Spyhouse Gets a New Space and Takes on a Fresh Challenge

For the first time in a long time, the vintage roaster that now takes up shop in Spyhouse’s newest location fires to life.

Hundreds of pounds of green coffee beans sit in burlap bags nearby, waiting to be dumped into the vintage machine. The Probat UG 22 roaster sits tucked in a corner behind the counter, but it’s steam-train like cylinder shape and giant funnel make it easy to spot, its bright metal mechanical parts glinting against the black finish.

“It’s just cool as hell,” said Christian Johnson, Spyhouse Coffee owner. “It’s just a total workhorse piece of equipment that you have full manual control over,” adds Tony, Spyhouse’s bespectacled and mustached head roaster.

With its third location in northeast Minneapolis, Spyhouse Coffee ups the ante. Not only did Johnson and his team create a beautifully designed space that keeps the people flocking in (and camping out), but he also decided it was time to tackle another step in the coffee-making process: roasting.

To do that, Johnson and his team tracked down a vintage roaster in Oregon that likely dates to the 1950s and had it restored. Spyhouse Coffee now is well on its way to joining the ranks of specialty coffee shops flexing their muscles beyond the brewing process.

“It fits with our aesthetic perfectly,” Johnson said of the roaster, which arrived in Minneapolis this week. “The vision for the space was to merge rustic and elegant.”

In the past few months, Johnson and his designer/builder extraordinaire, Jonathan Gomez Whitney, took a room full of exposed brick and hardwood floors and transformed it into a well-designed space that lives up to northeast Minneapolis’ artistic reputation.

“My background is as a visual artist,” said Gomez Whitney, who put in nearly 1,000 hours to bring the concept of the space to life. “It was really a collaboration. None of this would be as cool if it wasn’t both of us working on it.”

After months of cutting planks of reclaimed barn wood, reinforcing the floors and putting in new windows, Johnson took over. He’s collected antiques for nearly 20 years, and the little knick-knacks and oddities perch and hang throughout the room.

“I tend to look for really unique items that I normally don’t see,” Johnson said.

There are two ships on mounted platforms behind the coffee bar, an old Coast to Coast hardware store sign that reads “Keep America Beautiful” and a pencil drawing of a “really old dead guy.”

The antique roaster is one of several showcase pieces that completes the coffee shop for Johnson.

“I like to have epic pieces that you just gravitate to,” Johnson said. “Little pieces throughout the space that your eyes are drawn to and it’s just, ‘Wow.’”

Spyhouse NE went from an old room in a former mattress factory, to one of the most popular new spots to grab a cup of coffee. See where it all started (hint: a 30-inch crawlspace in the basement), and how two men with a vision took a raw space and created something beautiful.

  • 945 Broadway St. N.E.
    Minneapolis, MN 55413
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