- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Coffee is an experience.

“That’s what’s great about coffee: it’s a different experience for every individual,” said Aaron Ranson, owner of Dry Stack Coffee. “Coffee’s an individual experience. However you best enjoy it, however you want to enjoy it, that’s how you should enjoy it.”

And, said his wife and co-owner Leigh Ranson, “You can enjoy that coffee at home.”

“We can give you the quality of the bean that you can enjoy a really great cup of coffee at home,” she said. “You can achieve a really great cup of coffee at home.”

That’s one reason the two have launched Dry Stack Coffee out of their Danville home, along with the help of their twin girls, Lily and Harper, 6.

The Ranson family moved to Danville in 2014, after spending a lot of time commuting back and forth through his work in music ministry at the Danville campus of Southland Christian Church. That’s how Aaron and Leigh met in the first place - she was in human resources and one of the ones who interviewed Aaron before he started at the church in Lexington.

“My office was downtown in Lexington. All the youth staff, we were off-site, so we never really saw each other that often,” Aaron said.

It was two or three years later when they went on their first date.

“We were set up on a date, actually. It wasn’t a blind date because we knew each other, but it was an arranged date,” he said. It was arranged by friends of theirs who knew the couple and it was a success. They were engaged six months later, and married three months after that. A few years after getting married, their twin daughters Lily and Harper, now 6, were born.

When the church launched the Danville campus, Aaron began splitting time between the two places, before eventually moving full time in 2012. They made the commute for a few years.

“It wasn’t really the drive that made us want to move here, it was the community. We were split between two different communities,” he said. “We really enjoyed working and serving the Danville campus and decided to move here.”

That move could be said as the cause of the launch of Dry Stack Coffee.

“I’m a lifelong - I don’t really like the term ‘coffee snob,’ although that’s probably accurate. I’m a lifelong lover of coffee. I’ve traveled around a good bit and been able to try some really great stuff from all over,” Aaron said. There aren’t many local coffee roasters, he said, and found it became increasingly difficult to get a freshly roasted cup of java, at a decent price.

“Danville’s a neat town, there’s a lot of eclectic people here and a lot of culture here. I thought, if I would enjoy high-quality fresh coffee, then maybe my neighbors would too,” he said.

There are two main types of coffee roasting: drum roasting and air roasting.

“For me, it’s a matter of preference. I prefer the taste of air roasted coffee,” Aaron said. “The first time I tried air roasted, it was really different in a good way. It was light, clean, bright. A lot of drum roasted coffee, you can get a lot of bitterness and bite in the aftertaste. With air roasted coffee, it’s never ever bitter, because of the way the bean is heated evenly.”

All the “chaff” or the exterior part of the coffee which covers the unroasted beans, is blown off, trapped away from the roasted beans. That is different from the drum roasting, which burns the exterior shell away.

He knew that air roasting would be the way to go. Besides being better-tasting, in Aaron’s opinion, it’s also a unique way of roasting - not many roasters go that route commercially.

He’s built up relationships with coffee importers and gets samples from all over the world. All of his coffee remains unblended, and is always single origin, he said.

“I want people to experience the different flavors of every coffee producing country and even each region within the country. That’s why I do only single origin stuff to this point,” Aaron said.

A storage room in the house has been converted, meeting health department standards, to become the roasting room. Big bags of coffee beans wait for their chance in the roaster, while machines are at the ready. Each machine can be programmed for the specific types of coffee to be roasted, creating a profile.

There are few coffee beans to be found that have been already roasted and those that have are heading out the door soon. That’s because everything is fresh, roasted one to two days before leaving, to maintain its freshness. “People are able to taste these flavors - there are some people that I can’t convince that I don’t flavor the stuff,” Aaron said.

He doesn’t. He simply roasts the coffee, allowing the natural flavors to come out. Then, his wife and daughters help with bagging, weighing, and sometimes even grinding, the coffee before delivery. Local deliveries are made twice a week, and subscriptions are available through the website.

The Ransons also set up on Saturdays, at the Boyle County Farmers Market in front of the Danville High School.

Leigh confesses she wasn’t as knowledgeable as Aaron when it came to coffee. “I’m learning,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve learned.”

And that has helped at the market, where they meet people who are coffee connoisseurs and people who have never actually made a cup of coffee in their lives.

“One of our goals is to be approachable,” Leigh said.

Besides helping in that way, Leigh has designed the website and runs the social media for Dry Stack Coffee, relying on her past experiences working with area nonprofits.

The girls love helping, too. Lily is the master at measuring bags of coffee. It’s okay to be a little over on the weight, she said, as long as they are not under.

“We don’t want to cheat our customers,” Lily said, matter-of-factly.

Harper loves helping clean the grinder. Most bags are sold whole bean, but they will grind for preorders and will grind at the farmers market.

Leigh said it’s not a surprise that Aaron wanted to launch this business.

“Aaron’s an entrepreneur at heart. I always knew he would do something, I just didn’t know what it would be,” Leigh said.

They wanted to be thoughtful in their selections, too, extending all the way to the name and the logo. Dry Stack, Leigh explained, is a nod to Kentucky, and the dry stacking masonry method. And, although they initially didn’t want a coffee bean on the logo, they worked with a designer who managed to merge one with the dry stacking in a way that really worked for the family.

Around the same time they launched Dry Stack Coffee, the family resumed the conversation about adoption, something that has been on the hearts of Aaron and Leigh for a long time.

“Adoption is very expensive. We thought, let’s do this at the same time and if it makes money, it can help us with the adoption process,” Aaron said.

It’s been something Aaron and Leigh said they talked about before they were married.

“Before we were dating, I traveled with a woman I worked with. They adopted from China, but her husband couldn’t go. They paid for me to go be her travel companion,” Leigh said. “Adoption had been on my mind, in my heart since then.”

It was something they both thought they’d want to do.

“My nieces are adopted from Russia,” Aaron said. “As Christians, we believe in adoption. We felt like it was something we were passionate about, something we wanted to do. We felt like God had led us down this path.”

Adopting from China meant adopting a child with special needs, they said. China used to do a lot of girl adoptions, but that has morphed into more adoptions of boys with special needs, Leigh said.

The family was placed with a little boy named Feng Hao Nan, and will be named Silas Henry. He’s 17 months old and is believed to have a hole in his heart, although medical reports are limited. It’s been less than a year since they started the process and the family is anticipating a trip in July to meet him for the first time and bring him home. The girls will be going too.

“We thought it was important to experience the whole process. They’re old enough, they’ll remember. They’ll be there to meet him when we do, and we just thought it was really important for them to be there in the beginning and experience that part,” Aaron said.

And, it’s going to be an educational life experience they won’t forget, Leigh said. They’ve tried to prepare them for the trip, the long light, the different food and more.

“We’ve tried to prepare them for what the flight is going to be like, the strenuousness, and the eating,” Aaron said.

“You try to prepare a 6-year-old for not complaining, eating the food. … I’ve told them, there’s always white rice. You can always get your belly full on rice,” Leigh said.

Besides the coffee, the Ransons have been working hard to raise funds, even applying and receiving grants from Lifesong and others.

“We’ve been really really blessed by our community, our families. They’ve been really generous,” Leigh said.

“It’s an expensive endeavor,” Aaron said.

That’s a challenge, Leigh said, and sometimes one that scares prospective parents from adopting, but it’s not an impossible task, she said. You just have to get creative.

“We wanted to pay for everything we could. We had a hard time coming home to our house, sitting on our couch, watching cable TV, and then asking people, ‘Hey, can you help us fund-raise?’ We have cut out and gone without a lot of things, so we can cash flow as much of this as we could,” he said.

That’s about when they started receiving grant money, Leigh said. The family has received four grants. They are using airline miles to cover the family’s flights, enabling them to take the girls.

Through it all, Aaron said, it was faith in God that helped them through.

“We have our faith to fall back on,” Aaron said. “We felt like God led us to do this, we knew he would provide for us, and he absolutely has at every step of the way.”


Information from: The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger, https://www.centralkynews.com/amnews

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