Despite coffee being a necessary start to many people’s day, few know the details of coffee production. From choosing farmers to carefully roasting and brewing, a lot goes into every cup of coffee, and the people at the LAB – a marketing group for beverage companies – decided it was time to educate the coffee consumer. So in 2011, the Caffeine Crawl was born. Three participating cities, Denver included, launched this fun event for people to learn the nuances of the coffee business. Four years later it’s still going strong, and with six routes this year, Denver has included a great host of local coffee favorites. Many of these will be shops you know and love, but some may be new to you. Read on for the low down on the participating Denver coffee shops in this year’s Denver Caffeine Crawl — happening on August 15 — so you can choose which route you’d like to join, and don’t forget to comment with your personal favorites…
*For more info on the event, including tickets and times go here.*
Pigtrain Coffee Co.
Where: 1701 Wynkoop St, Denver
Routes: 1, 2 and 4
Kicking off the first route at Union Station, Pigtrain Coffee Company serves up a delicious brew with a side of Denver history. Old photos of the original train station decorate the walls and next door in Milkbox Ice Creamery, people can see the most perfectly preserved corner of Union Station with original mirrors and floors. Visitors should take advantage of the proximity of the ice cream shop, which serves acclaimed Littleman ice cream, and try a scoop of ice cream with a shot of Conscious Coffee espresso poured on top. This sweet concoction is known as an affogato, and since it needs ice cream, it’s not often available at coffee shops. The alcoholic coffee beverages are inventive, delicious and also worth a taste – just make sure to pace yourself so you’re not biking with too much of a buzz.
Corvus Coffee Roasters
Where: 1740 S Broadway, Denver
Routes: 1 and 5
Corvus Coffee Roasters is the quintessential clean, modern coffee shop complete with sophisticated baristas and fantastic espresso. Corvus only works with single estate and privately owned farms and is thoroughly involved with all of its suppliers to make sure it is providing the best coffee it can. More info about its mission and small batch, European roasting style can be found on its website. Corvus, like Novo, really made a name for itself with its nitro cold brew coffee, but it didn’t stop there. The artisans at Corvus have taken it even further and created a hopped cold brew, that is, just as it sounds, cold brew coffee with dry hops in it. By adding the bitter hoppy flavor to their smooth cold brew, Corvus has created a new refreshing coffee drink that might replace its alcoholic relative as the summer beverage of choice.
Where: 1 S Broadway, Denver
Routes: 1 and 5
Decorated with glass brewing contraptions that look like something from a mad scientist’s lab, this cafe’s baristas are extraction aficionados. With three brew methods available in addition to typical espresso extraction and normal drip coffee, Metropolis is the place to hone your tasting skills for nuanced flavor differences. Metropolis offers coffee made with the V60, a drip pour-over style brewing method, the Chemex, also a pour-over style using a single hourglass-shaped beaker, and the AeroPress, a sort of variation on French press coffee that involves a long tube sitting on top of the mug and a plunger to push the water through the grounds and out the bottom. Customers can try the Metropolitan, an espresso or cortado, next to a 4oz aero-press to compare side by side, or they can commit to one brewing style and try a Coffee Flight of three different blends made using their method of choice.
Amethyst Coffee Co.
Where: 1111 Broadway St, Suite 101, Denver
Routes: 1, 3 and 4
Amethyst Coffee Co.’s clean, modern space is a breath of fresh air in the Denver coffee scene. Run by young female Owner Elle Taylor and her loyal crew, the purple accents add a feminine flair intended to make customers feel refreshed and relaxed as they settle in and choose their drink. Amethyst looks to provide options to its customers, so all of the espresso beans are kept in single portion containers allowing a customer to choose from a variety of espressos for any drink they’d like. The innovation doesn’t stop there as customers also have the opportunity to try owner Elle Taylor’s espresso creation, the Shakerato, which is espresso and simple syrup shaken over ice. The unique tea-like flavor of this beverage makes it the perfect choice for any adventurous coffee drinkers looking to try something new.
Copper Door Coffee
Where: 932 Jersey St, Denver
Routes: 2, 5 and 6
The first female-owned coffee shop in Denver, Copper Door focuses on simply good coffee. The coffee is craft-roasted in small batches only – 8 pounds at a time at the most – to create a particularly high quality brew that is carefully monitored to provide you with a really impressive cup. Owner Hannah Ulbrich specializes in dark roasts, so we recommend trying a cup of any dark roast available while visiting.
Also at this location will be the Backyard Soda Co., a pop-up soda stand that makes handcrafted simple syrups with pure cane sugar and a variety of fruits, herbs and spices. There’s a large flavor spectrum for these natural sodas so let the experts at Backyard Soda Co. recommend something different and fun to try.
The Sophisticate’s Tea
Where: Benedict Fountain Park, 401 E 20th Ave, Denver
Routes: 2 and 5
The origin story of this independent tea cart is as simple and sweet as its signature chai. Owner Trinity Hindman created the chai recipe as a Christmas present while she was a young mother struggling to pay the bills. The chai grew in popularity from there until she was able to build a company around it. Now Sophisticate’s Tea sells its chai concentrate wholesale for people to make at home and travels to different locations with its own tea cart. While on this caffeine crawl, the chai provides the perfect reprieve from all of the coffee as well as the perfect representation of ingenuity and determination.
Black Black Coffee
Where: 3459 Ringsby Ct, Denver
Routes: 3 and 6
Started as a social experiment to see how customers would react when only black coffee was available, Black Black coffee has grown from a cart into a full-fledged coffee shop committed to serving coffee without any cream or sugar. It has expanded to espresso drinks as well, but its commitment to the flavor of straight black coffee still stands. A variety of roasters are provided for customers to experiment with, and every Wednesday at noon they offer a free “cupping” where they show attendees how to taste coffees side by side and learn the nuances of flavor. Visitors should come to Black Black Coffee open to trying well-roasted coffee served very black and they may walk away with a new favorite, simple way of drinking coffee.
Where: 955 Lincoln St, Denver
Routes: 1 and 4
A family-owned coffee shop located in Denver’s Golden Triangle, Drip Denver doesn’t overthink its place in the Denver coffee scene. It simply offers great coffee along with a comfortable environment, encouraging customers to stay a while. Drip Denver focuses on local supplies for its food and beverages and it serves all of the standard espresso drinks as well as some alcoholic coffee options due to its full liquor license. Among these coffee and alcohol combinations, there is a classic Irish coffee available as well as what the people at Drip call a hot shot, which is basically a cortado with a shot of Bailey’s in it. If you’re not feeling like indulging in anything with liquor, try the housemade – not from concentrate – chai.
Where: 1201 E 13th Ave, Denver
Routes: 2 and 4
This Capitol Hill roastery is a neighborhood favorite for its friendly baristas and consistently stellar coffee. It has a classic cozy coffee shop vibe
and highly professional employees. Their well-trained baristas take pride in their espresso drinks and, to show how much they focus on the specific flavor of their drinks, they offer what they call a one and one. This is a double shot of espresso split into two cups. The first is served simply as a single shot and the second is made into a macchiato so customers can explore the flavor of their espresso both on its own and in a milk-based drink. For anyone looking to try something less serious, there’s the transition which is a pairing of a double shot of espresso with a 6oz beer.
Where: 4301 Pecos St, Denver (or 2500 Larimer St, Denver for the Latte Art Throw Down on 8/13)
Routes: 3 and 6
If you’re looking for coffee that’s made with care, look no further than Huckleberry Roasters. It may sound cliche, but the employees at Huckleberry are impressively thorough in every aspect of their roasting process. The batches are rotated seasonally to keep them fresh and remarkable every time. The purchased coffee is tracked the entire way from harvest to bag, and Huckleberry tries to work with as many individual farmers as it can. When that’s not possible, it’s highly selective with its distributors. At least three times a week, the roasted coffee is tasted to ensure that it is high quality, and the employees are all aware that even one mediocre bean can ruin a batch of coffee. When visiting, it’s best to trust the thoroughness of the staff and ask what they believe is the best at that moment because they know that no coffee brew is exactly the same.
Where: 1600 Glenarm Pl, Denver
Routes: 1 and 2
Since opening in 2002, Novo Coffee has secured its place in the hearts of the Denver coffee community. Novo supplies wholesale beans to many restaurants, coffee shops, and stores in Denver and the surrounding area, and has quickly become the favorite coffee supplier for many people who try it. Their three cafe locations offer consistently delicious espresso drinks and quality service, and their roastery is open to the public every Friday for particularly dedicated customers. Thought they weren’t the first to do so, Novo has definitely made an impression with their nitro cold brew coffee. For those who aren’t familiar, nitro cold brew is a cold brewed coffee that’s infused with nitrogen to provide a creamy texture, similar to a stout beer. Novo’s nitro coffee is highly popular in the Denver area, and first-time visitors can’t leave Novo without a taste of this refreshing beverage, especially now that summer is here.
Fluid Coffee Bar
Where: 501 E 19th Ave, Denver
Routes: 2 and 5
Located in uptown, just catty-corner from D Bar, Fluid Coffee Bar is a favorite neighborhood spot. This small coffee shop not only serves local Novo coffee, but also locally supplied tea, food, and even Internet, via local provider Verso Network. Customers can sit at the bar, at tables, or in the quiet, private meeting space depending on the level of socializing they’re looking for. People buying coffee at Fluid can also get the satisfaction of having a positive impact by choosing from the sustainability menu. Five cents of proceeds from these selected menu items is donated to a chosen community partner, and customers are encouraged to bring their own travel mugs, thereby preventing coffee cups from going to landfills. Fluid has successfully saved 177,000 cups from entering a landfill and donated over $9,000 to community partners. Customers can ask which drinks are on this special menu so that they not only receive a quality cup of coffee, but positive involvement in their local community.
Purple Door Coffee
Where: 2962 Welton St, Denver
Routes: 3 and 4
Located in the Five Points Neighborhood, this coffee shop strives to improve its local community through its business. Purple Door opened in 2013 through the efforts of Dry Bones Denver, a homeless youth organization, with the intention of providing homeless youth employment as well as job training. Currently, Purple Door employs a large number of youth looking to exit their lives on the streets, and provides them with a positive environment and employable skill with which they can do so. The people at Purple Door care immensely about their community and their employees, and they make Purple Door a place of comfort and hope. When visiting, customers can enjoy quality made coffee alongside interaction with people from very different walks of life. We recommend talking to your barista and finding out what they enjoy making, so you can receive a drink made with care and passion from someone who really appreciates their job and what it represents.
Boxcar Coffee Roasters
Where: The Source, 3350 Brighton Blvd, Suite 110, Denver
Routes: 3 and 6
Originally started in Boulder, this alternative coffee shop now resides at The Source in Denver and focuses on roasting small batches of delicious coffee in their 1929 German coffee roaster. This vintage roasting system is not the only thing that sets Boxcar apart from other coffee shops. It has a highly unique version of cold brew coffee that’s actually brewed hot and then quickly cooled by being pumped through nitrogen tanks, to minimize the amount of oxidization that can occur. Boxcar now bottles this bottlerocket coffee for customers to purchase and take with them at their convenience. Additionally, Boxcar has come up with an alternative hot brewing method called the boiler maker. This new style, inspired by a method known as cowboy coffee where cold water and coffee grounds are boiled together, is meant to be a superior way to brew coffee at high altitude because of the lower boiling temperature. When visiting Boxcar, customers can find not only high quality coffee, but also unique alternatives to traditional coffee options.
Sweet Bloom Coffee
Where: 1619 Reed St, Lakewood
Routes: 3 and 4
Named for the white flower that matures into the coffee berry, Sweet Bloom Coffee was born out of deep knowledge as well as fervent passion for the coffee industry. Owner Andy Sprenger seriously knows coffee. As a two-time US Brewers Cup champion, runner-up in the World Brewers Cup Championship, 2013 US AeroPress Champion, runner-up in the 2014 US Cup Tasters Championship, and certified Q-Grader (like a sommelier, but for coffee), Sprenger knew what he was doing when he decided to open a coffee shop in his hometown of Lakewood. The coffee shop and roastery provides delicious coffee purchased directly from farmers. Sweet Bloom aims to bring representatives from these farms to the roastery in the future so that they understand what is becoming of their product, and so that there can be interaction between the customer and the producer. It’s this thorough relationship with coffee that really sets Sweet Bloom apart. Customers looking to get a taste of what Sweet Bloom is all about should try the Hometown blend, inspired by its local roots.
Where: 5225 E 38th Ave, Denver
Routes: 5 and 6
Supplying their coffee roasts to over 25 different stores in the country including a couple on this list, Commonwealth Coffee has been hugely successful in the two years since its founding. The people at Commonwealth are both inspired by the complicated flavors involved in coffee and dedicated to sharing that experience with as many people as they can. Through its extensive wholesale business Commonwealth is able to share its coffee with a wide variety of customers, instead of only locals who can come to their shop. It’s through this commitment to people that Commonwealth has become such a trusted name in locally roasted coffee. In addition to being able to try their coffee at Amethyst Coffee Co. and Black Black Coffee, visitors can try whatever new roast the people at Commonwealth are perfecting at the moment.
[UPDATE: July 28, 2015 6:05 p.m.: The introduction was edited to include the date of the event as well as a link to the website for more information.]