Five great java joints for five different coffee experiences

If the long line and full tables that greeted us at St. Mark's Coffeehouse this morning are any indication, Denverites can't start their days without a caffeine-fix. So it should be no surprise that we ranked number four in the Daily Beast's list of the top twenty most caffeinated cities.

The list was based on availability of coffee, the amount a city spends per month on the sweet black nectar, and caffeine consumption from other sources, like pills and tea and Red Bull. The Daily Beast says they counted coffee twice because we consume three fourths of our caffeine from the stuff.

Maybe that's why we're also the skinniest state: We're all so hopped up on caffeine, we're suppressing our ravenous appetites.

In homage to our newest honor, we've come up with a list of caffeine-related stops around town.

Best after-dinner espresso: Frasca Food & Wine. By the time you reach the end of your four-course feast at Frasca, you'll likely feel like skipping any after-dinner niceties for fear of exploding. But missing the espresso would be a mistake. These guys have the post-dinner shot down to a science, a rich roast giving you just enough of a jolt to counteract some of the wine you consumed along the way. Full disclosure: I once worked at Frasca. Doesn't change the fact that their coffee rocks.

Best local roaster: This one's a toss-up. Down in Denver, Novo Coffee kills it with beans sourced from all over the world. One of the best cups of coffee comes from a Novo roast, the Brazil "Cup of Excellence," served at the Noble Swine Supper Club dinner at the Crema Coffee House. Up in Boulder, Conscious Coffee roasts one hell of a bean, available in restaurants, Whole Foods, and at the Boulder Farmers' Market. And they're also the roaster behind the after-dinner espresso at Frasca.

Best non-Colorado roaster: Lamill Coffee. Lamill's got a following the nation over, but it's near impossible to find it further East than Las Vegas. Kelly Whitaker was pretty adamant about bringing it to Colorado, though, and he serves shots with perfect crema at his Boulder restaurant, Pizzeria Basta. Best crappy diner coffee: Pete's Kitchen. Coffee here is weak and muddy and just how diner coffee should be. We like to drink this stuff until our stomach hurts late at night (uh, early in the morning) while hoovering breakfast burritos after a long night of drinking. Best people watching in a coffee shop: Pablo's Coffee. Situated on a busy corner on East Sixth Avenue, Pablo's pulls its patronage from many surrounding neighborhoods with varying levels of eccentricity. It's not uncommon to see everyone from suited business types to a guy with a parrot on his shoulder sharing the same space.

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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