SteepFuze was created in 2013 by Devin Jamroz. After herniating two discs in a snowboarding accident at his home mountain, Winter Park, Devin wanted to stop using pharmaceuticals in the recovery process as quickly as possible. He began experimenting with his own THC-based tinctures and soon had found an effective tool to mitigate his short term pain. An experienced home coffee roaster and coffee connoisseur, Devin’s morning ritual was now complete: THC tincture for his back alongside a cup of his finest dark roast. One delightful spring morning while enjoying his coffee and tincture, Devin had an epiphany: “why not combine two things I am passionate about into a superior good?” And thus the idea of whole coffee beans infused with cannabis was born.
Originally our goal was to manufacture THC-infused coffee beans for sale exclusively in Colorado dispensaries. With the help of Ben Glennon (then housemate and now co-founder), experimentation began in our Boulder home. We quickly discovered that making genuinely infused coffee beans was very difficult. There isn’t a lot of surface area, the density from bean-to-bean is uneven, and it’s unwise to coat your beans in an oil that makes them sticky, difficult to handle, and that will gum up your grinder. We eventually tried working with ground coffee in tea bags and K-cups and found it’s relatively easy to inject extract into the grounds, call it “infused,” and then brew the coffee as normal. On a very basic level, it worked. There was technically some cannabis extract in the cup of coffee, but something was missing. Devin’s gourmet roast had lost its essence, and we found ourselves drinking unsatisfying cups of what we knew to be great coffee.
As Devin continued experimenting with coffee infusion, Ben’s time became occupied by graduate school. Devin’s improvements to the infusion process resulted in more effective and tasty brews, but coincidentally the coffee began to inhibit his productivity. Also around this time, the 2014 Farm Bill was beginning to garner a lot of attention on a local and national scale, along with some of the compounds found in hemp, namely CBD. After researching hemp and many of the non-psychoactive compounds found in cannabis, Devin determined a new direction for SteepFuze: gourmet whole coffee beans infused with non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from hemp.
With his morning routine adjusted, his normally energetic and productive state returned. We also discovered that our hemp extract infusions produced a wonderfully unique effect. It was not a traditional “high” like one would expect from a marijuana-infused product, but rather an invigorating, alert, and focused experience. Along with the improvement in the desired effects from the new hemp extract, tweaks in the infusion process lead to better and better cups of coffee. After a year of consulting friends, chemists, and resources in the cannabis and coffee industries, we had settled on our infusion process. In the end, we found the key to the best tasting cup of coffee was to infuse the beans’ naturally occurring flavor oils released during the roasting process. The infused coffee was everything that we wanted from a gourmet bean, but far beyond what you could normally get from one. We knew we had the potential to create something very special.
The first step was to find the best quality and freshest coffee, and that meant going straight to a roaster. As luck would have it, we didn’t actually have to search all too hard. One abnormally sunny Boulder day, Devin was on the phone in the backyard talking about coffee with a hemp farmer when over the fence and through the trees someone called out: “Hey man, you in the coffee business?” As it turns out, that someone was Gerry Leary, the owner and master head-roaster at The Unseen Bean – a favorite local coffee spot in Boulder. Gerry produces what he has coined “blind-roasted coffee.” Being blind since birth himself, when Gerry roasts, he cannot look into the roaster to judge the roast level based on bean color. Instead, he relies solely on his super-human senses of smell and hearing, and he controls the roast based on the aroma and sound of the beans crackling. Gerry’s expert roasting technique combined with the superb quality of the beans he sources left no question that he was a perfect fit.
Around this time Ben finished graduate school with a degree in GISc. He faced a difficult decision choosing between two distinct paths and passions: natural disaster mitigation and climate research, or a unique opportunity to get involved in the cannabis and hemp industry. Eventually the choice was clear, and Ben came back to SteepFuze full-time.
The last piece of the puzzle was to find a hemp extractor with a product as high quality as Gerry’s coffee. We knew we wanted outdoor grown, pesticide-free, organic hemp. We had in mind a desired aroma and flavor profile characteristic of certain hemp varieties. After a lot of testing with different strains and extractors, we finally came upon an industrial hemp extractor that met our particular requirements. The non-psychoactive cannabinoids infuse perfectly with Gerry’s fresh roast, while still preserving the full palette expected of a premium dark roast with the right piney and earthy subtle undertones.