The idea of Bulletproof coffee tends to be disconcerting for even the most adventurous foodies. This trending health drink takes your average cup of joe and adds in medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and grass-fed, unsalted butter. Yes, butter. In coffee. For those intrigued by this trend, but offended by a heaping of butter in their drink, LVL. Coffee Co has a solution.

The Cal Poly Student Behind LVL.

Ashley Ladin

Blake Hester, a fifth year Agricultural Business major at Cal Poly, noticed people's hesitation to drink Bulletproof coffee. Their main concern? Drinking butter.

Hester and his father have both been drinking Bulletproof coffee for years and have witnessed it positively affect their energy. Seeing a need for a more approachable alternative, Hester decided to bridge the gap.

"It started over this past Winter Break. My Dad would wake us all up at 4:30 every morning by blending the ingredients needed for his Bulletproof coffee. It's just a pain. I realized there's only two ready-to-drink options on the market and both of them contain dairy and some sugar. That's where I saw a need." Hester said.

Creating a Better Alternative

The need was for a ready-to-drink, Bulletproof-esque coffee, sans butter. By removing butter, but keeping the MCT oil, Hester created a drink that provides the same health benefits as Bulletproof coffee. LVL. Coffee Co was born: Goodbye butter, hello dairy-free, sugar-free and vegan.

LVL. Coffee Co's only product at the moment is its cold brew. The coffee is brewed using an immersion technique which involves soaking the coffee grounds in room temperature water for 12 to 24 hours. This common technique for cold brew coffee avoids extracting the bitter oils of coffee beans, resulting in a smoother, less acidic coffee with more caffeine.

coffee, chocolate, cereal, espresso, cappuccino, mocha, sweet, black beans
Abby Reisinger

After the immersion, MCT oil (fractionated coconut oil) is added in, providing nine grams of saturated fat. Hester stresses MCT oil is a healthy saturated fat. Medium chain fats, as opposed to long chain fats, are easily digested and quickly converted into energy.

Fat also slows down the metabolism of caffeine, helping provide more sustainable energy and a longer-lasting feeling of fullness. LVL. Coffee Co — pronounced level — was named with this fact in mind. The drink is intended to help keep your energy stable, and therefore level, throughout the day.

Senior Project to Actual Business

Ashley Ladin

LVL. Coffee Co is moving quickly. Hester originally just considered this drink a good option for his senior project, but soon came to see its potential as a full-blown business. Over winter break alone, Hester thought of the company, refined the recipe, set up an LLC and learned Adobe Illustrator to design the logo. The product was approved to sell the first week of January.

Since the start, most bottles have been sold through the company's social media platforms, namely their Instagram. However, Hester is starting to get the brew into physical stores. At the beginning of January, Lincoln Market & Deli became the first location to sell LVL. Coffee Co. At the beginning of February, LVL. became available on Cal Poly's campus at both Campus Market and Julian's.

Ashley Ladin

Approximately 450 units are being sold each week. Once the company is selling around 800 units a week, Hester will consider moving to Los Angeles or San Francisco to continue growing the business. For now, San Luis Obispo is the right fit. 

"I think San Luis Obispo is the perfect hub for the business right now. The three demographics we try to hit are active, adventurous and ambitious. I feel like SLO, and Cal Poly more specifically, just hit on that perfectly." Hester said. 

SLO and Beyond

Ashley Ladin

With a growing fan base and availability, LVL. Coffee Co is on the road to success. Hester created a drink not only fitting for Cal Poly students in need of an energy boost, but any coffee-lover who expects more in a brew. The company has quickly gained popularity in San Luis Obispo and has the potential to spread beyond our college town. If that ends up being the case, remember, SLO got the first sips.