Drifter Coffee is a seriously caffeinated emporium housed in a vintage trailer
Photographs by EE Berger
Alleah Webb is wrapping up her rookie season as a coffee entrepreneur. Drifter Coffee, which is housed in what she calls her “coffee caboose,” has been rolling since May.
It’s a vintage Scotty Serro camping trailer she found on Craigslist, now a mobile coffee shop she hitches to her car and takes to outdoor events such as the Dream Cruise and the Wayne State University farmers market, and it elicits grins everywhere it goes.
You can’t miss it. It’s painted a bright turquoise and white, with little paned windows and café curtains made by Webb’s aunt — and its bulbous charm is unmistakable.
Drifter Coffee is very much a family-and-friends operation. Webb’s dad, Vern, did nearly all of the restoration on the 1971 trailer. “It was falling apart,” she says. “Dad and I gutted it.”
It’s now a model of efficiency. There are cabinets, counters, drawers, two equipment sinks and a hand sink, and room for four to move around inside.
Webb’s crew includes her best friend from college, Rachel Wigley, her sister Jessica, and brother Kevin. The three Webb siblings are just a year apart, with Alleah the elder at 25.
Webb is serious about coffee. She uses medium roast beans from a single farm, and the beans are freshly ground in the on-board coffee grinder for each cup, made pour-over style. The coffee does not always come from the same farm, but she is adamant about using single origin beans, not a mixture.
Iced coffee is made Japanese style, poured directly on ice while hot. In addition, she offers natural Eli Tea from the Birmingham company and a few pastries. But coffee is really the name of the game.
In her search for sources, Webb (pictured above left) says she’s made friends with a lot of coffee aficionados, including roasters and shop owners, and that they’ve been very supportive of her enterprise. A video prepared for the Indiegogo campaign brought in a few donations from friends and strangers to help make it happen.
Drifter Coffee is not the culmination of her dream — which started when she was at Central Michigan University studying entrepreneurship and leadership — but it’s a start. She hopes to segue into a brick and mortar location she envisions as much more than just a coffee emporium. She wants it to be a community gathering place, unpretentious and friendly, good for everything from a first date to study session.
But for now, her lovingly restored trailer is drawing attention and winning fans all over town.
She will put it away for the winter in November, and plans to hit the road again in early spring.
Drifter Coffee will be at the Wayne State University Farmers Market, 5401 Cass Ave., Detroit, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Wednesdays through the month of October. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website driftercoffee.squarespace.com