Ray: This week we’re talking about…

Kandace: Starter Coffee out of Kentucky.

Starter Coffee and Tequila Barrel Aged Starter Coffee

Ray: Right.

Kandace: This is an interesting coffee brand because it is the love child between Braxton Brewing and… what do you have there?

 Carabello Coffee with Braxton Brewing and Carabello's collab Starter Coffee and Tequila Barrel Aged Starter Coffee

Ray: Carabello Coffee.

Kandace: Carabello Coffee. It’s like, if these two…

Ray: Braxton Brewing and Carabello Coffee get together and magic happens in the form of Starter.

Kandace: Here. Carabello-

Ray: Carabello of Newport, Kentucky was started by Justin Carabello and his wife, Emily. Their story is kind of amazing. They basically started this company to help orphans in Nicaragua, right?


Justin: Yeah, the long and the short of it is my wife and I were teachers. We wanted to help these orphan kids in Nicaragua more. We didn’t really know how to do that. We got this crazy idea, “Well what if we could start a philanthropic coffee roasting company?”

I was a home roaster with a popcorn popper. We bought a 1 pound Behmor 1600, took 300 bucks, bought some coffee, sent an email to all of our friends, and 6 years ago just said, “Hey, anybody want some coffee? Let us know.”

I’m Justin Carabello. I’m the owner of Carabello Coffee in Newport, Kentucky.

Jonathan: I’m Jonathan Gandolf. I’m the head of marketing at Braxton Brewing Company in Covington, Kentucky.

Starter coffee front detail

Ray: They’re not the only ones that started in a garage. Their friends and neighbors at Braxton Brewing also started in a garage, is that right?

Kandace: Yeah.

Ray: They’re not in garages anymore. I mean, they might store things there, but now-

Kandace: Pretty impressive. Braxton Brewing was started by Evan Rouse in his parents’ garage on Braxton Drive. He started brewing beer when he was 16 years old. That’s illegal.

Ray: Is that where the name came from?

Kandace: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ray brewing an aeropress of the Tequila Barrel Aged Starter Coffee

Ray: I thought it was named after Toni Braxton. It’s good. It’s really good.

Kandace: I see somebody else has had some-

Ray: I had-

Kandace: A little bit.

Ray: I had most of it, yeah. On Friday.

Kandace: You had most of it. Yeah.

AeroPress Starter Coffee

Justin: Yeah, so like I mentioned, the name Starter comes from the idea of entrepreneurship. Everything Braxton does is built on the idea of being born in a garage. It’s where our head brewer literally started home brewing.

We view the garage as this hub of innovation, most literally and metaphorically. Whether it’s where you’re creating, building, and tinkering literal mechanics, or cars, or what ever you’re working on in your garage, but also this place where so many software tech startup companies actually start. We view this product as a starter for those people to get them to fuel their next big idea.

Starter coffee tequila bottle back

Kandace: This is the second time that they’ve worked together to bring a bean to the world that has some-

Ray: Tequila barrel aged-

Kandace: Yeah.

Ray: Starter Coffee.

Justin: For this project, when we decided we’re going to do tequila, we thought, “Well, let’s see if we can find something coming out of Mexico that would work well” because Mexico…you rarely get the opportunity to pair a distilled product with a bean from the country of origin. That was kind of the way we thought. We called up Café Imports, which is one of the importers we use, and we had them send 6 different varietals of Mexican coffees.


We got all the brewers together, got our roasting team together, and cupped those coffees blind first, made all of our notes, talked about them, what we liked, what we didn’t like. Then we brewed them all with a covered coffee dripper, and took the tequila that the barrels- that was aged in the barrels, and began to taste side-by-side, incorporate a little bit with a little dropper.

It goes through that process of, “Okay, is one of these standing out more than the other?” We wanted to have a nice origin, like character, still on the coffee. We didn’t want it to be so eclipsed by tequila that we weren’t actually tasting the coffee itself.

Starter coffee tequila coffee bean size

One of the challenges we faced as we actually aged that coffee was since the varietal is so large, we knew that it’s going to be difficult to get a good heat penetration into the center of that bean over the course of the roast, so that we get a nice roast on that. While at the same time, making sure that we don’t burn the coffee because it picked up so much moisture. That moisture, as it’s coming to the surface and being driven out can kind of cause issues.

We ended up with a much slower roast with adding heat more gently than we normally would. By doing so, we were able to get a good, solid, even penetration of heat all the way to the center, and get a really nice, what I would call a genuine medium roast on that coffee, real mahogany color. By doing that, we were able to keep and preserve some of that origin character, and tone down the acidity a little bit. That made room for the tequila then to kind of come through in the end. Where you really taste it- you get a lot of it in the aroma- but where you really taste it is in the finish in the end.

Kandace: Really. This is going to be amazing.

Ray: My eyes, or …

Kandace: Oh!

Ray: Whoa! Damn! Jumping beans!

Starter coffee with Allman Brothers vinyl

Kandace: Yes! That’s amazing! This is Braxton’s 1 year anniversary. What did we do for our 1 year anniversary?

Ray: Nothing this cool.

Kandace: They made this.

Ray: I know.

Kandace: This is amazing! Yeah.

Ray: Super cool.

Ray: Carabello Coffee, Baxter Brewing, Starter Coffee. Thumbs up, y’all. My Kentucky shout-out. Now the Allman Brothers will play you out.

Watch the Show