At DBS HQ, almost all of our work is fueled by coffee. I picked up the habit from my grandfather who taught me that black is the only way to drink a cup*. He also instilled in me the ability to largely overlook the quality of the bean, favoring quantity over quality.
Cue Strauss’ theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have seen the error of my ways. After years of drinking Yuban and grocery store brand coffee, I have been introduced to Lock-N-Load Java. I was an instant fan for three reasons: Flavor, Potency, and Company Values.
Read on for an exclusive Lock-N-Load offer for DBS readers at the bottom of this post!
* I agree with Grandpa on this point but I reserve the right to enjoy the occasional grande mocha frappucino when nobody is looking. Don’t tell him, though.
Interview with Carl
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Carl (President of Lock-N-Load and retired LTC). He answered some of the questions I had for him about the coffee and the company. He has given me permission to share his responses with you guys.
DBS: Your website explains that you donate $1 to military charities like Our Military Kids and the National Military Family Association. Are there any other ways Lock-N-Load supports our troops?
LNL: As you mentioned, we donate $1 per bag to a number of great charities that we have vetted to ensure they spend the money well and most of it gets to the recipients rather than supplementing the salaries of the directors. We are shifting this program to highlight one charity each month. Next month will be The Mission Continues. Each month we will support another charity. This gives us a ton of satisfaction because besides helping vets, a lot of the charities we support help military families as well.
We discount our troop packages and pay for shipping downrange. We understand that a great cup of coffee during deployment is so much more than just a great cup of coffee–been there and done that. Anything that breaks through all the blur, noise, and suck of a deployment is a little bit of heaven.
We donate coffee to send to units downrange as well. We give what we can personally afford to donate (my accountant keeps telling us we are too generous to the troops but she says it with a smile because she loves that we do it) and we use donations from customers to random units to augment that. If you are going to support the troops with something more than a bumper sticker, send ’em coffee. They will get more out of that than most of the other junk being sent downrange. We allow folks to order troop packages for units they want to support as well. We almost always stick in a little something extra from Lock-N-Load Java (a bag clip, a mouse pad, etc.) as a way of saying “thanks for your service.” We try especially hard to pad those packages going to COP’s or units who have an outside the wire mission.
We sponsor a number of events honoring Fallen Heroes and their families or supporting wounded warriors as well. These range from the Ranger Appreciation Golf Tournament to the Wounded Marine Fishing Tournament, to the National Disabled Veteran Winter Sports Clinic and many, many others.
I personally volunteer at the VA PTSD clinic and speak at a number of events regarding many military related topics to try and help civilians better understand veterans, the military, our culture, and our ethos. I also speak a lot at entrepreneur events and talk about our business and giving back. I’ve worked with the Small Business Administration to help educate vets on how to best utilize their services.
DBS: It seems like a cup of Lock-N-Load packs a stronger punch than the swill we are used to drinking at DBS HQ. Why is that?
LNL: First, Lock-N-Load is only made from premium coffee beans (the top 2% in the world). 100% Arabica beans (which are better and more expensive than the robusta beans that so many companies are blending into their bags now a days). Second, we take care to preserve the coffee’s excellence and flavor at every step in the process.
Oxygen, light, moisture, and heat are the elements that deteriorate coffee’s flavor and strength. We package the coffee in one-way bleeder valve bags to ensure that no oxygen gets in and we store it in a dry, cool, dark place until shipping.
Our coffee is some of the freshest stuff you will drink. We usually ship it just days after roasting it and you are drinking it a few days later. Therefore, excellent premium coffee, plus diligence in handling and storage, plus freshness all make it pack a stronger punch.
LNL: The different roasts have to do with flavor profiles my wife and I chose for each of our blends. We literally spent six weeks dialing in the different blends, adding different types of beans to give it the flavor profile we were looking for. It is kind of like baking a cake. You choose ingredients and mix them together for the taste you want. We use African beans for one flavor, Central American beans for another, Indonesian beans for another, Hawaiian beans for another, etc.
So, for example, our Double Tap is designed to be a smoky, bold, chocolatey taste so we used Sumatran and Ethiopian beans as the primary ingredients and then roasted it to a medium profile. Delicious! Our Warrior Select is designed to have some of those same characteristics but a brighter and slight syrupy taste that we love–so we used Columbian, Costa Rican, and Sumatra beans and roasted to a medium dark profile. Our most popular blend. So the short answer is that the different blends have different flavor profiles based on different beans and roasts.
DBS: You won an ROTC scholarship while you were serving as an enlisted Soldier. How do you think a mustang’s perspective differs from that of an officer who started out as an O-1?
LNL: Listen, there are good officers who have never been smoked by a drill, had their heels locked by a SgtMaj, bonded in a soupy foxhole, or felt the satisfaction of an NCO giving them a thumbs up for a job well done–but you simply can not replace the experience of being “lower than whale shit” in the military food chain and catching everything that rolls downhill.
When you have been there, you think about things differently and you try to cut out as much of the BS and REMF craziness as you can. I didn’t get hung up on the garrison crap as much and tried to focus on what would make us more effective in combat. I had a better sense of where guys were coming from and the impact of my actions and decisions. It made me a better officer overall for sure.
Even though it is unrealistic, I personally think every officer should have to serve a couple of years enlisted. Having said that, I have met some guys who came up through the ranks who have an attitude of “I’ve got nothing to learn from my NCO’s because I’ve been there and done that.” Bottom line, the military functions when you have a core of rock solid, experienced, smart, and caring NCOs. Add high quality, tough, and motivated recruits and top it off with officers who are smart, fearless, willing to listen and learn, dedicated to their troops (service leadership) and who lead by example from the front… and you have a military that will kick some serious ass!
DBS: What is in your mug right now? (apart from the whiskey, that is)
LNL: I love high quality products, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to expensive. I just like well designed and constructed stuff–whether it is gear, guns, cars, food, or drink. I am a whiskey drinker. Good scotch (Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Talisker), rye (High West Distillery), and bourbon (Basil Hayden, Woodford). I also like good tequila (Herradura Anejo, Partida Reposado). I drink mostly German beer, Guinness, or American Craft brews. I hate light beer.
As far as coffee goes, I really do love all our blends. I love our Task Force Zulu line of single origin coffees. These are not blended but are just straight from one farm/estate and have a unique flavor profile. Today I am drinking our TF Zulu Ethiopian–outstanding!
DBS: Who is your favorite DBS character and why?
LNL: I love almost all of them. I definitely relate to COL Duffy since I am a dad with a daughter who is dating. I like the dog soldiers because they slog through whatever comes their way and just deal with it. They have a good dry sense of humor. I am a big fan of the SF weasel super secret Fight Club dude.
I like Lucky’s buddy–cause he has Lucky’s back and is a straight up good dude. But also like Lucky, Sam, monkey and others. Can’t remember Lucky’s girlfriend‘s name but like her – she is smokin’ haha! You guys keep us laughing!
DBS: Thank you for your time, Carl. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
LNL: We are proud of our company and our mission. This is a labor of love for both my wife and me. I lucked out when I met my wife while stationed at Ft Lewis. I’d just come back from 6 months in Central America and was not looking for a girlfriend, much less a wife–but I was smitten.
She made me work for it and eventually acquiesced to go out on a date. We dated 6 months, then I deployed for another 6 months to the Sinai Egypt. After 2 years and me getting ready to PCS I finally wised up and asked her to marry me. After 23 plus years of marriage, she has stuck with me through every deployment, moves, new jobs, two kids, remodeling homes, starting a business, etc. She is the best. I think military wives in general have a very tough gig and do not get enough credit. In our business I often get all the credit but Lori is my business partner and a huge factor in our success.
People often ask me what makes us successful and I always say that it is three things: 1) loving what we do–our coffee and our troops, 2) being authentic and honest, and 3) serving our customers (service leadership means truly caring for those you lead and serve–I apply that to our business).
Sorry for making you read through War and Peace–haha–but the coffee just got me going.
Special offer for our readers: Carl has set up a discount for DBS fans who need a coffee fix. Enter the code DBS during checkout to get $2 off every order over $20.