Coffee and student are inseparable terms. Coffee is needed to start the day, to make it through the afternoon lag and to power through late night studying. As such, students, particularly those at Tech, have become connoisseurs of the finest coffee campus has to offer. TopTime Coffee Co. is new to the Tech coffee scene, but provides a flavor that is sure to impress even the greatest sticklers.
Seeking to break from the rigidity of flavor that mainstream coffee provides, Nolan Hall, a founder of TopTime Coffee Co., set out to roast his own beans and create a better brew.
While a third-year Tech student, Hall began roasting his own coffee beans in a cast iron pan on his stove. After experiencing the smoother flavor this technique could offer, he was hooked and began to find ways to improve the process and eventually applied for a startup grant through Create-X Startup Launch to make his ideas a reality.
“I started thinking about ways to build my own coffee roaster to improve the taste of my coffee,” Hall said. “I applied for Idea to Prototype and was fortunate enough to be able to build a prototype roaster to customize my roast profiles. Once I started down this path, there was no turning back.”
From there, it was just a matter of refining the process and creating a roaster capable of delivering a customizable, flavorful batch of roasted beans. In lieu of purchasing a commercial roaster which did not satisfy their needs, the team, which consists of Hall, Travis Sadler, Mika Munch and Alan Grusy, decided to build their own.
“We are the only coffee roasting company that has built their own coffee roaster, that I know of,” Hall said. “These machines are sold for $40,000 and up at the commercial level, so we decided to try our hand at building one. Today, all of our coffee is roasted on machines that we have built.”
The team has since begun producing coffee to bring to the market and has recently opened a storefront on campus in the MRDC. These efforts to push forward with TopTime Coffee Co. were made, in large part, because of the reactions of the local coffee community to the product TopTime has to offer.
“Seeing the positive response from our Startup Launch cohort, the Midtown neighborhood and the Atlanta coffee community kept us motivated to open storefronts and push our coffee into the market,” Hall said.
The road for TopTime has not always been smooth, however. As Hall shared, starting a company at such a young age presents many challenges, but none too difficult to overcome.
“Being business owners in your early twenties is a little weird — not a lot of people take you seriously at first. Luckily, the Atlanta coffee community is very welcoming and we have made friends with (almost) all of the coffee companies around town,” Hall said.
Having made it past hindrances and after successfully bringing a unique product to market, Hall can report satisfaction with a job well done.
“A lot of our customers who are used to over-roasted coffee from large franchises, not naming any specifics, are blown away by the smooth body and actual flavor of our craft coffee,” Hall shared. “This is probably the most rewarding part of working at TopTime — seeing someone’s idea of what coffee can taste like completely change.”
Now that the coffee has been nailed down, Hall and his team have their noses to the grindstone in an effort to expand and further increase the scope of the business.
“We want to open a couple more Midtown and Georgia Tech locations, move into a larger warehouse, spread our coffee to more places around the Southeast and hire more Georgia Tech students and alumni,” Hall explained.
In light of this success, Hall sees his Tech education as having a key impact on the trajectory the company has taken to get where it is.
“My education from Tech not only helped me design and build the first roaster, but allowed me to meet my cofounders and make key connections in the Atlanta retail market through the Create-X program,” Hall said.
Furthermore, he sees the support Tech has offered as an integral part of the company’s formation and future.
“Tech has been very supportive of us ever since we graduated and formed the company,” Hall said. “A month ago, we were even able to open our first coffee shop on campus in the MRDC. We are talking now about opening more retail locations across campus.”
Thus, what started as a small idea to create better tasting coffee has now flourished into a company with a unique product that aims to satisfy the coffee connoisseurs of Tech and bring a new flavor of coffee to those who wish to break from the standard.