For years, millions of Americans have considered coffee little more than a vehicle to deliver caffeine to the body, a morning jolt scooped from either a red can or a blue can. But there’s far more to coffee than caffeine. During the past decade, java has evolved from a universal stimulant to an obsession among foodies and craft-culture fanatics. These days, the difference between a cup of Folgers and coffee from a good roaster is something like the difference between the Filet-O-Fish at McDonald’s and the catch of the day at Sushi Den. And perhaps nowhere has this evolution been more evident in recent years than in Denver. “It’s definitely a very exciting time,” says Jake Brodsky, who in 2002 co-founded Novo Coffee, one of Denver’s early craft coffee roasters. “The attention to higher-quality coffee is a lot more common than it was three years ago or five years ago or 10 years ago.”
It’s not that the Mile High City didn’t have a coffee scene a decade ago. It just looked a lot different: a handful of independent coffeehouses and a whole lot of Starbucks. Today, indie roasters and shops are quickly becoming as ubiquitous as that Seattle-born chain and have appeared by the dozens in neighborhoods from RiNo to Stapleton. “The community has grown a lot,” says Phil Goodlaxson, owner of Denver’s Corvus Coffee Roasters. “We’re starting to reach a bit of maturity.”
Many Denver roasters attribute the recent growth of the specialty coffee market in the city (in part) to Denver’s thriving craft beer and culinary scenes. Co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Craft Coffee Alliance Christopher Schooley says Denverites have become accustomed to getting—and paying for—quality. “Because of beer, there’s an educated consumer who understands that you’re not just paying a premium for a brand,” Schooley says. To put it simply, explains Jason Farrar, co-founder of Denver’s Commonwealth Coffee, consumers are driving the market. “We can be as specialized as we want, but if no one wants to buy it, it’ll fail.”
Despite the recent growth, roasters say there’s plenty of room left for Denver’s coffee industry to expand. Says Brodsky: “There are still a ton of neighborhoods that could use something besides a Starbucks.” With the city’s coffee scene just getting started, now is the right time to educate yourself on the basics of Denver’s next culinary movement: craft coffee.
—Pictured above: iStock
What is a Coffee Bean?
More than half of the people in America drink coffee every day. But despite coffee beans’ essential roles in our daily routines, many would be hard-pressed to describe what a coffee bean actually is. Here’s the short answer: Coffee is an agricultural commodity, meaning it comes from a plant. The tropical coffee plant sprouts berrylike fruits, referred to as cherries, which contain coffee beans (really, they’re seeds) beneath a layer of pulp. Once harvested, the “green,” or raw, beans still have to be processed (de-pulped and dried) and roasted before they’re ready for brewing. Coffee plants demand a mix of rainfall, sunlight, and moderate temperatures only found in a narrow strip, referred to as “the coffee belt,” which circles the globe around the equator. Like a wine’s terroir, certain smells and flavors are unique to where a coffee is grown. Here is, generally, what to expect.
—Pictured above: iStock
To understand why the taste of coffee can vary greatly, you’ll need to journey across the globe.
North America/Central America
Coffee pros are captivated with Central American beans because they produce a cup of coffee that is clean and well balanced. These coffees have a medium-light body with smooth, chocolaty sweetness, bright acidity, and very little bitterness.
Try it: Method Roasters’ Costa Rica La Angostura, $19.99 per pound
The medium-bodied coffee from beans grown on this continent is known for its mellow caramel and nut flavors. Brazil produces the majority of the world’s coffee, so consumers often describe these beans as having a classic taste.
Try it: Pablo’s Coffee’s Brazil Bahia “Conquista” Socially Conscious, $12 per 12 ounces
Many have likened the complexity of Africa’s fragrant and floral coffees to that of wine. Though this region’s beans can be the hardest to characterize (Ethiopia still has hundreds of yet-to-be-named cultivated varieties of coffee), you’ll often taste juicy berry flavors and citrusy acidity.
Try it: Huckleberry Roasters’ Ethiopia Guji Uraga, $17 per pound
Asian beans are often described as bold, earthy, and even savory. They produce rich, velvety brews that are low in acidity. These characteristics make these beans a natural choice for darker roasts, which tend to be full-bodied.
Try it: Copper Door Coffee Roasters’ Sumatra Pantan Lues, $15.95 per pound
How to Brew Better Coffee at Home
Four local baristas share simplified methods for brewing a perfect cup in your pajamas.
This pour-over method makes use of a sleek glass vessel and paper filters. Ozo Coffee Company barista trainer and roaster Will Kuepper says the Chemex brews coffee with a clear, clean flavor, lighter body, and accentuated acidity. $38.90 to $110.90, chemexcoffeemaker.com
Brew time: Approximately 4 minutes
Instructions: Boil approximately 1,200 grams (about 40 ounces) of water.
Place a paper Chemex filter in the Chemex and pour boiled water through it to rinse the filter and preheat the vessel. Dump the water.
For a standard six-cup Chemex, add 50 grams (about 3 to 4 tablespoons) of ground coffee to the filter.
Bloom the grounds by adding 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of freshly boiled water to wet all the grounds, stirring gently.
Slowly pour the remaining water at an even rate in the center to bring the mix of grounds and water up close to the top, stopping periodically to stir the grounds. The brew is done when coffee stops dripping.
Andy Sprenger, founder of Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, likes this pressure-brewing device because it’s inexpensive and nearly indestructible. The AeroPress brews a 10-ounce, espressolike beverage. $29.95, aeropress.com
Brew time: About 2.5 minutes
Instructions: Boil 265 grams of water (about 9 ounces).
Place a paper AeroPress filter in the cap and rinse it with hot water. Twist on the cap and add 16 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of coffee to the chamber. Place the AeroPress on top of your mug.
Start a timer and add 35 grams (just over an ounce) of freshly boiled water to saturate the grounds and start the bloom. Wait 30 seconds. Then slowly add another 230 grams (around 8 ounces) of water over 30 to 40 seconds. Carefully insert the plunger into the AeroPress chamber to create a seal.
At approximately 1:30 on the timer, slowly press down the plunger for 30 to 45 seconds until you hear a hissing sound, then stop. Don’t press the plunger down all the way.
“There’s just something romantic about a French press,” says barista Breezy Sanchez of Crema Coffee House. Sanchez recommends this filterless method for a consistently delicious cup that’s nearly impossible to screw up. Here, Sanchez shares her recipe—for a traditional eight-cup French press—for coffee with bigger body and rounder flavors. $17 to $60, bodum.com
Brew time: 4 minutes
Instructions: Boil 900 grams or 1 liter of water.
For an eight-cup French press, place 60 grams (approximately 4 tablespoons) of ground coffee in your French press.
Set a timer for 2 minutes and pour boiling water up to the metal line at the top of the glass container. Place the plunger onto the container without depressing the handle.
After 2 minutes, gently stir the coffee mixture. Wait another 2 minutes, plunge, and serve.
Joshua McNeilly, owner of Black Black Coffee, prefers this straightforward pour-over method because it’s a simple way to brew a clean cup of coffee that highlights the beans’ natural flavors. McNeilly says: “If the brew time took less than two minutes, adjust your grind to be finer. Do the opposite if the brew time was longer than two-and-a-half minutes.” $25, hario.jp
Brew time: 2 to 2.5 minutes
Instructions: Boil 12 ounces of water.
Place your filter in the V60 above your mug. Rinse with hot water. Dump the water.
Place 22 grams (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) of ground coffee in the vessel.
Pour enough freshly boiled water to wet the surface of the coffee and bloom the grounds.
Wait 40 seconds, then pour 340 grams (about 11.5 ounces) of water in a slow, circular motion, staying away from the edges. Wait for the water to finish filtering through the coffee and into your mug.
Local baristas spill the beans on their pet peeves.
The Curse of Cream and Sugar
Joshua McNeilly, Black Black Coffee
“When someone asks for a sweetener or cream before they even try the coffee. The way coffee is nowadays, especially in craft shops, there’s more emphasis on the culinary experience, so it’s nice to show respect to the people behind the brew. If the taste isn’t your favorite, feel free to add after you sip.”
Skip the Sleeve
Miguel Vicuna, Metropolis Coffee
“Coffee sleeves. Customers are always asking for them before even feeling the cup. We don’t make our drinks terribly hot—they’re for immediate consumption.”
Elle Taylor, Amethyst Coffee Company
“I have two: When people order lattes and just throw their cards on the counter. The other is when people walk in and I say, “Hi, how are you?” and they just point and say, “Restroom?”
Phoning It In
Breezy Sanchez, Crema Coffee House
“Take 30 seconds and get off your cell phone. I want to be able to get you what you want, not to mention there’s a line of people behind you.”
The Bitter Truth
What is it about coffee that inspires so much misinformation? From conflicting theories on the beverage’s role in insomnia to the age-old “coffee stunts your growth” fable, we thought we’d heard it all over the years. Denver’s knowledgeable coffee professionals, however, had a few more things to clear up.
You should store your open coffee in the freezer.
Don’t dip in and out of a bag in the freezer, as moisture will taint the coffee. But storing an unopened bag in the freezer is OK. “A few years ago, a bunch of coffee professionals did a blind cupping of a Kenyan coffee that had been in the freezer for a while versus one that hadn’t,” says Connor Garland of Boxcar Coffee. “They couldn’t tell the difference.”
Espresso has more caffeine than drip coffee.
Though espresso does have more caffeine than brewed coffee drop-by-drop, it’s typically diluted with milk and served in a small cup, so you’re not drinking as much of it. “An average serving size of espresso will have around the same amount of caffeine as an eight- to 10-ounce coffee,” says Will Kuepper of Ozo Coffee Company.
A macchiato is a sweet milky latte with caramel syrup drizzled on top.
This is only true at Starbucks. The customary Italian drink is a simple espresso shot with a little bit of steamed milk. “But the perception,” says Breezy Sanchez of Crema Coffee House, “is the Starbucks version, which is a sweeter, milkier drink ‘marked’ with caramel. Macchiato just means ‘to mark’ in Italian.”
Once coffee has been harvested and before it’s brewed, it has to be roasted (essentially, the beans are heated to the point at which the coffee’s natural flavor is released). We asked five Mile High City roasters how they got started, how much coffee they drink, the challenges of getting coffee overseas, and more.
How’d you get started in the coffee business?
DeRose: I got a job as a barista at the original Common Grounds on 32nd and Lowell. I grew up in that neighborhood. I thought the social aspect of being a barista was cool, but it took me a while to start loving coffee.
Goedman: Like a lot of people in this industry, I was a college student who was looking for work—temporary work. Turned out, I felt at home and never left.
Petterson: In 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s kind of a cliché, but when you’re faced with the reality that you might have less time than you thought, you tend to re-evaluate things. Later, I got my husband a tabletop coffee roaster on the Internet and some unroasted beans. We could not believe how good the coffee was. That set the wheels in motion.
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
Goodlaxson: I go through two espressos in the morning, two more during the day, and at least one decaf shot in the afternoon. There’s sometimes a brewed cup in there as well. It’s either caffeine or Adderall.
Lambert: One to 15. I’m totally satisfied with one cup, but sometimes the job demands more. So on the tough days, I’m probably having up to 15 cups
Where do you primarily get your beans and why?
DeRose: I source my coffee from a wide variety of coffee importers. I try hard to not buy any of the same coffees other roasters in Denver buy. I traveled to Panama last summer and went to different farms. I found one where I really liked the people and the coffee. We bought about 1,400 pounds of coffee from them this year.
Goedman: Recently we began sourcing some of our coffee from farmers through direct-trade relationships. We also source coffee via respected, sustainable, and relationship-focused importers. Regardless of how it’s sourced and which coffee season we’re in, our philosophy is “something for everyone.” We aim to please the nerdiest coffee drinkers and people who have been drinking Folgers for 40 years.
Goodlaxson: I like to think we source good people more than sourcing good coffee. Even a bad farmer will have a good harvest every now and then, but good farmers will make sure they have good harvests and quality the majority of the time.
What are the challenges of sourcing coffee overseas?
Goedman: The logistical hurdles of getting coffee to the United States in a timely fashion are plentiful. Two recent examples come from Burundi and the West Coast dockworkers’ strike. Burundi, an East African country that produces beautiful coffee, experienced serious political turmoil that impacted the daily lives of Burundians. In the United States, dockworkers in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California, went on strike over a labor dispute that resulted in coffee sitting on the water for a few months. The freshness of a couple of our coffees was impacted.
Goodlaxson: Most farmers approach business like the United States did 60 years ago; it’s a relationship-based business model. This is really awesome and fulfilling, but it also means that there is a lot of travel. Traveling through South America, if exciting, is very tiring and not very glamorous.
Petterson: Two months ago, we had some coffee coming in from Nicaragua and the FDA held it up in port for five additional weeks. We were offered no explanation, no recourse. We were at the mercy of the government.
How does Denver stack up against other coffee cities?
DeRose: Denver is highly underrated. I am very proud of this city and its growth in coffee. I have been in specialty coffee in Denver for a really long time now, and what is going on is exciting.
Goedman: With confidence, I will say that the Denver scene is as good as any other major city.
Lambert: I think Denver is becoming one of the top coffee cities in the country. As a relative newcomer to the national scene, we don’t have those one or two really big companies that just dominate the market. This allows us all to be a little more agile and take more risks.
What’s the most common misconception of the roasting industry?
DeRose: Roast levels: espresso roast, French roast, Italian roast, etc. People think it’s different coffee, when it’s just coffee being roasted longer and longer. Any coffee prepared through an espresso machine is espresso.
Lambert: We still get lumped into the same category as Starbucks, but we really are creating a very different product.
—Pictured above: iStock
A decaf drinker sounds off.
I am an outcast, a pariah. I am coffee persona non grata. At cafes, I get weird stares and mildly backhanded comments like: “No one’s ever asked for that.” Colleagues and friends laugh knowingly when they see me with a cup o’ joe and ask, sarcastically: “How’s the decaf?” Yes, it’s true: I drink decaffienated coffee.
Before you dismiss me, hear me out. This was not a choice I made; rather, it was a choice made for me. My body can’t handle caffeine: My heart races, my hands shake, and my mind refuses to focus. I survived college and my 20s without the rocket fuel so many lucky souls guzzled in order to function. And as a new father, oh how I longed for some sort of legal stimulant to help me keep from falling asleep at work, or at dinner. Or anywhere, really.
“The industry thought the person who would drink decaf was kind of annoying.”
But here’s the thing: I like the taste of coffee, and I want to be able to drink it—just without the heart palpitations and jitters. Doing so, however, doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice flavor or quality—or respect. “For a long time, the decaf drinker was an afterthought,” says Darrin Daniel, Allegro Coffee’s director of sourcing. “The industry thought the person who would drink decaf was kind of annoying.” Yes, those people who are, say, pregnant or who can’t properly process caffeine are so annoying.
Recently, some in the coffee industry have started paying attention to lepers like me. Roasters are finally taking the decaf consumer seriously, and small- and medium-size roasters in particular are abandoning the harsh chemicals normally used to decaffeinate beans. There’s even a move to cross-hybridize coffee plants to try to develop a decaf bean (or at least one that is lower in caffeine).
Until then, I will put up with the coffee snobs who tell me I’m not experiencing the full spectrum of flavors real coffee offers (they’re right). Then again, when those same bean puritans dump milk and sugar in their shade-grown fair-trade organic Chemex pour-over mug, they’re hardly tasting the beautiful complexity either.
—Geoff Van Dyke
The Ultimate Bad Coffee Taste Test
Jason Farrar and Ryan Fisher started Commonwealth Coffee two years ago with a single, admirable principle at the heart of their business plan: people first. “It has everything to do with engaging people, not engaging pedagogy,” Farrar says. To test their disdain for all things highbrow in the coffee industry, we asked Farrar and Fisher to blindly sample some of the worst coffee we could find in Denver. They kindly agreed. Their reactions—and which brews they enjoyed the most—might surprise you.
Pictured above: Illustration by Barry Blitt
We placed six cups of coffee, each in a plain white cup, in front of Farrar and Fisher. They sampled each in order (along with associate editor Chris Outcalt). Farrar and Fisher did not know which coffee was in which cup.
Farrar and Fisher met years ago in Texas before moving to Denver to start Commonwealth. They roast beans in a North Park Hill warehouse. You can find their beans at local spots such as Mercantile Dining & Provision.
After tasting #1…
5280: What do you think?
Fisher: Very bitter.
Farrar: Bitter; like, bad bitter. Like, imagine you threw up in your mouth, bitter.
After tasting #2…
5280: Whoa, this one is totally different.
Farrar: Way different.
Fisher: It’s lacking the bitterness.
Farrar: Yeah, it’s smooth. It’s way underextracted…it’s probably the diner…they were like, “Let’s cut the cost of goods down a little bit, put a little less in.” [Laughs.]
After tasting #3…
Farrar: I don’t know, it’s not so bad.
Fisher: It tastes a little bit like green beans. It’s not terrible. It’s got a faint sweetness that if they developed it a little more could be pleasant.
After tasting #4…
Farrar: A little thin, but a medium, pretty well-balanced roast.
Fisher: I think I like the roast the most, but I don’t know if I like the coffee the most.
Farrar: I bet you that’s McDonald’s.
After tasting #5…
Farrar: Oh! [Dry heaves.] That’s a flavored coffee; you know how they flavor coffee, right? They have the roasted beans and then they throw it in a big mixing drum and they spray a bunch of chemicals on it. I mean, they’re all food-grade chemicals—hopefully.
After trying #6…
Farrar: This one tastes like tea.
Fisher: And peanuts.
Farrar: Boiled peanuts.
Fisher: A lot of people are throwing sugar and milk in it so they don’t even know.
Farrar and Fisher didn’t like any of the coffees. But we forced them to choose their favorites from among those on the table.
Farrar: McDonald’s (#4)
Fisher: Folgers (#6)
1. Starbucks 2. Diner coffee 3. Dunkin’ Donuts 4. McDonald’s 5. Gas station 6. Folgers brewed at home
Eight Mile High coffee shops for any occasion.
Crema Coffee House • For The Birth Place of the New Wave
The new wave of coffeeshops officially arrived in Denver when Crema Coffee House opened in 2009 on Larimer Street. At the time, patrons flocked to the then-tiny RiNo joint for impeccably sourced beans, well-trained baristas, and eye-opening espresso—all of which have become more common around town in the past six years. Though Crema has grown, not much has changed. The space still boasts a hip, energetic vibe, and it stocks one of the most impressive coffee collections in the city.
2862 Larimer St., 720-284-9648, cremacoffeehouse.net
What’s brewing: Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Counter Culture Coffee, Dogwood Coffee Company, Herkimer Coffee, Huckleberry Roasters, Intelligentsia Coffee, Novo Coffee, Onyx Coffee Lab, Panther Coffee, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Amethyst Coffee Company • For Genuine Hospitality
Neighborhood: Golden Triangle
The days of the snobby barista have passed—at least, that’s what Amethyst owner Elle Taylor hopes to prove with her sleek yet welcoming shop tucked inside the Metlo office and retail building on Broadway. In these minimalist digs, you’ll find all the hallmarks of a world-class java joint: delicately roasted, single-origin Commonwealth Coffee beans, flawless Chemex pour-overs, and enviable works of art atop every latte and cortado. But what sets Amethyst apart is the always accommodating staff.
1111 Broadway, Suite 101, amethystcoffee.com
What’s brewing: Commonwealth Coffee; rotating
Aviano Coffee • For Fancy Out-of-Town Beans
Neighborhood: Cherry Creek North
You may experience a bit of sticker shock at this stylish Cherry Creek locale (though that may be true of most spots in this neighborhood), where five-ounce cappuccinos start at $4. (For reference, Starbucks hawks 12-ounce capps for $2.95.) But it’s not just the striking design or well-coiffed baristas you’re paying for—it’s the direct-trade Intelligentsia Coffee beans. The Chicago roaster pays each farmer a minimum of 25 percent above the already premium fair-trade price for high-quality, low-yield beans. While you wait for your responsibly sourced coffee, marvel at your barista’s well-honed pour-over technique and, of course, his perfectly groomed mustache.
244 Detroit St., avianocoffee.com
What’s brewing: Intelligentsia Coffee
Black Eye Coffee • For Hanging with the Hipsters
Neighborhood: LoHi, Capitol Hill
Black Eye’s airy flagship cafe in LoHi boasts all the telltale signs of a hipster haven: vintage-inspired murals, a refurbished neon sign, and an abundance of reclaimed wood. Co-owner Gregory Ferrari’s curated collection of hard-to-find independent magazines (displayed in an antique grocery cooler), however, takes Black Eye’s cool quotient to another level. In October, Black Eye opened a second location (pictured) in Capitol Hill that pushes the boundaries of the coffeeshop model: Each day at 5 p.m., the place transforms into a bar and stays open until 1:30 a.m. Then, in the morning, it’s back to coffee.
3408 Navajo St.; 820 Sherman St.; drinkblackeye.com
What’s brewing: Black Eye Coffee (Two Rivers Coffee collaboration); Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters
Lula Rose General Store • For Meeting a Friend for Coffee
Neighborhood: Congress Park
When’s the last time you unplugged for a few hours and caught up with a friend in person? If you’re struggling to remember, pencil in a coffee date at neighborhood newcomer Lula Rose. Owner (and former Thump employee) Oliver Miller-Finkel designed his laid-back, charming Colfax shop for relaxation, with sparse yet comfortable furnishings and lush flower arrangements that accent the bright room. The small two-top tables don’t really work for laptop sessions—but they’re perfect for intimate conversations in a small, distraction-free setting. Miller-Finkel prepares espresso drinks and manual brews with locally roasted MiddleState and Thump beans.
3434 E. Colfax Ave., lularosegeneral.com
What’s brewing: MiddleState Coffee; Sweet Bloom Roasters; Thump Coffee; rotating
Thump Coffee • For Getting some Work Done
Neighborhood: Cheesman Park
Deadline looming? Grab your laptop and hunker down with the legions of professionals at Oregon-born Thump’s spacious Cheesman Park roastery. With outlets galore, plenty of natural light, dependable Wi-Fi, and seating options that cater to solo work sessions, you might consider this your new office—only with better coffee. Thump’s espresso is one of the smoothest in town, with round chocolaty notes and a balanced acidity. (Thump hopes to soon start roasting its single-origin beans in Denver.) Simple yet satisfying eats—including sandwiches made with fresh ingredients like Babette’s Artisan Bakery bread and meat from Western Daughters—mean you don’t have to relocate when hunger strikes. Thump even offers flights of craft beer for when you’re ready to clock out.
1201 E. 13th Ave., thumpcoffee.com
What’s brewing: Thump Coffee
Bellwether • For a Shot of Whiskey with your Java
Neighborhood: South Park Hill
Each year, world-renowned food and restaurant consulting company Baum & Whiteman releases a much-anticipated trend forecast. Among the predictions for this year: “Coffeeshops will rethink their business models.” As if on cue, versatile Bellwether opened this summer on the southern border of South Park Hill along East Colfax Avenue. Bellwether carries Boxcar beans for your coffee fix, but this six-month-old joint is about more than just java. The space doubles as a clothing boutique and triples as a whiskey bar, carrying Colorado favorites such as Laws Whiskey. Welcome to the new breed of coffeehouse—good in the morning, afternoon, or evening.
5126 E. Colfax Ave., bellwether.club
What’s brewing: Boxcar Roasters; Method Roasters
Weathervane Cafe • For the Coziest Shop in the Mile High City
Neighborhood: City Park West
This carriage house turned rustic coffeeshop is one of the most comfortable places in Denver to enjoy a cup of coffee. Pass through the front entrance and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into your grandmother’s living room. There’s an old couch and a wooden crate filled with vintage vinyl records, and along the main wall there’s a wooden armoir stocked with for-sale items such as artisan jams, pickles, bitters, and various other knickknacks. Order a cup of French press coffee and head upstairs for additional intimate, old-timey seating or to browse the in-house thrift store, Beehive Vintage. The place is so charming you’ll be hard-pressed to not set down your coffee to snap an iPhone shot for your Instagram feed before you leave.
1725 E. 17th Ave., weathervanecafe.com
What’s brewing: Corvus Coffee Roasters; Huckle-berry Roasters
The terms you need to know to navigate Denver’s hip coffee scene.
Affogato: A scoop of gelato or ice cream drowned in a hot shot of espresso.
Americano: A shot of espresso thinned with hot water.
Arabica: The species of coffee tree that produces higher quality coffee beans. The vast majority of specialty coffees are Arabica varieties.
Bloom: The first step in brewing coffee using a manual method. When you pour a small amount of boiling water onto the coffee grounds, the grounds “bloom” and expand as they release carbon dioxide and unlock the coffee’s flavor.
Breve latte: A latte made with steamed half-and-half instead of milk.
Café au lait: Brewed coffee topped with steamed milk.
Espresso con panna: A shot of espresso topped with fresh whipped cream.
Cappuccino: Traditionally, one part espresso, one part steamed milk, and one part milk foam.
Cold brew: Coffee brewed cold and typically served cold. Produces a smooth, concentrated brew.
Cortado: One part espresso and one part steamed milk.
Crema: The tawny, blondish layer of creamy foam that glazes the top of an espresso shot.
Cupping: The process experts use to evaluate coffees. Ground beans are mixed with hot water and judged on body, aroma, acidity, and flavor.
Dry vs. wet cappuccino: A dry cappuccino involves a higher ratio of milk foam to steamed milk, and a wet cappuccino means a higher ratio of steamed milk to milk foam.
Direct trade: The practice of sourcing green coffee beans transparently. Typically, this involves roasters cultivating relationships with farmers.
Dirty chai: A chai tea latte with a shot of espresso tipped in.
Flat white: An Australian drink similar to a latte (espresso plus steamed milk) that typically involves a higher ratio of espresso to milk.
Green coffee: Unroasted coffee beans.
Latte: Typically, a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk and a very small amount of milk foam.
Macchiato: Usually a shot of espresso marked with a small dollop of foamed milk.
Microfoam: The velvety smooth, slightly shiny steamed milk that makes latte art possible.
Mocha: A latte with the addition of chocolate, usually in the form of chocolate syrup.
Pour-over: A term baristas use to describe manual methods of brewing coffee that require the slow pouring of boiling water over coffee grounds.
Red eye: A cup of drip coffee with an added shot of espresso. Also known as: black eye, hammerhead, shot in the dark.
Robusta: The species of coffee bean that produces lower-grade, commercial-quality beans. Robusta plants are hardy and produce high yields but are considered inferior due to a variety of unpleasant flavors.
Single origin: Coffee beans sourced from a single, specific area—often one particular farm.
Tamper: The heavy device baristas use to compress ground espresso before pulling a shot.