Coffee break

These 3 future ‘coffee docs’ love java so much, they created a startup to sell specialized coffee products

Frequent visits to local coffeeshops inspired these osteopathic medical students to establish their own coffee business—while also juggling medical school.

Come relax and grab a cup of joe with the bros! These future “coffee docs” are brewing up something special. The three-man barista bro squad behind CoffeeDocs Co. are Bryce Piro, OMS III, Brody Fogelman, OMS III, and Alexander Holland, OMS III, all current students at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Carolinas (VCOM-Carolinas).

Now in their third year on the road to residency, coffee has taken on a new therapeutic approach in their medical journey. This month, we ask the important questions and get the inside story on how these students and TikTok comedians who had a slight coffee addiction became full-blown coffee entrepreneurs.

This trio has big plans for their online business, with the goal of helping improve physicians’ mental health along the way. Please raise your mug for a toast as we celebrate this month’s DOs to Know—osteopathic medical student edition! Following is an edited Q&A.

How did CoffeeDocs come about?

In our first year of medical school at VCOM-Carolinas, we started making medical comedy TikTok videos, just to have a break from studying, and over time they started to take off.

At a certain point, Bryce thought, “We should turn this into a fun and applicable product that we, our friends from school and our new social media friends could enjoy.”

While studying (after driving to Starbucks for his third coffee of the day) Bryce thought about how much easier it would be to just have a bunch of iced, ready-to-drink coffees in his fridge instead of driving to and from coffee shops multiple times a day. He came to us, his roommates, and said, “Why don’t we make our own?” We thought it was crazy at first, but the more we looked into it, the more it seemed like something we could pull off!

After about three months of coffee research, tastings and hours of boring business logistics, we had our company and our first product fully up and running: Our 12 oz. nitro brew coffee cans!

Student doctors Fogleman, Piro and Holland celebrate their white coat ceremony.

How do you juggle medical school and a burgeoning coffee business simultaneously?

Ha! People always ask us this and we try to explain it this way: We are so used to long hours studying or training in clinics. When we get home and work on CoffeeDocs, while it’s still technically work, it almost feels like a break to get a chance to work on the light-hearted projects that we enjoy. And of course, we drink a lot of caffeine!

What is your favorite way of making coffee during a study session? How can others enjoy these drinks at home?

Piro: I am definitely more of a traditional coffee drinker and prefer it black. However, since the creation of CoffeeDocs, I have developed a unique way of preparing my cups! My personal preference is to take a glass out of the freezer and then give a can of CoffeeDocs a firm pour into it. Because our coffee is nitrogenated, that method creates a thin foam layer at the top of the glass that makes for a super smooth sip!

Fogelman: My go-to coffee mix starts with pouring some chilled CoffeeDocs from a Snapchill can over a bunch of ice. Because I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth when it comes to coffee, I always throw in a splash of caramel almond creamer to make it just right. The cool thing about CoffeeDocs is that we don’t add sugar to our coffee, so everyone can jazz it up however they want.

Holland: My favorite study coffee is the CoffeeDocs cold brew straight over ice. I prefer the pure coffee flavor, so I don’t add any flavored creamer, just a splash of whole milk.

How are the coffee beans and products that CoffeeDocs makes different than mainstream coffee?

As lifelong coffee drinkers and current medical students, we had specific goals when choosing a blend and creating our product. We understood the demanding schedule and hours of doctors and medical students, so we wanted to ensure our beans had as much natural caffeine as possible, but it was also very important to us to not just choose a bean strictly based on caffeine content and sacrifice flavor. This started a multi-month search for the perfect combo of caffeine and flavor that eventually led us to a naturally high-caffeine Arabica coffee bean. We also discovered an advanced production process that brews the coffee hot and instantly chills it to lock in full flavor and caffeine concentration.

Medium roast coffee cans and other products can be purchased on the CoffeeDocs website.

CoffeeDocs was a sponsor at OMED23. What was that experience like for the team?

Being a sponsor at OMED was an awesome experience! It was a great opportunity to share our coffee with osteopathic medical students and physicians from across the country. As you can imagine, in a conference center filled with DOs and med students, there was a large demand for coffee! We were so busy pouring drinks that we forgot to take a picture, but at one point, we had a line down the hall of folks waiting for samples. We had a lot of fun talking and swapping stories with fellow students. It was so cool to hear about the little differences between our schools. CoffeeDocs was grateful for the opportunity, and we would love to be a part of any future AOA events!

What are the future plans for the CoffeeDocs brand?

We’re still in the early phases, but we have three main goals for CoffeeDocs:

The first is to find a way to get CoffeeDocs into a few preliminary hospitals or outpatient cafés, vending machines, grab-and-gos, etc. We want products to be available at any location where health care workers will get a chance to see the brand and give our coffee a try.

The second is more product-specific. We’re working hard to add a flavored option to our menu. We are currently going through taste tests and hope to have either a vanilla or caramel option ready for production sometime next year.

Lastly, because we’re still in the early phases, we haven’t earned much of a profit, but we’re actively looking for a physician suicide prevention/mental health charity to collaborate with and dedicate a portion of our proceeds to. When our profits begin to grow, we’ll be ready to do some good.

You can find the CoffeeDocs on Instagram, TikTok and on their website.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

What’s cooking? ‘TheChefDoc’ Colin Zhu, DO, serves up lifestyle and culinary medicine

Students and health policy: The importance of getting involved and where to start

One comment

  1. B. Carnett

    Nice diversion, good work.
    Hope it’s not a sign of early burn out :(
    Love to see outside business interest but have to wonder if they’re seeing the dark side of medicine in 2024 already, hope not.

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy