JoGo straw
JoGo cofounder Joey Jones rode to Argentina and returned with an idea for making coffee on the go.

Lexington-Hamline resident Joey Jones found inspiration when he embarked upon a two-year, 28,000-mile motorcycle trip from Saint Paul to Argentina’s Patagonia region just a couple of years after graduating from Central High School. Along the way, he came upon an Argentinian “bombilla,” a filtered straw that allows drinkers to imbibe in loose-leaf Yerba Mate tea.

After returning home, Jones led trips as a wilderness guide where breakfast would include coffee for staff and campers. The idea of a bombilla-like device capable of filtering out coffee grounds rather than tea leaves came to him. He spoke to fellow guide Nick Yehle about creating a product for the outdoors market. Several iterations later, they created JoGo, a stainless steel straw that provides a portable way to enjoy coffee or tea while on the go.

The straw became a hit when the two launched a Kickstarter campaign last month to bring the product to market. The device captured a huge audience of outdoor enthusiasts, with the initial goal of $10,000 raised within the first week. As of May 10, $317,000 had been pledged by 7,700 backers from around the world. (See jogostraw.com.)

The rapid fundraising success for JoGo, dubbed “The Original Coffee Brewing Straw,” left Jones in awe. “We have a lot of gratitude for all those people who are interested in this project and see everything that we see in it,” he said. “It’s been pretty wild and pretty exciting.”

Jones’ former boss, California food and wine entrepreneur Lisa Consani, serves as an advisor to JoGo. She figured the product had two strong attractions—the massive market of coffee drinkers and the sustainable design that creates little waste.

“I wasn’t surprised it was successful. I was surprised it was that successful,” she said, referring to the Kickstarter campaign.

JoGo straw
JoGo cofounder Nick Yehle.

Jones, 27, recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in communications and global studies. His resume includes working as creative director for a San Francisco Bay Area firm and as a camp educator and counselor for three organizations.

 

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He said the idea for JoGo came to him on a canoe trip in Ontario that he and Yehle led for Wilderness Inquiry three years ago. They were frustrated with brewing coffee outdoors with bulky hardware, so they tried using a bombilla—adding hot water to the grounds and hoping the device would work.

“The coffee grounds were passing through the holes and filling our mouths up with grounds and the bombilla would get a little clogged,” Jones said. “Nonetheless, we were super-excited about just this potential idea for innovation.”

“We’re doing way better than we could have ever hoped or imagined and so we’re very humbled and grateful for everyone who supported us,” Jones said.

The men wanted a sustainable and affordable tool that would not create as much waste as typical coffee brewing. Coffee grounds were more challenging to filter than tea leaves as Jones and Yehle moved into making prototypes. “It definitely took a lot of rigorous testing,” Jones said. “We’ve went through several prototypes just to find one that didn’t get clogged and that was easy to clean.”

The duo created a reusable 7.8-inch stainless-steel straw, around the size of a pencil, with a slight ergonomic bend. At the bottom is a detachable segment that filters liquid through mesh-covered openings. Users drink through a BPA-free silicone tip. The JoGo allows customers to put coffee in a cup, add hot water, stir and drink. It also works with cocktails, teas or juices.

Coffee drinkers can select any coffee they want and modulate its strength or weakness. That ends “all arguments over what kind of coffee we’re going to bring on the trip,” Jones said.

Yehle said he and Jones are not mechanical engineers or product designers, so it took a while to find the correct mesh and openings to stop coffee grounds from traveling up the straw. According to him, the portable and durable JoGo produces French press-like coffee without staining teeth or creating as much waste as instant, drip or pod-brewed coffee. “There are a lot of advantages to the JoGo,” he said.

Outdoor guide Evan Jones, who is not related to Joey Jones, tried the straw and liked it so much he bought several that he could share with groups on his wilderness trips. Initially, he was skeptical about the straw’s ability to filter coffee grounds, but that never emerged as an issue. “I think it’s a cool concept and I’m excited to be bringing it on trips,” he said.

JoGo retails for around $30, with shipping to start in August or September, but discounts are being offered during the Kickstarter campaign. Jones and Yehle plan to give 5 percent of their profits to Survivor International, an organization that partners with tribal people to fight for their land rights and livelihoods.

“We’re doing way better than we could have ever hoped or imagined and so we’re very humbled and grateful for everyone who supported us,” Jones said.

— Frank Jossi

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