If the Build-Outs of Coffee are any indicator, Urban Sailor Coffee is on the rise. The steady upward trajectory of the Salt Lake City coffee brand can be seen over the last three seasons of the feature series. In 2021, they started life as a pop-up shop in the passenger seat of a Ural Sidecar Motorcycle. Then in 2022, Urban Sailor opened their first brick and mortar, bringing along with it an all new roasting operation. And now here we are in 2023 and Urban Sailor is back with an all new location.
For their second cafe, the brand is taking up residence in a new downtown SLC development called the Post District. They are keeping with the dark and wood aesthetic of the first cafe, but inverting it a bit in favor of more wood and a little less dark. It’s always interesting to follow the arc of a new coffee concept from its humble beginnings, and we’re grateful to continue to be able to report on it with the Build-Outs of Coffee. So let’s check out what Urban Sailor Coffee in Salt Lake City, Utah has in store for us here in 2023.
As told to Sprudge by Tyler Anderson.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
We started Urban Sailor Coffee just two years ago in the middle of the pandemic with the idea that we would start small, building a coffee brand that we would be proud of and see where it took us. We launched Urban Sailor Coffee in the spring of 2021 with a sidecar motorcycle coffee bar that was featured in the 2021 Build-Outs. In early 2022, we opened our first brick-and-mortar cafe in the chic Sugarhouse neighborhood just southeast of downtown Salt Lake City. That first cafe was also featured in the 2022 Build-Outs, and we are proud to say that it has just gotten busier since we opened the doors a year and a half ago. Since opening our first cafe, we have also begun roasting our own coffee about a year ago and proudly serve several single origin specialty coffees and blends that we’ve come up with at our cafe and online to coffee bag subscribers. We have very recently opened the doors to our second cafe location—this one right in downtown Salt Lake City in a new development called the Post District, which is visible as you’re entering or leaving Salt Lake City from the main highway (I-15) or the highway from the SLC International Airport (I-80). We’re so proud with how both locations have turned out and we applied a few new things in this second buildout that we learned from our first cafe buildout.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
This new space is in the corner of a newly constructed building that is surrounded by more historic buildings on the block. The new building we are in is the hub of a new neighborhood of apartments and condominiums (580 apartments and condos to be exact), and houses the leasing office, the business center and co-working spaces, the gym and pool areas, as well as a club house for events. The corner we are in is the main entrance for that building and has 30-foot floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. Its’ a much more open and bright space compared to our first cafe, which is a bit more cozy and dark. We have a large geometric wall behind our bar that goes from floor to ceiling like the windows across from it, and the wall is all warm oak wood paneling. The front bar also has oak wood but wood slats in a geometric pattern against a black background. All our countertops are natural stone in black and gray. The geometric theme is carried on with the ceramic tiles on the wall above the back bar. There is bar seating along the windows on both walls and a long communal table that can seat up to 12 people. There is also available seating in the mezzanine overlooking the coffee bar, which is part of the business center and co-working space. The floating wood staircase leading up to the mezzanine is one of my favorite features of the space. We also have a large, covered patio area out front where we have additional seating. The block has several great restaurants that have either opened or are in the process of building out, so this block really will have a neighborhood feel when it’s all complete with a small grocery store, multiple places to eat, and of course a place for the residents and visitors to get specialty coffee right in the middle of the block.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Our approach to coffee remains simple in the sense that we stick to the ratios and targets that we established over a year ago with our house blends (both from a roasting and an extraction standpoint). We do constantly try new coffees from different origins and occasionally a new coffee will make its way into a new blend. We recently introduced a new blend we call Sabroso and its a really fruity mix of a few Latin American coffees lead by a high cup score Colombian that we’re really loving. We continue to sell a dark roast blend that we call Void, but we are best known for our Nordic style light-medium roasted blend we call Jordbaer. We continually dial in our roasting process and have doubled our between-batch-protocol (BBP) time based on a suggestion from Scott Rao, which has made a difference in our consistency from batch to batch and from season to season here in Utah as well. When we started this journey just two years ago, I wasn’t sure that too many people would like the kinds of roasted coffee that I love but I hoped if we made and offered what we were passionate about, others would like it too—turns out that was correct.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
It was important to us that we try to be as consistent as we could when building out our second cafe so that we could train our new baristas and backbar staff at either location and schedule them to work at either location without too many issues. The two cafes are only about 10 minutes away from each other and many of our employees live in between the two locations making it easy for them to go either way. We have loved our Mavam Mach 2 at our first location for the last year and a half and so it was an easy decision to get a second one for our new cafe. Mavam has added an automated pre-infusion feature since we bought our first Mach 2 and so we upgraded our OG Mach 2 to make them consistent at both cafes. We went with Mahlkönig E65S GBW espresso grinders for the new cafe and love them so much that we upgraded our first cafe with an E65S GBW as the primary espresso grinder. We also went with another Curtis G4 ThermoPro batch brewer, but this time upgraded to the Twin brewer with 208v power so that we can make up to 15 gal of coffee per hour rather than the 5 gal per hour our single Curtis G4 ThermoPro can do. This will help us with the events we still do with our sidecar motorcycle coffee bar. I finally got my Mahlkönig EK43 coffee grinder for this second cafe—something every cafe aspires to have on bar. We did another built-in kegerator for our cold brew and nitro cold brew customers (which are many during the hot months especially). We are still roasting all our coffees on a Diedrich IR-5 and using Cropster to manage our green inventory and store our roast profiles. We may outgrow our IR-5 in the next year or two and look to upgrade to a 15 or 25kg roaster to support our business.
How is your project considering sustainability?
We are spending more time sourcing our COGS in a way that reduces not only cost but also our carbon footprint by getting as much locally as we can. We are working with the city to install an electric charging station in the garage right behind our new cafe and have applied for grants to add an electric delivery vehicle so that we can deliver to our local coffee subscribers in a more environmentally friendly way. We continue to work with our coffee importing partners to buy green coffee from ethical sources and are always looking for opportunities to try coffees that are organically grown, shade-grown, or coffees designated as being grown by woman or indigenous communities. Our customers love hearing the back-stories of the coffees we find and serve to them. I am hoping to go on at least one origin trip this fall or winter to better educate myself and meet some of the growers we are supporting through our cafes.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We’ve already had our soft opening on June 15th, and we plan to announce a grand opening once the remainder of our furniture arrives here in mid-July. There is still a lot of construction happening on this city block, so we’ve had to give good directions to our regulars who have wanted to come checkout the new space. Soon several entrances will be open but for now there is just one way in off 500 S. and 350 W.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
This cafe is a very small part of a very large city project that is being done by the Lowe Property Group who have been great to work with. I’d like to also mention MVE Architects and Big-D Construction who have also been great and deserve most of the credit for this buildout.
Thank you so much for your support—I’m amazed at how many coffee professionals have learned about us through the Sprudge Build-Outs series.