MiddleState Coffee has been operating out of 550 square feet at 17 East Fourth Avenue since 2016. But owner/roaster Jay DeRose had a bigger vision for the future, and this summer it will finally come to fruition. DeRose has secured a lease and is now working on creating a new roastery and coffee shop in 3,000 square feet of warehouse space at 212 Santa Fe Drive.
DeRose is not new to the Denver coffee scene. He grew up in Wheat Ridge and has tried his hand at skateboarding and snowboarding, then leather working and apron making. His first coffee shop job was at Common Grounds, though he didn't last long there before being let go. "I didn't even know what the differences between an Americano and a latte were," he recalls. "I didn't even really drink coffee."
But he fell in love with the social aspect of coffee, then made the rounds at various other shops and grew more successful as a barista before buying a home roaster to start experimenting with roasting his own beans. "I went down the rabbit hole," he admits.
His roasting strategy starts with the beans. "If you buy a shitty coffee from the get-go, there's nothing you can do as a roaster or barista to make it taste any better, so I spend time and money on quality green coffee," he explains.
DeRose intends to keep the industrial feel of the new building, which was an illegal grow operation before being bought and upgraded by the current landlord. He wants to keep the white walls and accent them with a variety of plants. Plans also include filling the space with handmade benches and various seating options in light wood tones. DeRose, a jack of all trades, plans to do much of the construction himself. Structurally, the new space will not change dramatically; a wall still needs to be added to separate MiddleState from the space next door, and a glass divider will be added in front of the roaster so that customers can observe the roasting process. While waiting for city approval of the new electrical system, DeRose built a wheelchair ramp complete with a wraparound bar.
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With all that additional space, there may be room for some new toys — like a claw arcade game or vending machine with MiddleState stickers, or maybe even a small deep-fryer for making doughnut holes. After all, MiddleState's motto is "Have Fun. Brew Coffee." DeRose tries to model his life after this as well. "In the end, we're just trying to have a good time," he says.
2018 is shaping up to be a big year for MiddleState, as DeRose also recently took over the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver's coffee bar. In exchange for new equipment and training for baristas, the MCA will exclusively brew MiddleState coffee. And while most customers know by now that the Fourth Street location doesn't serve as a sit-down cafe, they know to show up on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons for freshly roasted and packaged beans. MiddleState coffee can also be found at its sister company, Little Owl in downtown Denver, as well as at Lula Rose General Store on East Colfax Avenue, Session Coffee farther south on Santa Fe Drive and Alpine Modern in Boulder.