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San Diego’s Coffee Cycle Rides Into Roasting

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Four years after debuting his first bicycle-powered coffee cart in San Diego, Chris O’Brien, the owner and founder of Coffee Cycle Roasting, shifted gears into roasting this past fall.

O’Brien has spent more than a decade working in coffee, including seven years as a barista at the La Jolla Bird Rock Coffee Roasters location.

While launching with the combined passions of cycling and coffee, Coffee Cycle soon after moved into a brick-and-mortar retail location in Pacific Beach. The business up-shifted yet again when COVID-19 took hold last year.

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“The pandemic really made it clear that our business, the quality of our products and the quality of our service are incredibly dependent on outside vendors,” O’Brien told Daily Coffee News. “Bringing the same focus and love to roasting that we were already putting into our service efforts felt like an opportunity to ensure we’d be offering our customers the best, most consistent cups of coffee possible while reducing some of the challenges associated with sourcing this past year.”


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Previously serving coffee from highly regarded roasters such as Bird Rock and Madison, Wisconsin-based JBC Coffee Roasters, Coffee Cycle is now roasting on a Diedrich IR-5 and Quest M3 sample roaster through an arrangement with nearby Acento Coffee Roasters.

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“The response has been overwhelming. We’re grateful to our team for taking on the challenge, to our customers for embracing our new direction and to the local coffee community for helping us through the learning process,” O’Brien said. “Launching our roasting program has been the culmination of years spent building the business of our cafe and creating a strong, diverse community. A cafe can be such an important place for local community to form, but we need to reach more than that.”

In the cafe, Coffee Cycle has espresso machines from Londinium and Decent Espresso. The Londinium is a manual two-group spring lever machine, and the Decent Espresso machines have been programmed to mimic the pressure and flow rates generated by the Londinium’s lever and piston.

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“We regularly measure extractions with the Atago refractometer on both espresso bar, and pourover bar,” says O’Brien. “We don’t use any batch brewing in the shop, instead using immersion drippers for each cup of hot or iced coffee. The immersion drippers let us be super consistent and facilitate multitasking.”

While the 450-square-foot retail shop may be small, O’Brien says, “Compared to when our bicycle cafe was stationed on the side of the road, it is pretty magnificent.”

Coffee Cycle is also offering small coffee classes that are available to the public, with an introductory class featuring the history of coffee and colonization, coffee as it is produced and consumed around the world, and basic chemistry of coffee extraction and roasting.

“Giving our community a broader picture of what coffee is to the world gives them the context to make better, more ethical choices in their consumption,” says O’Brien.


Coffee Cycle is located at 1632 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA 92109. Tell us about your new coffee shop or roastery here

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