
“That would be fun to do again, but I have to invest in some more equipment, because a lot of it is here now,” said Bechtel. There’s certainly no taking stuff out of the Artisan shop at this point, as their second week has proven even stronger than the first. Said Bechtel, “We got slammed!”