How I Roll… Kinetic Koffee’s Mark Ritz

Aaaahhhh, coffee.  How would we ever start a ride without it.  As I was glancing at a bag of beans from Kinetic Koffee at the local shop, I thought what better subject for an interview than the man behind the brand.  Actually, his wife Charlie started and is president of the company, and Mark’s history in the cycling industry helped put the two together into the brand it is today.

So…as you’re brewing up your own pot, enjoy the story of how Mark rolls…

BIKERUMOR: What separates Kinetic Koffee from other roasters? What makes it better than the next guy’s beans?

MARK: We roast all our own coffee; we do not outsource our roasting. This means that we control every step of the process from choosing the beans, blending them, the roasting process, to packaging and shipping. We roast in small batches (less than 30 pounds per roast) and usually ship the same day. Since we are the roaster, we can also offer private label coffees to shops and other companies as well as non-profits to use for fundraising purposes. We also donate 10% of our net profits to non-profit organizations.

BIKERUMOR: It seems like a lot of small (and even some big) roasters claim to use Organic, Fair Trade and/or Shade Grown beans…is sourcing the beans really much of a competitive advantage anymore?

We didn’t choose to exclusively roast certified organic coffee for a competitive advantage; we did it because it was the right thing to do. Organic coffees are grown in a sustainable environment and this, in conjunction with the higher prices that farmers can get for organic beans, means long term viability and stability for the farmers. Organic coffee currently comprises less than 5% of the total coffee crop in the world.

BIKERUMOR: So, is the roasting process where you differentiate?

The roast is where the “art” of roasting comes in. I roast my coffee slower than most, which lessens the bitterness and “burnt” tastes that some coffees demonstrate. You can equate roasting to frame building. Give six builders the same set of tubes and you’ll have six different riding bikes, depending upon their personal preferences. The same is true of coffee roasters.

Something else? Our roaster is not a pre-programmed computerized model that is “set and forget.” I am a hands-on roaster, controlling the heat, air and timing by hand to create the best coffee that I can.

BIKERUMOR: How many pounds of coffee did you roast last year?

About 15,000 to 20,000 pounds…I need to figure that up exactly pretty soon for our Organic certification.

BIKERUMOR: OK, let’s talk bikes…do you ride much?

Not as much as I’d like, but then who does? In the past I have raced road, mountain bike and track. I was NorCal-Nevada District Champ twice in my age group on the track (shown above, taking the W). I also enjoy touring.

BIKERUMOR: How many bikes do you own and which one is your favorite?

I currently own 24 bikes, mostly vintage road machines. Favorite? That’s a tough one. I would say my ’98 Merlin for fast rides, the ’04 Bates for relaxed rides and the Co-Motion Java tandem for togetherness. The common thread is that all were custom built for me, and I had a hand in designing two of them.

BIKERUMOR: What upcoming bike technology are you most excited about?

I am both excited and wary of the new Electronic Dura-Ace. While I certainly embrace new technology, I still enjoy riding some of my bikes with friction shifting, just to stay connected. Does that make me a retro-grouch?

I would really like to try a new carbon fiber bike, but my body is way outside the bell curve for most manufacturers.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your favorite time of day to ride and why?

I love riding in the mornings, when the air is crisp and clean. I can put in a two or three hour ride and still have time to get other stuff done.

A mid-ride picture along California's Highway 101.

A mid-ride picture along California's Highway 101.

 

 

 

BIKERUMOR: Where is your favorite place to ride and why?

That’s another tough one. Here locally, the Avenue of the Giants is spectacular. Huge redwood trees come right up to the side of the road, which is the old US Highway 101. From there, you can ride up and over Panther Gap to the Lost Coast and Cape Mendocino. We have a century ride called the Tour of the Unknown Coast in May that travels these roads. It’s one of the toughest century rides in the country.

My favorite multi-day ride is One Awesome Tour – Bike Ride Across Nevada or OATBRAN. It crosses the state (435 miles in 5 days) from Lake Tahoe to Baker via US Hwy 50, the Loneliest Road in America. It’s the perfect ride if you enjoy truly wide open spaces!

BIKERUMOR: What did you do before you started Kinetic Koffee?

I spent most of my life working in the bicycle industry, managing bike shops in Southern and Northern California and North Dakota. I have also worked for companies like Specialized Bicycle (I loved the lunch rides!), Santana Cycles, Wheelsmith and lastly was a Category Business Manager for Yakima Products, where I led the teams who developed the bicycle trailers, jogging strollers and snowshoes, as well as many rack-oriented products.

BIKERUMOR: How did you get into the coffee business? Did cycling lead you to start a coffee company…or did coffee lead you to cycling?

When Yakima Products decided to move from Arcata, CA to Beaverton, OR, my wife and I decided that we wanted to stay in Arcata. She had previously started Kinetic Koffee as a fundraiser for the Kinetic Sculpture Race when she was the Director of the non-profit that ran the race and had a local roaster roasting for her. I have always had a passion for coffee and knew that most cyclists shared this passion. So we created a business model to sell coffee in bike shops and donate 10% of the profits to non-profit organizations. We bought a roaster, set up shop and went to Interbike. There’s a strong connection between cyclists and caffeine and we both love the industry. We wanted to meet a need with a high quality product and give back to the industry. The reception was favorable and so, here we are.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the biggest mistake you see people make when brewing their own coffee?

Using a cheap blade grinder to grind their beans. The blades chop the coffee into different size pieces, so the coffee is not extracted evenly. Spend the extra money and get a burr grinder. It’s worth it. Another mistake is using a brewer with a glass carafe and heating element. The coffee continues to cook and becomes bitter very quickly. Use a stainless thermal carafe and the coffee stays fresher.

BIKERUMOR: It appears I’m doing everything wrong with my coffee…you just described my coffee maker perfectly.  In your opinion, what’s the ultimate home coffee maker?

I would love to have my own barista at my beck and call. My wife won’t let me…

BIKERUMOR: I can’t understand why not…wouldn’t your barista make your wife coffee, too? So, what do you use to grind and brew your coffee at home?

I have a Ditting burr grinder and use either my Aerobie AeroPress or (gasp) Mr. Coffee with thermal carafe for brewing.

BIKERUMOR: How much coffee do you drink each day?

I will usually have between 3 and 6 cups per day.

BIKERUMOR: What’s your favorite roast/flavor?

The next coffee that I roast. I am constantly on the lookout for new coffees to experience. Of my regular roasts, I drink Morning Mayhem most often, although I really like the taste of Kama Sumatra in the AeroPress.

BIKERUMOR: You mentioned the Kinetic Sculpture Race as one of the influences that inspired you and your wife to create Kinetic Koffee…do you enter a sculpture in the event?

I raced in the Arcata event (the World Championship and Granddaddy of them all) a total of six times, winning awards in Speed, Engineering and in 2004, the Grand Championship. I have also ridden in Kinetic events in Klamath Falls and Corvallis, OR. I’d love to get to some of the other events around the country, but they’ve always clashed with other events.

BIKERUMOR: What does the future hold for Kinetic Koffee? Any new and exciting roasts or products we should look for?

We just added two new roasts in January that I am pretty excited about. We also offer a “Limited Edition” roast periodically. These are special coffees that I find and usually buy just one 50-60 kilo bag. This month, it’s an estate grown coffee from India that has a wonderful cup to it.

I would also like to grow the company enough to be able to travel to more events around the country. I love talking to people about coffee and bikes. We’ll be at Sea Otter in April (shameless plug).

BIKERUMOR: Last question…name one barely known or common misconception about coffee that our readers may not know.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil. Coffee has twice as many flavor components as wine. No wonder coffee connoisseurs are as passionate as wine aficionados about their beverage of choice.

Comments

Mike R. - 02/02/09 - 6:54pm

Nice article!

Gary Miller - 02/03/09 - 12:25pm

I have know mark for I guess 5 years or so now, and frankly he has ruined me for most of the coffee universe. Morning Mayhem in the Aeropress is simply perfect coffee. Finally a cup of coffee that tastes like Starbucks smells (but doesn’t taste). The combo is perfect for Morning Coffee, Lunch Coffee, After Dinner Coffee, and best of all, Bicycle Event Early Hotel Room Wakeup Coffee (the thing is so self contained – with beans or grinds stuffed in a baggy inside the Aeropress) that I simply refuse to travel without it!

Greg S. - 02/04/09 - 12:47pm

You will not, repeat not, find a smoother cup of coffee than anything Mark roasts. If you see it somewhere, do yourself a favor and
buy a bag. I wait once a season for his special roast “Guatamala La Voz” to show up and I buy twenty bags. I’m almost out now, and
Life will be a little dimmer without it. Luckily, his ” Breakfast Buzz “does for me very well also.
Good interview, I didn’t realize the depth of Mark’s biking past. Looks like that boy really is a racer!

Marisa - 03/11/09 - 7:53am

Great article. I am extremely selective of what beans I’ll buy and brew. Freshness is a must. Kinetic Koffee never lets me down. I enjoyed reading about how he got started in the business and his passion for the perfect cup-o-joe.

[...] Bad Ideas from Rich Dillen HIR: The Tony Ellsworth Interview HIR: What it’s like to be an MTB Pro HIR: Kinetic Koffee’s Mark Ritz HIR: Endurance Phenom Pua Sawicki HIR: Niner’s Fuzzy and Dejay HIR: Urban Velo Jeff Dreamride [...]

[...] to know more about Kinetic Koffee?  Read our interview with Mark [...]

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