Wooden Robot Coffee
photo by Wooden Robot Coffee


The similarities between specialty coffee, craft beer, and spirits are deliciously beautiful and seamlessly collide in so many wonderful ways.

I had to venture down these familiar paths. These very individual and unique craft beverages play together in a way that speaks to what Crafted is all about: creativity, collaboration, culture, and community. 

Early on in the Crafted venture, I discovered that coffee was very often used as an adjunct in craft beer: stouts, Kolsch, amber ales… there are so many types of beer where the flavor of coffee imparts perfectly. The next natural progression in my craft beverage journey was to open my palette to the amazing world of stories that make up specialty coffee. One of my favorite times of day is coffee time which can be anytime. Once I learned there was coffee beyond Cafe Bustelo (love my Bustelo!), I wanted as much as I could get.

In that process, I was introduced to barrel-aged coffees where the flavors of spirits impart into the coffee inside the barrels used to age spirits. An obvious process to most, but an amazing, taste bud-blowing one to me.

These collaborations and blending of craft beverages are similar in the sense that it takes expertise and a lot of work to perfect. They also all follow similar paths to completion: humans, agriculture, fermentation, and brewing. Each also has a variety of ingredients and adjuncts, styles, and types, that can culminate to make infinite delicious beverages.

Being the storyteller of Crafted, I wanted to know more, so I decided to reach out to two players in the field. The Morning Dram out of New York City is barrel-aging coffee to give spirit lovers a coffee they can love too. Their recent collaboration with Keeper’s Heart is reinforcing their dedication to this delicious craft.

Wooden Robot Brewery out of Charlotte, NC (who was also featured in season 3 of Crafted) has started its own in-house coffee program. You can swing by the brewery in the morning for delicious coffee then return that evening to wind down with a pint or two of their delicious beers, some made with coffee.

What are some of your favorite coffees, craft beers, spirits, and combinations thereof? The more suggestions the better because I want to try as much as I can get my hands on!


interview with Founder, Tommy Tardie

CRAFTED: Tell us about the barrel aging process with your coffee and what makes it unique. Does the barrel aging process happen before or after the roasting process?    

TOMMY: We are not the first to age coffee beans in spirits barrels. I had never tried it before and had the idea to make it but when I looked into it I saw there were others in the space. I love coffee and I knew how I wanted our barrel aging to taste. When I tasted others, it wasn’t matching what I envisioned, so I experimented and got the balanced flavor I was seeking. 

Our process starts with specialty coffee beans (“specialty” is a term for the highest grade of coffee available) and freshly emptied spirits barrels [from premium distilleries]. We pour the green beans (that’s what they’re called before they’re roasted) into freshly emptied barrels. We built a system that allows us to consistently rotate the barrels so all the beans have enough interaction with the surface of the barrel. We continue to test the beans to see when they’ve taken on our desired amount of flavor (they visually plump up with enough time in the barrel). We do test roasts to double-check and make sure the time is right to empty the beans. When they’re done, we bring them to a local roaster (who has decades of experience) to seal in all the goodness. 

The quality at each touchpoint is key: Quality beans, Quality barrels, Quality roaster. Nothing added. Just beans and an empty barrel. Hard to believe, but the result is amazing.

It was important to me that the coffee has a balanced taste where you can equally taste the great coffee as well as the flavor notes from the bourbon or rye. It’s not going to knock you over with bourbon flavor. It’s more subtle than that.

What is your process for sourcing products for your coffees (not only the coffee but the barrels etc…)
The coffee roaster we work with helps us with the sourcing of the beans from a variety of countries (Ethiopia, Mexico, Guatemala, etc). We actually start by talking about the flavor notes from the barrel we’ll be using and then determine which coffee will work best to compliment the flavor. We’ve used barrels from a variety of distilleries. They’ve been delivered to us from Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas, and even as far as Australia. We’ve also worked with some New York distilleries. 

With over a decade in the whiskey world, I have a lot of friends at distilleries around the world. It’s great fun to be able to work with them and use barrels from different companies. There are so many good ones!

The crossing of appreciation between all things food and beverage and collaborations between these makers is something really special to watch. I have specifically noticed this amongst craft beer and spirits and coffee. Was this part of the reason why you started The Morning Dram and separately, why are these collaborations so ‘important’? 

I am creative by nature and love to work with my hands. Quality craftsmanship is so important to me, whether it be in a pair of boots, leather goods, or fishing gear, I really appreciate the attention to detail. When I started tinkering with barrel aging, I took to it from that well-made-things perspective. I wanted high-quality coffee that spent time in really good barrels. No cutting corners by adding flavorings or pouring liquor over the beans. And the roasting had to be done to a level that wouldn’t overpower the subtle flavor notes in the beans. The slow process, quality ingredients, and attention to detail are what make our coffee special. 

Collaborating with other makers who also value craftsmanship is a win-win. We get inspired working together and customers appreciate the introduction to another trusted brand. It’s great to be surrounded by others who value the process as we do.

What’s your favorite way to make coffee?

Over the years, I’ve had different favorite methods (French Press, espresso, drip). Currently, I’m loving our stainless steel pour-over. I’m not just saying that because we sell it. On the contrary, we sell it because I love it. You don’t use a paper filter with this stainless steel dripper, you just pour the grinds right in. I love the process of slowly pouring the hot water around and around – it’s kind of relaxing. And truth is, it makes such a flavorful cup of coffee that you just can’t beat it. Dump the grinds and rinse the dripper – it’s a quick clean up too. 

We always have a standard drip maker on our counter, too. It’s a quick, easy, and reliable way to make a whole pot of coffee. 

How did the collaboration between you and Keepers Heart come about? It seems like a perfect match.

A mutual friend introduced me to the team at Keeper’s Heart. It started with an email, then a phone call, then it was a trip out there to spend some time together in person. That really solidified it. We had a great synergy and knew we wanted to do a collaboration. They’ve done a terrific job with their distillery and the products they’ve released. 

Do you have any upcoming collabs or projects for The Morning Dram as the business continues to grow?

We are in talks with other companies about collaborations as well. When it’s a company that aligns with our appreciation of well-made things, we’re always open to talking. In fact, we love to collaborate and hope to do many more. 

Tommy Tardie is also the owner of The Flatiron Room in NYC, which Whisky Magazine awarded “Best Whisky Bar in America”. His venue has often been recognized for the selection they offer, the whiskey (scotch, bourbon, etc) classes they teach, and the knowledgeable staff. Tommy has taught hundreds of whiskey, scotch, and bourbon classes. When his restaurants were closed during the Pandemic, he had the idea to combine a few things he loves: coffee, whiskey, and starting a new business, hence The Morning Dram.


interview with co-Founder, Dan Wade

CRAFTED: Tell us about the coffee program at Wooden Robot and why you decided to start one.

DAN: We wanted to start the coffee program for the same reasons we started the brewery.  Like beer, coffee has the ability to bring people together, while also connecting us to the Earth.  Coffee is both a beautiful expression of the farmer and artisans from the roaster to the barista.

The crossing of and appreciation between all things food and beverage and collaborations between these makers is something really special to watch. I have specifically noticed this amongst craft beer and spirits and coffee. Not only using coffee as an adjunct but also as a brand extension. Are you noticing a similar crossover? Was this part of the reason why you started the coffee program at Wooden Robot? 

Yes, for so many reasons coffee and beer work well together.  We have been fortunate to see that with our flagship coffee vanilla blonde ale, Good Morning Vietnam, and many other coffee beers over the years.

What is your process for sourcing products for your coffee at Wooden Robot?

Tyler, our Head Coffee Guy, has a long-standing relationship with Black and White Roasters from Raleigh  The brewery also has a long-standing relationship with Enderly Coffee Co. here in Charlotte.  Our partners for the coffee program, just like for food and beer, embody a combination of passionate dedication to quality, thoughtful sourcing, and collaborative relationships.

Are you now or do you think in the future you will expand your coffee program? Is there a Wooden Robot coffee in the future (if not already)?

For now, we are happy to leave the roasting to the experts and focus on what we do best.  That does not mean that we would turn down an opportunity to learn and grow into something if the right opportunity presented itself.

What’s your personal favorite way to make coffee?

At home, I love making my morning pour-over.  The time and care that it takes is like a meditation or ritual that reminds me to stay present and helps me start my day with patience and peace.

Tyler – Head of Wooden Robot Coffee Program

-Thank You for reading and sharing, Craig Chapman, Crafted

#coffee #craftbeer #beer #spirits #whiskey #bourbon #specialtycoffee #community #culture #craft #craftbeverages #crafted


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