Pablo's Coffee recently celebrated six months in its newest location at 7701 East Colfax Avenue, which houses a coffee shop, tasting lab, offices and the company's main roasting and packaging facility. It's also where head roaster Brian Gerhard works his magic, turning green coffee into dark and delicious beans. Pablo's sweetened the milestone by receiving attention for its achievements in roasting at the Golden Bean North America coffee competition. Pablo's was just one of 500 roasters worldwide that submitted over 900 coffees for consideration in the Golden Bean, which was held in Portland this past September.
Gerhard didn't attend but was there in spirit, representing Pablo's with four roasts that ended up taking home medals. Both the Red and Yellow Honey Process from Costa Rica won silver medals, while the Little Jem and Espresso Blend won bronze medals. Categories ranged from espresso and drip to milk-based coffee drinks.
“I’m particularly proud of the honey process coffees’ medals, as they were very challenging to develop a roast profile," says Gerhard. "The end result mitigated some the inherent faults in the green coffee while showing off the positive attributes. It took quite a bit of R&D to develop the roast curves and recipes.”
"Honey process" refers to the harvesting and treatment of the coffee, in which the cherry bean is shucked and left to dry (leaving some of the sticky coating, known as the "honey") before it's sent to the roasters. Because of the labor- and time-intensive harvest, only small batches are available worldwide.
Although Pablo's is a Denver staple, this was the first time the company had entered the Golden Bean competition, or any other coffee competition. “The same weekend that other Colorado small businesses were being put on the map at the Great American Beer Festival, we were establishing ourselves as a world-class roaster,” says Pablo’s Coffee owner Craig Conner. “These wins validate our roasting style and philosophy, which is to develop sweet, full body and balance throughout the roasting process.”
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According to Conner, who started Pablo's in 1995 at 630 East Sixth Avenue and began roasting in 2002, "Coffee performs well closer to the place it was roasted," because influences like water and temperature can drastically change a coffee's taste.
Choosing which coffees to purchase and serve is a long process of tasting and refining. "We vote with our tastebuds and then we justify it," Conner explains. "We really workshop [our coffees]; there's different development times and different elements you can pump up." The team at Pablo's cups the coffee repeatedly to taste for flavor profiles they like and to test for variants in the roasts.
"[We] taste it and taste it and taste it... . Unlike with brewing beer, you just get more amped up throughout the day," the owner adds. The team's hard work and attention to detail paid off in the end, and they've got the medals to prove it.
You can find the caffeinated Pablo's crew testing their tastebuds — and yours — at 7701 East Colfax Avenue from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.