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Former Prisoner Becomes California Coffee Entrepreneur

by Scott Grammer

John Krause, an ex-prisoner who served time at San Quentin, has remade himself into a coffee entrepreneur. In October 2014 he opened Big House Beans, a roastery that specializes in coffees made from beans from Ethiopia, El Salvador, Indonesia and Columbia. The beans are not roasted until the last minute to ensure freshness when they are received by the buyers, which include restaurants, cafes and tech companies.

Krause, whose father died protecting him during a motorcycle accident, found himself without either parent when he was four years old. By the time his mother came back into his life when he was seven, she was an addict. Krause was raised by a grandmother. He started drinking at 12, smoking marijuana at 13 and then progressed to crystal meth. 

Krause was arrested for DUI, then a drug possession charge sent him away for two years. He was still using while on parole, and as a result spent a total of 12 years in prison by the time he was 29.

After his last release with nothing but $5 and a BART ticket to his name, he was welcomed by the congregation at Danville’s Community Presbyterian Church. He found employment and encouragement to purchase a refurbished $35,000 coffee roaster, and became determined to use his new position as a business owner to give back to the community. Krause now employs ex-prisoners and holds fundraisers for Concord-based Restore, an organization that assists people in recovery.

“I look back and my heart is broken for the immense levels of ignorance and brokenness in people in prison. Most of them have been abused, neglected or abandoned,” Krause said. “The trend is to overlook them, to push them away as unredeemable. My goal is to break that stigma.” He added, “As we grow, it will always be part of our mission to help men and women who have had challenging upbringings. It would be selfish to not give away what has freely been given to me.”

Big House Beans, which uses the slogan “Coffee with Purpose,” operates a coffee shop in Brentwood, California in addition to its wholesale business. 



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