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Bikes, Community and the Milkman Philosophy Behind The Coffee Ride in Boulder

the coffee ride josh crane boulder

Josh Crane of The Coffee Ride in Boulder, Colo.

Josh Crane developed a deeper relationship with coffee while logging long hours studying for medical school. He’s now logging roasts over a U.S. Roaster Corp. 3-kilo roaster in Boulder, Colo., where he’s recently jumped full time into his coffee business, The Coffee Ride.

“I’ve been roasting coffee for 3.5 years now,” Crane recently told Daily Coffee News. “I started on a popcorn popper. At the time I was trying to get into med school. When I started seriously roasting coffee, I fell in love with the all the science and experimentation side. I love logging notes, and I realized at some point that coffee roasting had all the things I love about the sciences.”

It was about six months ago when Crane decided to go all-in on The Coffee Ride, seeing some opportunities for locally roasted coffee in craft-food-and-drink-loving Boulder.

“I was working two jobs, working 60 hours a week and tried to do coffee on the side,” Crane says. “I said, ‘Man you just got to take a gamble and go for it.’ I was missing out on so many opportunities because I was working all the time.”

The business is very much a reflection of its owner, and Crane says he was partly inspired by his grandfather, who worked as a milkman delivering fresh milk every day. Crane, an avid cyclist, delivers each order of roasted coffee by bike, either directly to homes and businesses within an approximately 16-square-mile radius in central Boulder, to a central drop-off location, or to various CSA (community-supported agriculture) pickup locations.

For those unfamiliar with the CSA model, it typically involves consumer subscriptions with local producers, often agricultural, who deliver fresh goods to a central location for pickup on a regular basis, often weekly. Crane has dubbed this part of his business CSC (community-supported coffee). He’s working with producers like local Bonavida Growers and 63rd Street Farm, whose weekly CSA pickup is on Thursdays.

“They’re really cool because they’re trying to be like a one-stop shop,” Crane says of 63rd, adding that the farm is providing shares of things like meat, wine and milk, in addition to its more traditional CSA produce box. “The pickup is basically a big party. They have a wood-fired pizza, people come pick up their CSA box, and people are generally getting excited about food.”

Crane in a coffee delivery

Crane in a coffee delivery

It’s an ideal opportunity for Crane and the farm’s other producer-partners connect with consumers who have demonstrated an interest in eating local food, and, more importantly, understanding its origins and how it was produced.

“One of my favorite parts about it is the education part,” says Crane. “It goes back to that milkman philosophy. I want to go visit people, talk to them, interact with them. Making a connection with customer is so important to me. It makes coffee taste better when you know who’s roasting it and where it came from.”

Crane’s particular coffee comes from numerous importers, and he mentions Bodhi Leaf as one of his go-to sources. He’s tinkered with the idea of selling packaged coffee online, although he’s also concerned with minimizing the business’s carbon footprint, another impetus for the bike-only delivery model.

“I like to run the business like I run my life — everything to make sense for me,” says Crane. “That’s why I wanted to go into medicine in the first place, to give back to communities. My main interest is being a community-based coffee roaster.”

As for the Boulder community, Crane says its filled with potential for specialty coffee growth, especially from local micros, and he particularly credits Boulder roastery Ozo Coffee with helping lead the way.

“Denver has absolutely exploded. That scene is crazy right now,” says Crane. “It’s been developing more here in Boulder, and I hope to be a big part of that.”