Beansmith Coffee Roasters has all the makings of the sleek, modern cafés found in major coffee cities like San Francisco and New York—it just happens to be in Omaha, Nebraska. The capacious coffee den is situated among restaurants and breweries in the Old Market, the up-and-coming historic district a few blocks from the city’s business hub.
“It’s definitely an exciting time to be here,” says Ian Wiese, director of coffee and operations. “There are two or three roasters opening up every month, and coffee shops opening all the time.”
But that hasn’t always been the case for Nebraska. Specialty coffee is only just making a splash in the Midwestern state, and much of the recent growth can be credited to Beansmith.
The roasting company first launched in 2010 as a financial endeavor by cofounders Chris Smith and Jason Burkum. Recognizing the dearth of quality roasting in the region, they recruited the help of Cafe Imports’ Joe Marrocco to help them develop a specialty coffee program in the Omaha suburb of La Vista.
A tasting room was eventually added to the roastery to provide a connection point for customers, but with the arrival of new roasters in Omaha, coffee enthusiasm dwindled in the suburbs as residents turned to the city for their specialty coffee experience. “We really needed a space to better showcase where Beansmith was going,” Wiese says.
Beansmith opened its downtown Omaha location in 2014. The design is a result of a partnership with local architecture firm Alley Poyner Macchietto. “We wanted to make sure it was a great representation of who we were, and we really wanted to show off,” Wiese says, describing how Alley Poyner expertly created a design to capture the essence of the café’s high ceilings and cast-iron structural elements, while optimizing efficiency and customer interaction with the bar layout.
A long, open bar leaves plenty of space for guests to watch their coffee being made and interact with baristas. With specialty coffee still being a new concept for the city, Wiese says they encourage curiosity and exploration—and they’re big on education. The staff hosts biweekly cuppings for the public, as well as brewing education courses, all free of charge. The coffee menu also changes frequently, encouraging guests to try new things and ask questions about the offerings.
“The market is so young,” Wiese says. “We try to educate people on why our coffee is different and what’s unique about specialty coffee.”
1) Milk & Sugar: The long bar encourages customer interaction with baristas all the way down to the condiment station—situated conveniently near the barista manning the pour-over bar.
2) Manual Labor: Five to six origins round out Beansmith’s coffee menu. The manual brew bar features three-cup Chemexes and Acaia scales. Rishi single-estate teas are also brewed at the pour-over bar. “We’re huge tea nerds,” says Ian Wiese, director of coffee and operations. “The baristas are drinking tea all day long.”
3) Slay All Day: The featured single-origin espresso is pulled on Beansmith’s two-group, gray-blue Slayer. Only one espresso selection is offered at a time, but the selection rotates as often as twice a day.
4) Systematic Storage: Beansmith uses a prioritization system to determine where items get stored. Items used once an hour get placed on shelves above the counter; items used once a day get stored below the shelf; things used once a day are placed in back stock.
5) Tower of Tunes: Beansmith didn’t skimp on audio setup. A Pro-Ject record player spins tunes from an album collection stored on hand-crafted wooden shelves. Bowers & Wilkins speakers spread sound throughout the space, and a Rotel sound system is on standby when the record player isn’t in use.
6) Clever Clover: The Clover point-of-sale system is built into the counter, complementing the shop’s minimalist aesthetic without compromising efficiency.
7) A Sweet Treat: Beansmith carries baked goods from Omaha-based Sweet Magnolias. Offerings include homemade Pop-Tarts, donuts, and scones, along with savory egg-and-meat hand pies.
8) Education Station: Brewing guides, barista books, and other coffee resources are kept on shelves above the shop’s cupping bowls. Staff cup together twice a week, and baristas regularly pull books from the shelf to share with curious guests.
9) Go for the Gold: A Curtis Gold Cup Brewer stands within reach of the register, giving baristas quick access to fill batch-brew coffee orders. Two neighboring Yama cold-brew towers handle the shop’s cold coffee needs.
—Ellie Bradley is Fresh Cup‘s editor.