A family from San Francisco stepped up to serve free coffee to essential workers using a gorilla arm

"Since childhood I have seen my mother making coffee for herself every morning. The daily routine fueled my passion for coffee. For the past 8 months, I have been taking a coffee training course and roasting coffee by myself at the school. The experience has been like playing tennis - easy to learn but hard to master.

Image: Benjamin Ramirez
Image: Benjamin Ramirez

I am Ben Ramirez from San Francisco. When San Francisco was first locked down, we had a few days at home to contemplate how we can reciprocate and do out bit for the society. I have two boys, aged 5 and 2, and they constantly asked us, "why some people are still going out to work and risking their lives." I explained that they are essential workers in our neighborhood. The strange phase, my passion for coffee, and my love for the community led me to use one of the windows of my house across the street as the 'Coffee Window'.

Coffee is an integral part of San Francisco's culture. Due to the lockdown, all cafes have closed down, and people could not buy coffee on their way to work. So I decided to serve them free coffee.


The implementation of the idea was very simple. I did not have a website or a twitter handle. I just ordered a sandwich board and drew a sign with chalk that says, 'Free Coffee for Essential Workers'. My elder son, Luca, pulled a gorilla arm out of his toy box, and we decided to use the arm to serve people coffee, thereby maintaining a safe distance.

I started on April 4th and to date I serve around 10-15 cups daily.

The support of my family has been incredible. My wife and I are working full-time with two kids at home, so time management is key. I usually get up at 6 in the morning and make breakfast for the boys while prepping for the coffee window. It takes me about 25 minutes to set up the window for the people and get ready to be opened by 8 am. My wife schedules her meetings in the afternoon. This way I can focus on the window, and she can look after the kids during morning hours. I work full time as a freelance graphic designer for tech companies, hence I can easily multitask. I sit by the window with my laptop and serve coffee while I work. The window is usually open till 12 noon and then I look after the kids while my wife works from home.


When people see the sign 'free coffee', the expectations are not generally high, but after tasting the coffee I serve them they are very surprised. I always get the highest quality beans, and I prepare every cup of coffee individually. I am not brewing a big batch of coffee at once. The best part is when I hand over the coffee mugs to them using the gorilla arm. Everyone gets a good laugh, and these reactions are just priceless.


The coffee window has been extremely important for my family because this small effort has instilled a sense of humanity and love for the community in my sons. My sons are excited to interact with the visitors through the window.

A few days back, my elder son started a small project by hand-painting and distributing his toys to the people from the window. This makes me very proud to see how he is putting an effort to bring a smile on peoples' faces and sharing his creative expression with them.

Essential workers enjoying coffee
Essential workers enjoying coffee by Ben

Currently, I am accepting donations to continue doing this. All the donations are used to buy coffee beans and other supplies. Any surplus is donated to the non-profit North Beach Citizens and SF New Deal. I have also launched a merchandise brand featuring the gorilla arm. The idea behind the merchandize is to give people something in return for their donations. All the money we receive from merchandize goes into charity.

After the lockdown, my plan is to open a café in the neighborhood. Even after the lockdown, I will continue to extend my support to the local non-profit and help my community."


You Humanity pays respect and gratitude to Ben Ramirez and his family for going above and beyond to contribute towards Humanity.

If you know someone who is working for others, please share the story https://www.youhumanity.com/share-your-story

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