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SF Man Perks Up North Beach Neighbors With Free, Fresh Coffee

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/CNN) -- From his kitchen window, quarantined San Franciscan Ben Ramirez dispenses free coffee with a smile to people in his North Beach neighborhood.

"Even if they don't get a cup of coffee, they can stop at the window and chat," the North Beach resident said.

On average, Ramirez makes about 10 to 15 cups a day. His "regulars" are essential workers.

"We have a lot of people in the neighborhood who either are nurses, doctors or postal workers. They're out there on the front lines risking their lives every day. They deserve something and they're always happy to see us in the morning."

In compliance with the six-feet social distancing guideline, he hands out the coffee with a toy gorilla arm, an idea given to him by his five-year-old son, Luca.

"He's very proud of the fact that it was his idea."

At home coffee shop

Ramirez starts his day early -- around 6:30 a.m.

"We have two kids. They're usually our alarm clock."

After making breakfast for his sons Juno and Luca, he's at his kitchen window from 8 a.m. to noon, serving his community, seven days a week.

"My wife has been gracious to move her meetings to later in the afternoon. So she can watch the boys in the morning and I can hand out my coffee. And then we have lunch together and we hand off and I hang out with the boys. We try and make it a good day."

Ramirez offers two different roasts of coffee: a light roast and a medium roast. Each cup is brewed fresh.

"If someone asks for a coffee, I grind the beans and then I put it in a little filter and do pour-over coffee. I've actually met a lot of neighbors who I didn't know that have been on the same street as me since I've lived here. So that's a big plus of doing this too."

The beginning of a dream

Ramirez has been a designer for 20 years.

"I work in tech. So I manage design teams and creative teams, building out their apps and websites for startup companies." But one of his dreams is to open a café and a coffee roasting company.

"I've been doing a lot of training for that -- getting certified in roasting coffee and barista work. And sensory work -- being able to pick out flavors and quality of coffee beans."

The coffee connoisseur already had most of the supplies he needed for his latest project.

"I did an order on Amazon of cups and lids and I bought a sandwich board too and a letter board for a menu."

Customers can request additions to their coffee -- what Ramirez calls a secret menu option.

"When we were just starting to shelter in place, my wife ordered cases of oat milk and almond milk. So, I have plenty of milk to put in people's coffee if they want it."

And now that most coffee shops are closed due to the pandemic, the aspiring barista's small gesture is bringing a big sense of joy to a neighborhood he's lived in for two decades.

While the coffee is free, Ramirez is accepting donations through Venmo.

"We are in a little neighborhood called North Beach. There's a very vibrant and historical coffee scene here. I think a lot of people are missing that social interaction. It's been nice to bring the community together."

KPIX 5's Joe Vazquez contributed to this report
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