On the Passing of Jim Karr

jim karrThough it is spread all over the globe, the specialty coffee community is like a close-knit family. And when a family loses a member, everyone feels it deeply. This past weekend, we lost Jim Karr, one of the coffee community’s most beloved and respected figures.

Jim’s work was in – as SteamVolt, the company he founded, put it – “the mechanics of craft coffee”. His understanding of coffee flavor and the exacting technical requirements to make great coffee happen were the foundation of his career, and he was admired as one of the country’s leading experts on this important aspect of the coffee craft. SteamVolt was an admired and important company in the coffee industry. Jim himself was respected by everyone, and served as a technical advisor to some of the most important coffee organizations in the world. But his knowledge and technical prowess, while legendary, was not what made him so important to the coffee community.

News of Jim’s death brought an outpouring of feeling from all over the world. The overwhelming number of people expressing public grief surprised even his closest friends. Stories of Jim’s generosity, tutelage, friendship and mentorship poured in from all over the country – painting a portrait of a person who was not just a leader in his field, but who was a genuine human being who had touched people’s lives deeply.

It takes a remarkable person to make so many people feel so connected. It’s clear that Jim had a unique, quiet, powerful way of making people feel smarter, stronger, and more connected to each other. It is an amazingly powerful thing to have that sort of effect on such a large community. Jim had that power, and it is one of the few purely good kinds of power that exist in this world. Jim made the coffee world better, but he made the larger world better at the same time.

The entire coffee community expresses our deep regrets to Jim’s family today, on what would have been his 49th birthday. Jim’s influence extended across the world, which is an incredible testament to a truly special person. Jim’s death is a tragic loss. We are all grateful for his remarkable contribution to the industry, and are even more grateful for his remarkable gift of humanity, generosity, and friendship to our community.