The veteran-owned Black Rifle Coffee Company has built an $80 million business with creative marketing and a [forget]-em-if-they-can’t-take-a-joke attitude. They’re becoming a real force in the independent coffee world with 200 employees, and they’ve got plans to open as many as 20 coffee shops before the end of 2020.
Viral marketing is fun and selling a sense of community to a veterans has certainly generated a healthy business. But out of the millions of pixels spilled online about the BRCC lifestyle, one big question remains: How’s the damn coffee?
This is the point where all of you who proudly drink the burnt and watery coffee from your local quick mart decide to check out, ignore this article and keep your comments to yourself. No one’s judging you. This is American and you can get your caffeine however you like.
In return, those of us who are looking for something more from a cup of joe only want to pursue our dreams and interests without hearing from you. We promise we won’t try to convert you, especially since the internet is full of dire predictions about a worldwide coffee shortage and we want to make sure there’s plenty left for us.
(BTW, the same applies to craft beer, high-end bourbon and elaborate hi-fi and home theater setups. We understand you’re not interested. Thank you.)
OK, now that we’ve shed the swill drinkers, back to the original question.
Everything about Black Rifle reinforces the message that these people care about what they’re doing. That includes the packaging itself, the packaging and logo design, the website design, the quality of their merchandise and even the design of their shipping boxes. They’re not cutting corners anywhere. BRCC is a premium brand and they want to make sure you’re having a premium experience every step of the way.
Granted, some people don’t like premium. Premium costs a little more and premium implies an attention to detail that sticks in some people’s craw.
“It’s just [insert product here],” they say. “Why be so stuck up about it?”
The Black Rifle origin story goes back to founder and former Green Beret Evan Hafer’s service during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Hafer modified gun trucks to include a coffee grinder and made his morning fix in a French press.
Why would he do that? YOLO. If you enjoy coffee, making the extra effort to improve your morning fix is something you can invest a few minutes in each day and reap incredible rewards.
That’s why BRCC is pushing its customers to try brewing their coffee in a Chemex. Invented in 1941, a Chemex looks like something out of a chemistry lab and makes your morning coffee into a science experiment.
It also makes a killer cup of coffee that's smoother than most espresso machines, stronger than your drip coffee maker and even better than a French press. They’ll sell you a custom-branded Chemex that features the BRCC “Coffee or Die” logo imprinted on the iconic wooden collar. They want you to try one so badly that you can get their version for almost the same price as a regular one.
Leading the pack is the CAF (may or may not be an acronym that’s unprintable here), a medium roast that promises twice as much caffeine as a regular cup. Actually, that seems a bit low. It’s got all the impact of a plank upside the head (in the best possible way).
I also sampled the AK Espresso, the Just Black medium roast, the Beyond Black dark roast and the Silencer Smooth light roast. Let’s establish that “light,” “medium” and “dark” roast are used in a relative sense by these guys. The SS really is smooth, but the Starbucks Blonde roast seems like weak brown water by comparison.
All Black Rifle coffee is made by and for people who want coffee that demands their attention. Thinks of a very hoppy IPA vs. a Budweiser and you’ll get the idea.
If you’re curious after reading this and don’t know where to start, they’ll sell you a Complete Mission Fuel Kit for $48 that includes one bag each of the AK Espresso, the Just Black medium roast, the Beyond Black dark roast and the Silencer Smooth light roast.
Just in case you think this whole operation is too hard-headed to face the modern age, Black Rifle has bent to contemporary tastes and put their coffee into rounds designed for a Keurig machine. If you must get your fix that way, let’s just say it’s orders of magnitude better than the Donut Shoppe stuff Keurig sells at the Sam’s Club.
BRCC will sell you a 12-oz. bag for $14.99 and will knock down the price to $12.50 each if you sign up for a recurring subscription. Yeah, that’s more expensive than the Starbucks or Peets bags they sell at the grocery store, but it’s most definitely a better product. That price is in line with the bags available from your local high-end coffee roaster.
How does Black Rifle compare to those local roasts pushed by kids with handlebar mustaches? It’s maybe a more aggressive flavor than you’d get from most of them, but the quality is at least as good, if not better than anything else I’ve tried for less than $20/lb.
The mugs, hats and t-shirts display the same commitment to quality you’ll find in the coffee. Anyone who’s been in charge of making merch can tell you that you can save 50% of the cost if you’re willing to go down 20% on the quality. That’s a deal most everyone makes every time, so it’s always a wonderful surprise to find that someone has decided to use the good stuff when promoting their logo and brand.
Evan Hafer, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor (let’s face it, we’re mostly talking about Mat) have developed devoted followings because of their outsize personalities and some over-the-top videos. You’ll get no complaints here about what they’re trying to do with those but the discussion about marketing may have obscured just what an amazing job they’ve done at Black Rifle.
Strip out the marketing and you're left with the coffee and the coffee is more than worth the cost.
BRCC may be asking us all to pay for a premium product but, unlike a lot of other veteran-owned businesses that we won’t call out by name, they’ve actually bothered to create a premium product that’s worthy of the price. This is excellent coffee made for people who know the difference.