Wineries and breweries offer tastings and tours. Now coffee lovers in Omaha can enjoy a similar experience at Beansmith Coffee Roaster in La Vista, where earlier this month, the business opened the Lobby, a simple espresso bar with a twist.

The Lobby will be open for coffee enthusiasts and baristas to test their skills and learn, with classes on everything from espresso to latte art, or making designs with milk in coffee drinks. The roastery also offers tours, tastings and simple espresso drinks for purchase.

Beansmith gutted the front of its location near 120th Street and Roberts Road earlier this year, in part to make it more welcoming to customers. The approximately $50,000 remodel transformed the formerly drab office environment with a reception desk and generic carpeting into a simple coffee shop that seats about 40 to 50 people, founder Chris Smith said.

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It features comfortable seating, cafe tables and free Wi-Fi. The business will begin offering classes by early next year, Smith said.

“The coffee bar itself was more ... of a workman feel, because we knew it was kind of instructional,” Smith said.

Smith said the idea for classes came when Beansmith employees began asking regular customers if classes were something they'd be interested in. “We just felt like there are enough enthusiasts” in the area, he said.

Beansmith already offers professional barista training for wholesale accounts that are tailored to each client's specific needs, but it will expand classes to the public on professional coffee tasting, manual brewing, espresso and how to use milk to create latte art.

Kait Berreckman, who began working for Beansmith in January and has taken the lead on managing and running the coffee bar, said prices will probably range from $25 to $50 per person.

In addition, the Lobby will host “Open Gym” every Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., when area baristas can come play with espresso, practice bring-your-own-milk latte art, try a new brew method, ask questions and “otherwise nerd-out with fellow coffee people,” Berreckman said.

The business also will hold an all-day grand opening event for the space on Sept. 13, featuring free coffee tasting, local food, tours and a latte art tournament in the evening.

Beansmith supplies coffee beans to local coffee shops, including Aroma's and Urban Abbey in the Old Market, and sells individual bags of beans and various coffee brewers in-store and online. Beans are also sold at Whole Foods in Omaha, Patricks Market and other specialty grocery stores in Nebraska, Berreckman said.

“What we're trying to do is kind of bring some of that expertise and inside knowledge in terms of coffee and quality to the table so that people can really experience something amazing,” Smith said.

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