Death Wish Coffee’s Mike Brown Spills The Beans On His Company’s Success

Brown founded the renowned coffee company in the basement of Saratoga Coffee Traders in 2012.

Death Wish Coffee
Mike Brown founded the now-über-successful Death Wish Coffee in the basement of Saratoga Coffee Traders in 2012. (Death Wish Coffee)

You could say that I’m a recovering coffee addict. The paraphernalia in my Troy kitchen alone should tell you all you need to know: There’s a French press, a ’60s percolator, a drip coffeemaker and a mini espresso machine. I used to consume coffee by any means necessary, anywhere I could get my hands on it. Then, one day—with the nagging fear of a thousand future anxiety attacks staring me down—I quit, cold turkey. I haven’t drunk a drop since. But every morning, when my wife wakes up and puts on a new pot, that unmistakable aroma makes me want to fall off the wagon. 

The one brand I’d consider breaking my fast with? Saratoga Springs’ own Death Wish Coffee. No offense to saratoga living neighbor Uncommon Grounds, but I’m looking for something that’ll make me want to run a marathon in place. What better way to do it than with the “World’s Strongest Coffee?” Founder and Owner Mike Brown tells me that he started Death Wish in the basement of Broadway’s Saratoga Coffee Traders back in 2012. “My hope for the company was just to give people what they were asking for every day—a highly caffeinated, smooth, bold blend,” says Brown. Three years later, fate came knocking in the form of a Super Bowl advertisement contest. Intuit was offering one small business in the US the chance to run a 30-second spot during the big game—and after months of lobbying fans to vote for them, Death Wish, much to the Capital Region’s amazement, won. Literally overnight, it put the tiny company on the national map, and Brown remembers the second the ad aired, 100,000 people materializing on his website and sales shooting through the roof. 

Since then, the brand’s gone global and has sponsored everyone from the Special Olympics New York and local arena football team, the Albany Empire, to a pair of NASCAR drivers and the New York Comic Con. The brand’s also gone galactic, having rocketed its freeze-dried coffee into space to be enjoyed by astronauts on the International Space Station. (They apparently loved it.) If I ever want to send myself into orbit again, I certainly know how to get it done.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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