Ryan Dennhardt (of Kearney’s Barista’s Daily Grind) and his wife Mallory had a baby girl! In honor of the little one I will finally post this blog that I’ve had in the works for nearly a year now…
For those who don’t know, I am currently in Brooklyn, New York. (I’ve been here since August but I’ll talk about that another time) I got to go home over New Year’s and while I was in Nebraska I stopped by Barista’s Daily Grind in Kearney.
Barista’s is a shop I’d heard of and wanted to visit for a while but never had the opportunity to make the trip. If you were following barista competitions at all a few years back, you’ll know the name Ryan Dennhardt. Ryan was the Midwest Barista Champion in 2004 and also in 2006. He was a finalist at the national level in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Ryan was also involved in the Ultimate Barista Challenge from 2006-2010. I heard of him when I became involved in competitions in 2008. At that time I believe he was the only competitor from Nebraska.
At first glance, Barista’s is exactly what you’d expect from a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. And by that I mean homey, comfortable and unassuming. Look a little closer and you’ll see it’s more than that.
The place is spotless, possibly the cleanest shop I’ve ever visited. I like to take that as a sign of someone who gives a crap and isn’t just going through the motions. Because I guarantee that place gets busy in the mornings. The shop is across the street from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Ryan told me they often have a line out the door on top of a busy drive-thru window in the mornings. Walking in from the street you can tell that Ryan and his crew take great pride in what they do. Not only by the cleanliness of the shop and the friendly baristas behind the counter but oh yeah the massive display of trophies, medals and tampers arranged on the bar next to the espresso machine.
I ordered a cappuccino and was immediately put at ease by the sound of milk being steamed properly. Sigh… is there any sound more beautiful? Perfectly extracted espresso and sweet, creamy textured milk is a rarity in my favorite state. If you get a cappuccino here you won’t need to add sugar. They do it right.
Here’s what Ryan has to say about it:
Please tell us about your company, what you do there and what makes it special or unique.
I am the owner of Baristas Daily Grind, we have been doing business now for 10 years in Kearney. I would say that we set ourselves apart by our attention to detail in the preparation and our customer service. We have always been very proud of our Baristas and the training we go through to make sure that they understand and respect the craft.
How did you get your start in the coffee industry?
I started in Coffee out of necessity for a job and sort of a fresh start. My Mom was opening Baristas and I jumped on board as a Barista and just took off from there.
You are a Barista Champion! Tell us about your competition experience, why you initially got involved and how that has affected your career.
I was the 2004 and 2006 Midwest Barista Champion and 2004,2005,2006 USBC finalist, I was selected as the United States representative for the Ultimate Barista Challenge in 2006-2010.
I love competing and I feel like it really showcases your talents as a whole and not just as a barista. I like the competition and the opportunity to rise to the occasion. I love all the comradery that comes along with barista competitions. I feel that competing helps you face the pressures of day to day situations in your shop. Being a Competitive Barista allowed me to start my own consulting business and just get my name and Barista’s Daily Grind’s name out in the industry.
What are the benefits and challenges of running a coffee shop in the midwest (and Kearney specifically)?
Well the people no question are a benefit, they are great to be around and are generally up beat and polite. Being a coffee shop in the midwest you don’t always get the respect you deserve until they try your product and see that you are as good or better than other places in the bigger cities. Kearney is great because the people here have embraced us and really appreciate what they have here at home and really take pride in saying that their coffee shop is the best around in their opinion.
What do you do outside of Barista’s?
I am a very active person, I love to work out and I have been playing professional indoor football for the last three years. I am retired from football as of this season but still play flag and a lot of softball. I really enjoy camping with my wife and two dogs.
Looking ahead, where do you see Barista’s growing in the future?
I would like to see Baristas grow and expand in Kearney and possibly throughout the midwest.
What makes someone a great Barista?
I think for starters they have to appreciate the process from start to finish. They have to know and understand why the coffee performs the way it does when it does and how they got it to do what they want it to.. They have to love and respect the craft and be willing to stand by their product no matter what. Drink and Love coffee of course 🙂
How do you like your coffee?
I drink the Medium Roast of the day black and in a ceramic mug.