159 W Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383
Set just off the Valparaiso town square, FLUID is part of a larger boom in the area’s craft scene. Opened May, 2016, FLUID is an early mover in bringing craft coffee to small town Indiana accompanied by a handful of other shops such as Dagger Mountain Roastery and Grindhouse. What sets FLUID apart is their partnership with Intelligentsia who provide the highest levels of quality when it comes to beans, materials, and training.
FLUID successfully hit all of my markers when it comes to what I’m looking for in a coffee shop. High quality roasting, a diverse menu with house specialties, reasonable pricing, and well prepared drinks. During my visit I was able to sample their espresso and two of the specialty lattes: The Fluid Latte (tastes like fall!) and The Vale of Paradise (think Fruit Loops but spicy!). I was really impressed by everything I tried.
Update 2/3/2017: I’ve since tried several of the other house specials and they’re all just as good as those first two. Slow bar coffee is not the best I’ve had, but I haven’t been disappointed yet.
Don’t get me wrong, downtown Valpo is nice. But there’s nothing really special about it. There are some cool spots but largely it’s like most of the other towns in Northwest Indiana. Small, quiet, charming, a tad bit boring.
The shop itself is well put together. Dim lighting with dark color give a speakeasy vibe to the place while the ample seating allows for crowds of students from the nearby university to study in peace. Local art adorns the walls while books on zen line the counter tops creating a thoughtful and studious atmosphere. If you’re really looking for you own space, the back half of the shop is separated by bar providing a little extra separation from the comings and goings of the front.
The staff when I visited were a pair of really cool guys. As I sipped on my coffee I listened to one of them explain the basics of cold brew and nitro to a couple sitting at the bar. After he was done and the couple had moved on I got a chance to talk with him about the business and how Valpo was receiving 3rd wave coffee. We covered everything from the logistics of a wholesale account with Intelli to the rise of craft microbreweries in the area to the impact of the university on businesses in the area. The guy was really passionate and eager to talk about what he was doing and it made the whole experience feel so much more substantial.
Update 2/3/2017: The staff here continue to be awesome. Super accessible, friendly, and open. I’ve been here four times now and everytime the barista has made it a point to make small talk with me.
FLUID exceeded my expectations in every regard. When it comes to small town coffee, I have become a bit cynical after what seems like gallons of horrible brew. FLUID was a refreshing and reassuring change of pace that makes me excited for the future of the American coffee market. In my experience thus far, great coffee has only happened in urban centers. I hope that the rise of awesome coffee in this small town foreshadows a greater trend of 3rd wave dominance that carries outside the major cities.