The Denver Caffeine Crawl poured its way through the city Saturday, hitting up four favorite local roasters who are helping to brew the local craft-coffee scene. Although this was the 36th annual crawl, that scene has been growing fast over the last five years, exploding much like the microbrewery business.
First stop: the original location of Huckleberry Roasters in Sunnyside. Co-owner Koan Goedman knows his stuff, and he guides the group through its first cupping tasting, which means we share the cups and use spoons to sip and analyze the flavor. Goedman slurps the coffee, which allows the brew to really hit your tastebuds with an even amount of oxygen opening up the coffee.
Among the coffees that Huckleberry curates for its stores and many others around the city, the Beriti is a favorite. It has a beautiful array of flavor notes, including a light, tea-like aspect; it tastes floral and carries hints of raspberry, fruit candy and lemon, Goedman notes.The most important fact we take with us from Huckleberry: The craft-coffee industry in Denver is growing — and while each shop is unique, they work together and are rising together.
Next on our list, Black Black Coffee in the hipster epicenter at Taxi. Joshua McNeilly began Black Black as a "social experiment," he says, noting that the most extreme of part of his experiment is that this spot does not carry cream or sugar. This really highlights the coffee, which is always prepared to order using different brewing methods. As the coffee brews, McNeilly quizzes the coffee addicts on the tour. Black Black serves up education as well as coffee, and offers weekly classes on such subjects as latte art, manual coffee brewing and espresso brewing.
The drip-down coffee method is a favorite among local connoisseurs and creates a taste profile closer to that of a wine or tea. McNeilly carefully pours the hot water, evenly coating the freshly ground coffee to wake it up and open its pores. This step allows efficient brewing; he is brewing with a one-to-fifteen coffee-to-water ratio. The process takes about four minutes and results in more of the "treble-y" notes, he says, letting you taste the complexities and the wine-like chorus of flavors.
The second method we try at Black Black is aeropress. This is a brewing method that is amazing for camping, since it's lightweight and easy; it also gives the coffee drinker more of the "bass notes" of the flavor profile. The trick is to press the air down at a slow, even rate, not pushing too hard. This brew will take about half the time of a drip, and will taste coarser.
Third stop: Boxcar Coffee Roasters in the Source. This spot utilizes one of the more unusual brewing methods, one that relies on what it calls "the Boilermakr Altitude Brewing" system. Mad scientist-esque flasks are heated in the Boilermakr, and after the brew begins to boil, your barista will take it off, add a few ice cubes to cool down the coffee, then pour. This method gives the brew a lot of body.
At Boxcar, the group sips Ethiopian Lima, followed by a house coffee that has a bit more acidity; it's what's referred to as an "afternoon coffee." Finally, we taste the Number 7, which has a bit more shock and richness.
We end the day at Copper Door Coffee, in the Mayfair neighborhood. It opened last October and has already become one of the highest-selling roasters in town. Owner Hannah Ulbrich blends science with gastronome methods and a true love of coffee. Her curation process is meticulous; she selects raw beans from around the world and then slow-batch roasts them in-house.
Sipping away the day, we continue to ask questions of the owners and baristas — and find our appreciation for coffee just keeps growing. Keep reading for more photos, and see the full Caffeine Crawl slideshow here.