Cafe Society

A High-Tech Roasting Machine Gives Unravel Coffee a Fresh Edge

A cup of Unravel coffee served at its new Virginia Village cafe.
A cup of Unravel coffee served at its new Virginia Village cafe. Veronica Musser
A new coffee shop wants to revolutionize the way you think about and consume coffee — from seed to bean to cup. Unravel Coffee opened this spring at 1441 South Holly Street in Virginia Village, serving coffee from beans roasted in a machine right behind the counter.

Unravel is the newest venture from coffee-industry veteran Steve Holt, who got his start in coffee at Ninety Plus, where he helped build the brand of the specialty coffee grower/producer and launch the Ninety Plus coffee counter at Galvanize in the Golden Triangle. That's where he met Jim Deters, then CEO of Galvanize, who recently opened Dryland Sports Co., a holistic training gym for young athletes. Deters had extra space in the 7,000-square-foot building where Dryland is located, so he asked Holt to join him in a new venture, providing the capital for a farm-to-cup sustainable coffee shop.

click to enlarge Unravel's Bellwether coffee roaster fits under the counter. - VERONICA MUSSER
Unravel's Bellwether coffee roaster fits under the counter.
Veronica Musser
What makes Unravel special is its high-tech Bellwether coffee roaster, made by a company in Berkeley, California. Electric and vent-less, the machine is about the size of a fridge (so it can be installed behind the coffee counter, for example) and syncs with the cloud to roast coffee at the touch of a button. Baristas can start the roaster, help a customer and make an espresso all in the same space, at about the same time.

"Roasting facilities are usually dingy and dirty and disconnected," says Holt. He was drawn to the Bellwether because it's the opposite. The three-kilo roaster produces little to no carbon dioxide, so there's very little in the way of emissions into the neighborhood.

"When we created the Bellwether Roaster, we had coffee shops like Unravel Coffee in mind," says Bellwether CEO Nathan Gilliland. "[With] a deep commitment to quality and a love for coffee, Unravel understands that customers care about sustainability, which includes knowing where their coffee comes from — a deeper connection from farm to cup. We are honored that one of our first roasters went to Steve Holt and the Unravel team in Denver."

click to enlarge Inside Unravel Coffee. - VERONICA MUSSER
Inside Unravel Coffee.
Veronica Musser
"It's a very disruptive roasting model," Holt explains. "It empowers a traditional coffee shop to become a green buyer. Typically, the roaster house chooses the coffees, the cafe doesn't choose, so there's a big learning curve." Holt used his connections from years sourcing coffee in more than forty countries to procure coffee with sustainable practices. The quality is reflected in the price: Batch-brewed cups cost $3, while single-origin brews start at $4.50 and run all the way to $10 a cup.

In an effort to combat the 500 million paper cups thrown away each year in the U.S., Unravel implemented a glass take-away program. All to-go orders are served in screw-top glass jars, with a 25-cent discount on the next drink when the vessel is returned. To complement the program at Dryland Sports Co,, Unravel offers low-sugar, healthy food geared toward recovery after a workout, created by chef Joe Seeds, formerly of Panzano. Options such as housemade hummus, tartines, chia bowls, toasts, sushi and salads made with organic ingredients replace the typical coffeehouse fare of pastries and other sweet treats.

Deters recently purchased a hotel at the base of Peak 9 in Breckenridge, where another Unravel will open in November, after which he plans to expand to Whistler, British Columbia, and Park City, Utah.

Unravel coffee and fare is available at the Virginia Village cafe from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m on Sundays. Call 303-884-2380 for more details.
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Danielle Krolewicz likes a good cup of coffee, a good book and a good deal — not necessarily in that order.