Local grounds

New downtown coffee shop looks to be unofficial ambassador for Muncie

The Caffeinery

Tea and coffee shop
401 S. Walnut St.
7 a.m.–7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
10 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturdays

The three most commonly ordered drinks:

The Fluffer Nutter:
A latte with peanut butter extract and marshmallow.
Taste: It is sweet, like s’mores.

Thin Mint Mocha:
A drink made with chocolate sauce and mint.
Taste: The mint is strong, but not overwhelming.

The Albini:
This is made with 100 percent Michigan maple syrup and cinnamon. It gets its name from the music producer Steve Albini, who recorded bands like Nirvana. Frank Reber interned with him and said the first thing you do is learn how to make his coffee.
Taste: It is very sweet with little to no bitterness.

For Muncie, the new coffee shop downtown is a place to buy homemade coffee and tea. But for owners Frank and Lauren Reber, it is the start of the next chapter of their lives.

Frank, a Ball State alumnus, opened The Caffeinery last week with his wife, who co-owns it.

He said they decided to put down their freelance work as a photographer and a sound engineer for the stability of owning a business.

“We both grew around small businesses, and I couldn’t imagine myself working a 9-to-5 job,” Frank said.

Lauren’s parents owned The Music Room and Frank’s family owns Reber Machine and Tool Company in Muncie.

The Caffeinery, which gets its name from being both a coffee and tea shop, is not the first in Muncie. But Frank hopes it can become an unofficial tourism beacon for Muncie. He said he would like it to be the first place new visitors to the city come to learn about all the small downtown area has to offer.

“The first thing I do when I go to a new city is find a coffee shop,” he said. “If it’s a good shop, the people in there will know the area.”

It took the couple six months to build their dream business.

They chose the building at 401 S. Walnut St. for its Victorian-style ceiling.

The inside of the shop has a 100-year-old ceiling and floor, which the two designed the store around. The front of the store has windows about 12 feet tall that allow people on the street to see the orange walls and dark hardwood finishes inside.

During construction, Frank said they built around the original structure to preserve the building’s history.

“We feel Muncie has a lot of history and so does this store,” Lauren said. “We tried to preserve it, but at the same time provide a modern and comfortable look and feel.”

The store was targeted to open in October but was delayed until March 17.

Frank said their store differs from Starbucks or other chain businesses because they manually brew their coffee as opposed to automatic brewing methods.

“There is nothing wrong with that,” he said. “But Starbucks is kind of like McDonald’s where you run in and get your coffee and get out, and you know it’ll always be the same. It’s consistent and fast.“

He said coffee loses a lot of the nuance and subtlety through this method.

The shop’s espresso machine was handmade in Florence, Italy, and painted the same bright red as Ferrari’s automobiles.

The hissing sound of a pressurized machine often goes off and the liquid pours. A mild and calm smell of coffee permeates the air, filling the old building.

“Our way of making coffee is just so technical because of how hands-on it is; it’s all human,” he said. “… If we make a cup that we don’t like, we throw it out and start over.“

When the doors first opened, Frank and Lauren began working 16-hour days.

“At times, we forgot to eat or drink something,” Frank said. “But, after two and half days, your body starts to remind you.”

He said the hard work and intense training has paid off.

“[We had a] lot of people lining up to check it out and people have been really supportive and happy,” he said.

Since then, they have hired two employees who will begin working after their week of training, he said.

One of The Caffeinery’s most popular drinks is the Albini, which is made with maple syrup and cinnamon. Frank said it is named for music producer Steve Albini, who recorded bands like Nirvana. Frank said he interned with him, and the first thing you do is learn how to make his coffee.

Morgan Sparks said she prefers to go to The Caffeinery because it is a bright and friendly environment.

“I absolutely love it here,” the junior nursing major said. “I’ve been going to The Cup, and it’s just so dark in there. … I’ve been here at least a dozen times since they opened.”

Josh Holowell, a downtown resident, said the shop stands out in Muncie.

“The ceiling, the floors, their logo,” he said. “The detail is amazing because when you walk in, you can tell what they’re doing. I hope it’s going to be around for a while.”