Food & Drink | August 2, 2022 6:00 am

These Rockford Firefighters Are Making Excellent Small-Batch Coffee

“We say if you can see through it, then it’s too weak”

FDC; Run By Firefighters
FDC; Run By Firefighters
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Coffee (unsurprisingly) plays a vital role in the lives of firefighters, according to veteran firefighter Jason Patton. No matter if you come to work in the morning or the evening, he says, “the shift before has a pot going.”

“If they’re not running a call, everyone sits around the breakfast table or the dinner table, and we all kind of have our cup of coffee and brainstorm what the day is gonna be like,” he says. “Coffee is truly what brings firefighters together.”

It’s part of what inspired CEO Luke Schneider, a retired firefighter/paramedic and a U.S. Navy veteran, to found Fire Department Coffee back in 2016. Today, a team of 35 now works to craft a range of roasts and blends, featuring a choice of light, medium and dark roasts.

“We find that a lot of firefighters prefer the Original Medium Roast Coffee, which is where it all started for Fire Department Coffee,” says Schneider, and Patton, the brand’s VP, agrees.

“Medium roast is my go-to,” he says. “That’s our highest seller, and it’s personally my favorite. It’s more on the dark side of the medium spectrum, which I love, with a balance of flavor that’s just incredible.”

Perhaps most importantly, it only gets better the stronger you brew it — a must for firefighters, he says, who like their coffee on the assertive side.

“We say if you can see through it, then it’s too weak,” Patton explains. And as opposed to other brands where, he asserts, “the stronger you make it, the more bitter it becomes,” FDC’s coffee only becomes even more multifaceted and rich.

In addition to these roasts, the company also produces a line of spirit-infused coffees, like Black Cherry Bourbon or Patton’s favorite, Irish Whisky.

“It literally tastes like the perfect hints of caramel, toffee, in with the wonderful balanced flavors of coffee,” he says.

And of course, for those who can’t take the caffeine, there’s always decaf.

“I used to be able to drink it as much as I wanted to and still be able to go to sleep,” says Patton, “but I just turned 39 this year, and apparently your body starts fighting back. I’ve learned that if I actually want to sleep well at night, which I barely do anyway because of my job, I better stop around five o’clock.”

If Patton barely sleeps, it’s not just because he’s out fighting fires. Indeed, he wears many hats, and in addition to his work as a full-time firefighter and company VP, Patton is also in charge of the social media side of things. Via Fire Department Chronicles, he brings out the lighter side of his demanding job, notably with green-screened videos mythbusting some of the most far-fetched scenes in firefighter dramas. (Try not to laugh as Patton exasperatedly points out a window near a homeowner trapped behind an “exploding red wine maze of death,” a suggestion that falls on the deaf ears of the on-screen members of Station 19 hell-bent on going through said maze instead of, uh, around.) 

“The most enjoyable portion of my job is genuinely getting to create visual products that mean people can disconnect from their jobs as first responders — the turmoil and insanity that they see on a daily basis,” he says. “They get to watch a video, laugh for a few minutes, get the endorphin and serotonin releases and actually get to mentally relax. So I get to help them caffeinate and then relax as well.”

And that’s not the only way he is helping firefighters as a result of his work. The Fire Department Coffee Foundation gives 10 percent of its net profits to those who have sustained on-the-job injuries or other health challenges.

“A hundred percent of anything that goes into that Foundation goes directly to helping sick and injured first responders,” says Patton, highlighting funds used to help first responders get into mental health treatment facilities or even a recent $10,000 check given to one first responder who had lost a leg to cancer. It’s a way for the company to make an even deeper difference and something that, according to Patton, he and Schneider are “truly passionate about.”