Bike Baristas Create Coffee with Their Own Pedal Power

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If you see an odd-looking trike tooling around town, pulling into your favorite park or stationed at a festival, step right up. You’re in for a treat. A freshly brewed treat, no electricity required.

The adorable beverage bars on wheels are designed and built by Velopresso Ltd. in London for enterprising baristas and latte lovers around the globe, and eco-friendly elements are a key part of the package.

Baristas Using Their Feet

Edilson Cremonese owns Coffee Hub in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo: Edilson Cremonese

In addition to offering a mode of transportation, pedaling — while the trike is stationary — powers the water pump and grinds the beans.

When the trike is parked and set up to serve, the baristas work from the trike’s saddle, feet on the pedals. Those ordering often relish the experience, even before sipping their steamy espresso or iced latte.

“Seeing them in action, with the barista very efficiently pedal-grinding the coffee beans before their eyes, just makes people smile,” says Amos Field Reid, one of the founders and directors of Velopresso. “The baristas, too, love it. [There’s] the satisfaction of producing perfect coffee with their own energy.”

School Project Sparks Business

Reid and Lasse Oiva were post-grad students studying industrial design at the Royal College of Art in England when they devised and built the prototype for a graduation project. After school, they refined the design and in 2012, launched their business.

Velopresso was conceived against the backdrop of the sustained global renaissance in cycling that is being driven by the desire for more sustainable cities and lifestyles,” the firm’s website says. “We wanted to showcase efficient human-powered, cycling-based technology that could easily replace electrical equivalents, and to instigate more sustainable urban business models.”

Velopresso builds each trike to order, and so far has sent 23 into the world, Reid says.

“There are those that think at first it is a novelty or gimmick, but that is absolutely not what it is,” Reid says. “It is a precision-engineered and highly efficient machine.”

In addition to the pedal-driven equipment on board, the hand-built trikes include an espresso machine that runs on propane. In some countries, a dual-fuel option is offered, enabling the espresso machine to run on gas or electricity, if required.

“We see Velopresso as a small cog in a much bigger wheel of change — a step in the right direction — and are motivated by a determination to be part of a bigger solution,” according to a statement from the business. “By presenting this kind of efficient, fun and more sustainable low-carbon option for a popular and highly visible application — coffee on the go — we hope to encourage more people to take up the challenge of seeking low-energy alternatives for our everyday transportation and service needs. We see the bicycle — one of the simplest but greatest of inventions — as key to our back-to-the-future approach to innovation.”

On the Road with a Coffee Bike

Erin Young, owner of Red Buffalo Café in Colorado, ordered a Velopresso coffee cart for off-site events. The product, she says, combines her passions for biking, brewed beverages and environmental responsibility.

“It was incredibly important to me that this trike use no electricity and be as low impact as possible,” Young says. “The public loves the trike. We fill the espresso boiler through pedaling, we grind the coffee through pedaling, and we get to [locations] through pedaling. This is such a unique device that people can’t help but be attracted to it.”

13 NORTH COFFEE IS BASED IN DAYTON, OHIO. PHOTO: IVAN COLEMAN, COURTESY OF VELOPRESSO LTD.

Across the nation, Edilson Cremonese, a physical therapist and cycling enthusiast, whips up fancy coffee drinks under the palm trees of sunny South Florida.

His Coffee Hub was among Velopresso’s first vendors. He pedals directly to busy parts of downtown Fort Lauderdale. But when he’s hired to set up at private events farther away, he transports the trike by truck.

The low-carbon facets of this mobile business are especially important to James Swafford, owner of Full Turn Coffee in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Anthony Ritter, owner of 13 North Coffee in Dayton, Ohio. Both said they are stocking their beverage bars with eco-preferable accessories, such as biodegradable or compostable drinkware.

Being part of a lower-impact enterprise is wonderful, the vendors say. And if their trikes prompt bystanders to rethink business as usual, even better.

“It’s my message,” Ritter says. “It’s possible [for us] to do something else other than live the way we’ve been living and do business the way we’ve been doing business.”

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Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.