An athlete’s life moves quickly and the nine-time Supercross/Motocross champion was not ready to slow down when he retired in 2017 - so Ryan Dungey looked around for something else to fuel his passion and RD Coffee was born.
During years of circling the United States and traveling internationally as an ambassador for motorcycle racing, Dungey drank gallons of coffee. Some of them were good. Some were bad. A few were great.
Anyone who has had a great cup of specialty coffee - that did not come from a can of pre-ground beans from a grocery store and is not doctored up with steamed milk and artificial flavors - knows how subtle the difference between good and great can be. It is much like the tiny differences in a race that build up to seconds at the checkered flag.
The coffee journey starts with the bean and ends in the cup. Any mistakes along the way can ruin the experience.
“I started drinking coffee early in my racing career as a professional,” Dungey told NBC Sports. “I was probably 16 or 17 when I got introduced to it and it grew on me from there. I went from casually drinking coffee on the way to the track, stopping, grabbing a cup and meeting friends. Also it was our thing to do when we were traveling the circuit, going to different cities - different states, different countries. It started to really grow on me, so I developed a passion for it.
“As I learned more, I had friends who had an interest in coffee. It was super interesting to me about what made a good cup of coffee; what made a bad cup of coffee, sourcing the beans - which beans are good, which are not and the whole process down to the roasting side of things. I became fascinated with it all.”
Dungey was a highly touted Supercross 450 class freshman in 2010. In his first top division race, he went toe-to-toe with the rider many assumed would walk away with the championship that year and he came away with a near-miss, finishing second to James Stewart in Anaheim I. He won the next two rounds at Phoenix and Anaheim II. Then he went on to win his first 450 SX championship on the strength of four more victories.
He won the Motocross championship later that year, achieving two of motorcycle’s greatest accomplishments as a rookie.
Ryan Dungey CoffeeFueling that drive was coffee and he knew then that it would become more than something that got him up in the morning and kept him awake all day.
“Back in 2010, that is when I had the dream that I wanted to do something in the coffee industry,” Dungey said. “I didn’t pursue it immediately because my racing career was full time and I didn’t want to have any distractions, so I chose to wait until after racing.
“I decided when it became to time to end my racing - I always thought I would open up a coffee shop - but with everything that was going on I thought it was a lot simpler to set up my own roasting process, roast my own beans and share it with everybody.
“I didn’t have all the overhead (that a shop would) so I could put all the resources into the web development, getting the roaster, getting the build-out set up and it went from there. We launched June 1 last year.”
RD Coffee is a direct-to-consumer e-commerce site.
For most, finding the perfect brewing method is key. But that is only possible because of everything that went into the process before they ever press the button on the grinder. One cannot make a good cup of coffee with a badly-roasted bean. And one cannot achieve a great roast with an inferior cherry.
Roasting coffee is not as simple as putting green beans on a heat source and waiting for it to change color. To get the full flavor of the bean, a roasting profile has to swell and wane like a symphony until the last notes of the allegro fade.
“My biggest concern was dialing in on what roasting processes I wanted to move forward with,” Dungey said. “There was a huge learning curve. I knew a lot, but I needed to hone in on the last details of the roasting process, where I was going to source the beans, the web site. I was a one-man band back then.”
Dungey sat in his garage with a 2.5-pound air roaster and learned by trial and error. He chose air over drum roasting because he believes that provides a more consistent profile. When he thought he had the process right, Dungey asked friends and family to sample the coffee along with him, then took their comments and poured that back into the process.
“I focused on specialty coffees - the highest grades available - and so you’re getting high quality beans,” Dungey said. “As I was going through this process and sampling different origins, the flavors and notes that are inside these beans and being able to adjust the roasting profile to bring out the maximum flavors: When to start, when to stop and the end-temp.
“These beans have lots of flavor. They are really smooth, they are really balanced and complex. I was blown away with how much taste they have.”
Dungey’s first coffee was from Cajamarca, Peru, high in the Andes mountains. He found that a nice medium roast brought out hints of almond, lemon and toffee. And so his first coffee, which he’s named Accelerate, was born. A darker roast was needed for a true espresso, so he combined beans from Colombia and Guatemala to create his most recent offering, Holeshot.
“We know life can be a grind at times and we want to be a small part of your journey in helping you get to the finish line,” reads one of the taglines at RDCoffees.com.
To that end, RD Coffee offers subscriptions that deliver every one, two, three or four weeks. Aficionados can by a single pound or mix and match different varieties - either way, there is a five percent discount that gets substracted from the total. Consumers who subscribe to Dungey’s coffee are entered into a drawing for race-themed merchandise in a monthly giveaway.