Openings and Closings

Bean Lab Coffee Roasters sets its sights on the Lower Highland neighborhood

As Denver's coffee culture expands, Travis Gilbert and Greg Gerken, both coffee shop veterans, want to give consumers the chance to go deeper into exactly what they like about their cups of Joe because, claims Gilbert, "a lot of people don't know much about why they like coffee."

To do that, the pair has dreamed up a special kind of roastery aimed at catering to the specific tastes of the individual. "Most roasters roast twenty to 500 pounds of coffee at the same time," Gilbert explains. "We'll be a micro-roaster, which means we can only roast anywhere from six ounces to eight pounds of coffee at once. And we plan to roast really small for the individual. We want people come to us and try different beans, find out what they like, and then we'll roast specifically for them."

Their enterprise, Bean Lab Coffee Roasters, will then save a customer's taste preferences as a recipe, so that person can come pick up as little as a pound at a time of his or her particular brand of bean. "It's a niche sort of coffee roasting company," Gilbert says. "We want people to come to us and spend time with us. They can either set appointments or just come by and spend 20 minutes, five minutes, an hour, whatever. We'll use our knowledge of coffee to educate them and, hopefully, to expand their palate for coffee."

They'll also give drinkers a chance to taste different roasts, an opportunity that Gilbert points out isn't really afforded in shops.

To launch, the pair also hopes to sling beans at local farmers' markets, engaging clientele and coaxing them into their roasting facility. But the location is still up in the air. "We're looking at a couple of spots near 38th and Federal," says Gilbert. "We know we'll be in that general area."

In the meantime, the duo is also trying to put together the financing for the operation via Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site that will allow them to raise money from interested friends, family members and coffee aficionados who'd like to see the Bean Lab in action.

Assuming they meet their goal -- and they still have 25 days to do so -- Gilbert says they'll head down to Oklahoma to pick up their roaster and begin roasting immediately. Still, though, "it'll probably be month after getting the roaster before we feel comfortable roasting for the public," Gilbert says. "I have roasting experience, and we're flying in a friend from Manhattan [Kansas, where Gilbert managed coffeeshops] to play around."

And if all goes according to plan? "We expect to be at full-production by July," the entrepreneur says.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk

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