A love for community and caffeine plays a vital role in Fire Dept. Coffee’s mission to produce high quality coffee, while giving back to local heroes. Veteran retired firefighter and paramedic Luke Schneider founded the company in 2016, inspired by his time serving in the U.S. Navy and trying to stay alert through long shifts.
“As a shipboard firefighter, I started drinking coffee to stay awake and energized,” Schneider told Beyondish. “Coffee became a necessity, and it continued to be after I began working for the City of Rockford, IL Fire Department.”
Together with fellow firefighter and paramedic Jason Patton, they lead a team of active and retired first responders to craft coffee products that Inc. 5000 ranked No. 2 in the 2022 Rockford local business list. Fire Dept. Coffee’s Original Medium Roast Coffee is among their best sellers, highlighting a full-bodied balance of aroma, boldness and flavor. Schneider himself brews this signature sip daily.
“It’s my go-to coffee each morning,” he said. “Now with the ready-to-drink cans available, the Nitro Irish Coffee is my go-to to keep me charged throughout the day.”
Fire Dept. Coffee has also made great strides since its inception for their spirit infused coffees, with flavors like Old Fashioned, Vanilla Irish Whiskey and Coconut Rum. These non-alcoholic brews are stepping up the coffee game. While it took a few attempts during their early days, Fire Dept. Coffee found the perfect blend for their unique offerings.
“When we started, we tried aging coffee beans in used barrels of high-quality bourbon before roasting,” Schneider said. “Coffee beans are absorbent and can soak up the flavors from their environment. The idea was promising, but the results were inconsistent. We knew that coffee people would scrunch their faces and aficionados of fine spirits would turn up their noses.
“So we experimented with infusing the spirits directly into the beans before roasting. After lots of testing and experimenting, we developed our proprietary Spirit Infused Coffee process in 2016, and it’s been a staple of the Fire Dept. Coffee brand ever since.”
Along with achieving the perfect balance of flavors, the heart of the brand is giving back to fellow heroes through the Fire Dept. Coffee Charitable Foundation.
Proceeds from every coffee sold goes towards sick and injured firefighters and first responders. Active military, veterans, first responders and emergency dispatchers also receive a 15% discount on all products, including FDC gear and merchandise. Additionally, Fire Dept. Coffee integrates these individuals into the company culture through jobs.
“Not only do we help first responders, but they are woven into the employee structure in roles that help promote leadership during and after service,” explained Schneider. “We continue to give back to the Rockford community as we grow, through community regeneration and providing solid career opportunities.”
Following the recent release of their ready-to-drink nitro cold brews, the next chapter in Fire Dept. Coffee’s takeover is well under way. Said Schneider: “We’re expanding into stores nationwide and also planning to get into retail with our very own brick-and-mortar cafes.”
NEXT ON THE DISH