Josh Crane is a cyclist and coffee enthusiast who, while in the midst of applying to medical school, did an about-face and decided instead to become a coffee roaster with a twist: He delivers almost all of the coffee he roasts in a bike trailer. His company is The Coffee Ride and it was founded in Boulder, Colorado, in 2015.
Josh started the company because he wanted to share his love of coffee with others and create a business model in which, as he explains it, “Everyone wins, from the farmers to the consumers.” When Josh first started roasting coffee, he made it for friends at work “because they only brought in terrible coffee,” he says. It turned out that his bike commute to work and making coffee for his colleagues were the two best parts of his day. That’s when he decided to combine these two sources of happiness and “do it for the rest of my life.” It wasn’t long before Josh sold his car to buy a coffee roaster.
When sourcing his coffee, Josh uses the “direct-trade” model. This model takes out the importer/exporter middleman and creates a closer connection between the growers and the roasters. There’s no direct-trade third-party certification—or even consensus on what direct trade entails—but Josh sees it as a mutually beneficial collaboration that results in better-quality, more-consistent coffee; better pay for bean growers; and a more unique coffee bean selection with increased traceability.
While the coffee Josh sources is generally not certified organic, certified fair trade, or certified shade-grown, he sources from growers who go above what’s required for certification. So why aren’t these growers certified? Cost. For small farms and cooperatives, certification can be prohibitively expensive.
Josh taught himself to roast. He researched the process and made many mistakes, but over time he’s developed his own style. Roasting coffee gives him an opportunity to express his nerdy scientist and his artistic sides.
For now, most of Josh’s customers live in Boulder and he delivers to them by bike. He roasts all his coffee on Wednesdays and delivers it on Thursdays, riding approximately 40 miles to ensure that the product is as fresh as possible. Josh reduces his carbon footprint in other ways too. He uses compostable coffee bags and labels made of 100% recycled burlap coffee bags.
As Josh imagines the future for The Coffee Ride, he envisions a day when there are several bike delivery folks in Boulder and Coffee Ride hubs in cities throughout the country. But right now he’s dealing with the realities of being a small business, starting from scratch, and trying to build momentum. “You have a very small voice that you’re trying to get out, but you don’t have a bunch of money to advertise. Instead, you have to get creative about how to showcase what you love, what you’re passionate about, and your inspiring story to attract customers who share your values,” he says.
Want to support Josh’s vision and try his direct trade coffee? Visit the Hatch Lab shop to order a limited-edition Roaster’s Choice Coffee Set, which includes three 4-ounce bags of beans.