We’ve seen a lot here at Build-Outs of Summer. All kinds of mobile. All kinds of high-end. All kinds of bootstrap. But we’ve never seen anything quite like Uncle Leroy’s Coffee of Anchorage, Alaska.
This is a pan-roasted, specialty-focused, and Portland-inspired mobile coffee school bus offering pour-over coffee using Hario V60 and Bee House filter devices. The end result produces “a fairly rustic cup of coffee.”
Reserve your judgements, open your mind, and step into the world of Uncle Leroy.
As told to Sprudge by Austin Schwartz.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Uncle Leroy was a miner in Hope, Alaska. Each morning, he roasted coffee beans over his campfire. Home roasting and handcrafting his coffee by pour over became his thing. Some say that prospectors came, by horseback, from Sunrise for a cup.
Uncle Leroy’s Coffee is situated on a 1968 school bus. Patrons step onto the mobile coffee bar and walk towards the slow-brew bar. Behind the counter, they can see the camp stove where coffee is roasted. Coffee is roasted utilizing a bygone method that includes a camp stove and frying pan. Uncle Leroy “roasts on the road.” Coffee is handcrafted by pour over. Patrons hop off the mobile coffee bar with a memorable experience.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
The space was created in my mind. When I stepped into a DIY coffee shop during a visit to Portland, I knew the game had changed. When I arrived back to Anchorage, I roasted my first batch of green beans. The unevenness of roasting on a stove creates a complex flavor profile. After a month of roasting, I found a posting for a 1968 school bus. In that moment, Uncle Leroy’s Coffee was born. I bought the bus from a preacher in Palmer. With the help of others, the interior was stripped. We removed the bus seats and began building a mobile coffee bar. Sinks were installed, a camp stove was fixed to the wall, and a counter was erected. An area within the 20-foot bus was created for patrons to relax and converse while they wait for their pour-over coffee. Two bus seats now face each other. A stool, perhaps from a former shop class, is propped in one corner. Three months into the project, the mobile coffee bar was ready to hit Alaska’s open road.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Uncle Leroy’s Coffee is roasted on the 1968 school bus utilizing a bygone method that includes a camp stove and frying pan. Several hundred years ago, this approach was a commonplace for many people. But, people have forgotten not only where their food comes from, but coffee too. My approach to not only brewing, but also roasting coffee, is to take it slow and create a moment that leaves a lasting impression.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
Uncle Leroy’s Mobile Coffee Bar is equipped with a camp stove and frying pan for roasting. The slow brew bar has a pour-over station with Bee House baskets. When more than two pour overs are ordered, I pull a Hario V60 off the Bunn and place it on top of a mason jar. The Bunn is only used to dispense hot water. And, one gooseneck kettle for pouring water. Next to the grinder is a tall jar containing two items—a thermometer and a pencil-thin brush. This basic setup creates a fairly rustic cup of coffee.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
This summer, I’ve been roasting on the road—mostly farmers markets and food truck carnivals. As we transition to fall, I hope to find one particular parking spot to let the bus settle in to.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Mark Howe, of Palmer, Alaska, brought my daydream to a reality with his mechanical know-how. Friends and family have been a big support as well—especially Francis, Alex, John, Jack, Erik, and of course, my girlfriend, Jamie Sue, as well as my immediate family. Spotted Love Alaska stitched our mason jar coozies and Laura Mancuso is the mobile coffee bar’s resident artist.
What’s the address?
While Uncle Leroy’s Coffee considers Alaska’s open road his home, we primarily serve coffee in the Anchorage bowl.