"I see my roaster pass me on I-70 and flip upside down on the median," Jurgens recalls.
He kicked open his door and pulled his passenger, Brent Larson, free. They watched as a river of gasoline ignited and headed straight for the 12-kilo roaster that Jurgens had just purchased in Memphis.
"I'm just watching it burn," Jurgens says, "And then I bawled like a baby." Ambulances took the men to Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence. It looked like the end of E.F. Hobbs, LLC.
Three and a half years later, the hospital is one of his main coffee clients.
Good morning, welcome to the big orange truck," booms a big voice from inside a very big orange truck thrumming in the March sunshine.
Jurgens is a 6-foot-4-inch, 275-pound coffee nerd, with a white goatee crawling halfway down his neck, a bullring-shaped earring in each ear and, this morning, a blue-paisley bandanna on his head. His food truck, CoffeeCakeKC (the cake part: coffee cake and cupcakes by the catering outfit 3 Women and an Oven), is parked in Olathe's Technology Park at 118th Street and Renner Road, as it has been every Tuesday and Wednesday, from 7 to 10 a.m., since last summer. He spends Thursdays in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, organizing "block parties" - his name for the regular stops he makes in the Crossroads District.
He identifies regulars by their drinks, making a white mocha, drip coffee and Southern-style latte (he adds sugar to the milk and then steams it) before they've even reached the window. New customers get Jurgens-sized advice.
"The Panama is sweet and fat, like your uncle," he advises one woman as she decides which bag of coffee to buy.
"This is probably the best coffee cake you've ever tasted," Jurgens tells a man in a green polo shirt.
"You're a peach," says a woman in a green sweater as she collects her white mocha.
With only 10 minutes left on the stop, his black Android phone continues to ring with orders. Gold Sacagawea dollars - the vending machines at nearby Farmers Insurance kick them out as change - pile up in his cash box. Each sale is recorded on a green diner ticket. His wife, Melanie, the accountant and website manager for E.F. Hobbs, enters the totals into QuickBooks each night.
Jurgens is fighting with a broken water pump this morning, but his mood is upbeat as he shuffles between a purple refrigerator and the woodgrain counter that holds a grinder, an espresso machine and a Häagen-Dazs blender. "Running this coffee truck is a bit like gold mining," he says. "You just have to keep it going."
Moments before he drives away, Jurgens takes a sip of drip coffee - one of the 50 daily ounces that he drinks. "Coffee is America's drug of choice, and I'm getting high on my own supply," he jokes.
He's headed for the next neighborhood, with the hope that he can hook everyone there on what he's selling. From 6 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 6, his plan is to target the swarm of First Friday gallerygoers - CoffeeCakeKC parks in the Truck Stop in the Crossroads (21st Street and Wyandotte) that night.
Jurgens came to Kansas City in 1993 as an Air Force veteran looking for a job. He had applied to be a cop in Las Vegas but wasn't accepted to that city's police academy. With family in Missouri, he ended up at Sprint, a company where a former avionics technician could catch on as an engineer. He took a buyout just two weeks shy of his 14th anniversary with the telecommunications company.
The first coffee he roasted at home was in a pan on a grill, the beans dancing as they cracked open with heat. "I was watching the science unfold in front of me and I was hooked," he says.
His next experiment employed a modified popcorn popper fused with a convection oven; he could air-roast a half-pound of coffee at a time. He graduated to an electric roaster that produced 4 pounds at once. (He had gone to the former Crossroads restaurant JP Wine Bar to look at espresso cups that had been advertised for sale, and he left with the roaster instead.)
After the November 2008 car crash, he turned to Craigslist to replace the lost roaster. After a crash-free car trip to California the next year, E.F. Hobbs - shorthand for "extreme f-ing hobbyist" - was born in June 2009.
Jurgens initially focused on roasting, signing up three clients: Centerpoint; the Hy-Vee at 87th Street and Pflumm, in Lenexa; and Homer's Coffee House, in Overland Park. He buys green coffee from importer Zephyr Coffee and has it shipped from New Orleans to the Paris Brothers warehouse downtown. Monday is roasting day, when Jurgens estimates that he finishes about 100 pounds a week in a rented space behind a plumbing plant in Lenexa. He has room enough there, he says, eventually to do about 2,000 pounds a week - the 18-kilo roaster from California can produce 100 pounds an hour.
When a friend of a friend introduced him in 2010 to Renee Kloeblen, the cake creator behind Ms. Nene's Takes the Cake Bakery, Jurgens saw a new route to reach customers: a food truck. CoffeeCakeKC was licensed in December 2010. A year later, when Kloeblen decided to step back from her business, Jurgens partnered with 3 Women and an Oven. The Overland Park bakery began serving his coffee in March.
He sees the success of start-ups like Oddly Correct and the established presence of the Roasterie and Parisi not as competitors but as benchmarks for his own goals. "Kansas City is blessed with phenomenal coffee," Jurgens says. "It gives us something to shoot for."