Mechanic Coffee Co.: Maintaining Appalachia’s Specialty Scene

In a sleepy Pittsburgh suburb, Mechanic Coffee Co. brings a fresh perspective to speciality coffee.

BY TRAVIS WILLIAMSON
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Photos courtesy of Mechanic Coffee Co.

With the expansion of the specialty coffee market, a more diverse group of people has become intertwined with our young industry. No longer are shops filled with baristas-turned-owners. Instead, individuals from all walks of life are facilitating this immense growth. Mechanic Coffee Co., founded by Pittsburgh native and coffee technician David Sutfin, adds to this diversity.

In September 2016, David opened Mechanic Coffee Co. with the help of his brother, Benjamin. However, this shop was not their first endeavor into the specialty coffee market. In 2009, David founded the coffee technician company Espresso Analysts. After spending several years building off-the-grid housing in the Pacific Northwest, David decided to venture back home to start this company. His time on the West Coast revealed to him the sense of community forged from a robust coffee presence: “We had a lot of time then to see cafes and meet different people. Coffee during that time was a way to connect with people,” David shares. Having previously worked in espresso repair, he felt there was a lack of technical support in his hometown: “So we pulled a 32-foot trailer through the Rockies and moved to Pittsburgh in the winter of that year,” he states.

After spending several years servicing the Pittsburgh coffee scene, David decided to create his own retail space.

From the onset of Espresso Analysts, the Sutfin brothers have serviced over 1,000 locations, including restaurants, universities, and local cafes. While David finds it important to maintain the equipment of this diverse market, he feels a special connection to his local coffee community. “My heart … is really with the independent shops. We really take pride in the service we give to all customers, but I think it’s more intimate with the owner-present shops,” he says.

After growing Espresso Analysts for seven years, David felt the urge to open Mechanic Coffee Co., a retail coffee space that doubles as a hub for the service company. He sees this shop as a way to better understand coffee and how customers relate to it. “Opening Mechanic Coffee is a way for me to connect … my love of coffee and … reflect on the past processes and memories that are related to coffee and servicing equipment. When I make an espresso on our equipment, it feels completely different than when I started at my first barista job about 20 years ago,” David notes.

The Sutfin brothers took a hands-on approach in founding Mechanic Coffee Co., which extended from the equipment installation to the woodworking.

This hands-on approach to the coffee process is reflected in the cafe’s design. Benjamin, an avid woodworker, constructed the shop’s countertop from scratch with the intent of optimizing the space. “We set up our cafe so it has good work flow and so we can change equipment if we need to,” David notes.

Mechanic Coffee Co. values their ties to the local coffee community. By featuring native roasters, the cafe maintains relationships they have developed through their technical service.

The same level of intentionality is seen in the shop’s equipment choices. David finds it essential to handcraft the customer experience, and believes that technology can enhance this experience. While Mechanic Coffee Co. does not use automatic espresso machines, they do utilize other forms of automation, such as Marco SP9 brewers, the Nuova Simonelli Mythos, and the Puqpress. “I appreciate automation with equipment, and it has its place. Speed and consistency should be a result … [it should translate] to quicker transactions and better quality for the customer,” David shares.

The Sutfin brothers hope Mechanic Coffee Co. will facilitate a passion and understanding for coffee in their community.

In addition to providing customers with a meticulously crafted product, Sutfin has other plans for the business. The cafe was founded in a location that does not have a bustling coffee scene, which he wants to change with the presence of Mechanic Coffee Co. “Pittsburgh has a lot of old neighborhoods that are ripe for coffee. I am hoping that having a cafe in a neighborhood that is more tech-focused will naturally bring education to the Pittsburgh area. Customers can stop in Mechanic Coffee and easily find a tech—or barista—to talk to,” David shares.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Travis Williamson is a coffee professional from the greater Pittsburgh area. Outside of coffee, he is on a quest for the perfect donut.

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