An Enlightening  Q&A with Ben, Kayak Coffee's Co-Founder

An Enlightening Q&A with Ben, Kayak Coffee's Co-Founder

Shannon Davis

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So, how do you take your coffee?

Black, of course! You know, cowboy-like. It’s the best way to really taste the coffee, honestly. Also because way back when I started drinking coffee, I probably didn’t have any cream or sugar anyway! My mom sent me to college with a personal Mr. Coffee, which I didn’t attempt to use until halfway through freshman year. I’m sure it was horrible. Black coffee is also my test when I go to a new coffee shop. I order a black coffee and can taste what this place is all about. Nuances of the beans and how they roast and all that. Although some coffees are better with some cream or sugar, those elements change everything. 


What’s your favorite backcountry brew method?

Probably the Aeropress. Although, when we’re backpacking, we pack a french press, which is more efficient to make coffee for a group. In our camper, I use an Aeropress or a percolator. I even bring a hand grinder when I'm feeling sassy. 


Why did you start Kayak Coffee?

I started roasting beans at home as a hobby. I started with an old popcorn popper and did that for a year and a half or so. It was really fun, and my wife thought I was on to something and talked me into buying a commercial roaster. For six months or so, we struggled with what to name the company. One sleepless night, I just thought you know what? I love kayaking and I love coffee. Kayak Coffee! I really wanted to mold a company to fit the river community that I know so well and to be immersed in the recreation world. I used to be a whitewater raft guide and also figured this was a cool way to go paddling and work at the same time. 

Kayak Coffee founder Ben Larson, right at home raft guiding

How do you source beans?

I want to carry products that are responsibly sourced, from smaller farms, and organically and sustainably grown. That’s what we seek out, and I hooked up with an importer called Red Fox Coffee Merchants who can provide that. They have direct relationships with farmers in Peru, Oaxaca, Ethiopia, and more. They have offices in those regions and are mindful and transparent about the whole supply chain. That helps us make good decisions and provide our customers with the best information about the bean as well as coffee farmers. And the beans have been great. It’s really a lot more work than I ever imagined, and I’m excited that we’ve found the best beans we can and are growing quickly. We're carving out a cool niche in the coffee world. 


How do you determine the best roast for different beans?

I’ve done a lot of research and learning and have some great roasts. It all starts with the origin, transportation, and storage of the bean. Coffee beans are like any other farm product, susceptible to damage, heat, insects, mold, you name it. So you have to start with good beans. All have different moisture content and are grown at different altitudes which influences bean density. So based on those qualities, you have an idea of how you’ll roast. I experiment, though I don’t do a lot of dark roasts. For the most part, a dark roast is frowned upon by the artisan coffee community. You’re basically burning the coffee, and really just tasting the burn, rather than the best the bean can offer. So I roast a bean variety a few times to experiment and find what I feel is the best. 

 More Ben!

What’s your favorite place to drink coffee?

In my Airstream camper. I love to serve my wife coffee in bed. She calls it princess camping. I like drinking coffee anywhere outdoors, though, honestly. I used to camp around Moab a lot, quite a bit in the winter because no one was there. Just way out on BLM land. Often when it was cold out, we’d just sit around and drink coffee all day and cook food. I love coffee in the desert. 


Any exciting Kayak Coffee news coming up?

Well, we just had a really great fall events season where we served coffee at river and outdoor fests in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. We gave away beans and Kayak Coffee swag to some lucky sweepstakes winners, which was a lot of fun. But one thing I’m most excited about is a limited edition seasonal roast I’m working on. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it has notes of honey crisp apple, toffee, and brownies. It’s amazing and the perfect cup for this time of year. It’ll be out soon!

 Learn more about the Kayak Coffee story here

Ethiopia Nano Challa #9

Ethiopia Nano Challa #9


Ethiopia, Agaro region, Coop These coffee plants are an heirloom variety developed over generations from native species in the surrounding regions.  Intense, lively sweetness like candied ginger and sparkling champagne-like finish.  … read more

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