Ink is spilling over in downtown Denver, where ink! Coffee opened the doors of a new location last week. The spot in the renovated high-rise at 1801 California Street (where Troy Guard will be opening a steakhouse in early 2014) is only a block from two other ink! locations, but the homegrown chain doesn't see that as a problem.
Why put three stores so close to each other? "The highrises are really easy for us to run. We've got a captive audience," explains Ben Winckler, manager of retail stores for ink! "The tenants of the buildings just love having coffeeshops in the bottom. We've got coffee for 'em in the morning and sandwiches and salads for them in the afternoon."
ink! was launched in 1994 by Keith Herbert, who'd moved to Aspen to become a ski bum but decided the town needed a coffee joint. After a fact-finding trip to Italy, he started brewing hot coffee on a stainless steel cart in Snowmass Village. And ink! Coffee was born. The new downtown spot is its ninth (still standing) location; the second ink!, in Louisville, burned to the ground.
The company roasts its own beans in Basalt, a town a half hour north of Aspen that's at 6610 feet. "The higher the altitude, the lower temperature fire burns at, so you're looking at a fifteen-to-twenty-minute roast," says Winckler. "It's like slow-roasting meat: If you're going to cook meat for twelve hours, you're going to get way more flavor."
And with a high-end espresso machine, he adds, ink! is able to "temperature profile" its espresso. "We start at 197.2 degrees and finish at 195.4 degrees. Every tenth of a degree difference is going to extract a different flavor," explains Winckler.
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While some of the ink! locations don't serve lunch, this ink! does, and emphasizes local products, including breads from City Bakery, burritos from Burrito Del Mar and Poparuba cake bites. Keep reading for more photos of the new ink! Coffee.