Dead Rise: Jared Trimbo and Full Keel Coffee
Jared Trimbo, founder of Full Keel Coffee, roasts on an MCR-20, 20 kilogram roaster in Washburn, Wisconsin. His company shares a building with his wife, Amy Trimbo, owner of AdventureUs sewing studio. Every week, he dedicates one full day to roasting and one full day to packaging and shipping.
Setting the Scene
A longtime coffee drinker, Jared did not expect or plan a roasting career. He was recruited to join the roasting team at Big Water Coffee in Bayfield in 2015. At the time, he had no experience in coffee professionally, but he soon learned how to roast and fell into the rhythms of the work.
For two years, Jared worked for Big Water Coffee. Then in 2017, when the company closed, he invested in a small home roaster to keep learning in the interim. In that time period, his wife Amy began planning for her own business, AdventureUs, a sewing studio that opened in 2018. Jared held things down at home, working odd jobs and taking care of the couple’s three children.
The next four years, Jared roasted at home and gave his coffee to friends and family. He got the chance to launch his own business in 2022, when he ordered his 20kilogram machine from Mill City Roasters and installed it in the back room of the AdventureUs building in downtown Washburn. Full Keel Coffee officially launched in May of 2022.
The Way Up
Because Jared had no experience with roasting when his career started at Big Water Coffee, he didn’t have any expectations, either. “It was a good way to start,” he says, “with a totally open mind.” The two years he spent there gave him a good framework to take forward into his own coffee company.
Of course, it felt different when it was his own venture. Jared is a one-man show, and he does everything from roasting to sales to bookkeeping—his least favorite—all on his own. As sole roaster, his time is a valuable resource, and every day is another opportunity to balance the company’s needs.
But the payoff is worth it: he gets to be proud of the product that exists only because of him. It’s often his favorite part of the day when he gets to share his craft with the community.
Jared built community into his roastery’s business model from the start. To him, that meant opening a roastery that focused on the consistent population of Washburn locals rather than tourists to the Lake Superior area. While all are welcome at the roastery, he wanted to create a brand that would be recognizable and dependable for his neighbors.
He started on the 20-kilogram, taking a calculated risk that his focus on blends would require bigger batches. He also wanted the capability to limit roasting to one day a week. And, after four years on a hobby roaster, he knew he didn’t want to be limited by batch size. “I knew that for bigger accounts, I would need to make volume right away,” he says. “It’s paid off.”
Wholesale accounts were Full Keel’s first interest. Jared hoped to get ten in the first six months, a goal he met and surpassed by nearly double. One of the store’s first wholesale accounts was AdventureUs, where Amy sold his coffee retail in the studio gift shop.
Despite knowing what to expect in the roastery, Jared was surprised by the business competition. While he’s one of the only craft coffee roasters in Washburn, the town borders Duluth, Minnesota, a town with more craft coffee interest.
But despite the challenge of convincing customers to try a new brand, he’s found many people willing to support a homegrown company. “Something else I didn’t [realize] was how much people would rally around a community brand,” he says.
The Full Keel Coffee Menu
The Full Keel Coffee catalog is made up of five coffees: a single origin decaf and four blends. Jared makes a point to roast the spectrum, so that any customer could find something to love from the roastery.
The full lineup has a focus on smoothness and sweetness. Light roast Spinnaker has tasting notes of citrus and chamomile with minimal acidity; dark roast Dead Rise has notes of molasses and bittersweet chocolate. Currently, the best-seller is Dead Rise–Washburn loves its dark roasts–although medium roast Cut and Run is close on its heels.
Overall, Jared’s focus as a roaster is on a consistent and quality product. He started with blends in order to give his customers a steady stream of good coffee and keep them coming back. That way, he could manufacture trust in his brand.
Once Full Keel Coffee has a wider reach, Jared has plans to add a seasonal microlot to the lineup, so that more adventurous customers might find something new to try.
All of Full Keel’s coffees, which come through Cafe Imports, are certified fair trade and organic. It’s important to him to source ethically and avoid any chemical treatments that might impact quality.
Over the winter, Jared’s been working on a cold brew to sell at the store’s retail partners. He’s also got a spring blend in the works. Between the two new products, he’s hoping to expand the brand’s reach toward both Duluth and Hayward to grow his customer base through regional wholesale partnerships.
Long term, he’s looking forward to having enough time and resources to get his roastery certified fair-trade and organic. While it’s been a long-time goal of his, the logistics of the certification as well as their impacts on the business model–like retail prices–have moved the goal further down the pipeline. Still, the certifications are important to Full Keel, and so it’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when.
Ultimately, he sees the roastery expanding into a cafe at some point. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to NOT do a cafe,” Jared says. He wants Full Keel Coffee to tap into the potential sales of a coffee shop and keep its competitive edge in the Washburn coffee scene.
Bring Full Keel Coffee Home
You can find Full Keel Coffee at a variety of local shops, including AdventureUs studio, Chequamegon Food Co-op, Washburn IGA, Ehlers General Store and Deli in Cornucopia, Redberry Bookstore, and the Loon Saloon in Cable. When you’re not in town, you can order any of the Full Keel coffees on their website, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.