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With a strong coffee culture, plus java shops and roasters galore, Denver is decidedly a great city for coffee lovers. And while a better-than-average cup of joe is easy to find in this town, we wanted to highlight the Mile High City’s truly exceptional spots: The ones working the hardest to source their beans ethically; the ones where the baristas are warm and hospitable as they pour the perfect rosette design atop your latte; the ones with the best atmosphere for chilling, working, meeting, or just caffeinating. We’ve narrowed it down to these 17 picks in Denver and the surrounding ‘burbs, organized in alphabetical order.
Editor’s Note: This is a living list of the best coffee shops was last updated on December 1, 2021. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Sparrow Coffee
Design lovers will delight in coffee industry veteran Jeffrey Knott’s aesthetically pleasing Blue Sparrow cafes. (Knott is also behind the equally gorgeous Queens Eleven, a bar and cafe in the nearby Hub building, and the stunning Platte Street cocktail bar, Room for Milly.) At the Backyard on Blake location, a pretty, hand-scrawled menu, patterned gray floor tile, and dark wood tables create a beautiful backdrop for Blue Sparrow’s simple drink and food menu. In lieu of pour-overs or manual brews, Blue Sparrow opts to focus on serving great drip brews from rotating featured roasters, making this a perfect spot to grab a good cup in a rush. House-made, nutmeg-dusted chai and perfect matcha lattes round out the offerings.
The cafe also recently launched its Single Use Initiative to encourage patrons to reduce waste; it charges a $0.10 fee per single-use cup and all proceeds go into a fund that supports the company’s other sustainability goals.
Drink: On-tap Sträva Craft Coffee CBD nitro iced coffee
Eat: Black Box Bakery pastries are delivered fresh daily; look out for the special cruffins and strawberry croissants on the weekends.
3070 Blake St., #180; 1615 Platte St., Suite 135
Corvus Coffee Roasters
Since it opened its first storefront in 2012, Corvus Coffee Roasters has always been keenly focused on developing personal, direct-trade relationships with coffee growers. That mission is apparent at the original Broadway location, where bar-style seating gives you a front-row view of the roasting action. But if you want to see the team roasting small batches of interesting beans, including highly sought after, small-lot selections from Corvus’ new Exotic and Reserve lines, you’ll need to make your way down to the year-old Littleton location.
There, in addition to roasting coffee, Corvus also houses the Fox & the Raven bakery, an artisanal bakeshop that produces naturally leavened breads and pastries using Colorado heirloom grains milled in-house. Luckily for Denverites, Fox & the Raven’s pastries and breads—plus baguette breakfast sandwiches and River Bear American Meats charcuterie sandos—are available at all Corvus locations.
Drink: The limited-run Geshas and heirloom Sidras from the exotic and reserve lines almost always sell out in advance of roasting (although occasionally you’ll find them available to try in-house via pour over). If you’re looking to score a few coveted ounces of these beans, sign up for Corvus’ newsletter or subscription service.
1740 S. Broadway, Denver; 4925 S. Newport St., Denver; 5846 S. Wadsworth Blvd, Suite 3500, Littleton; the Arvada location is opening in early 2022
Crema Coffee House
Crema has been a Larimer Street stalwart for fantastic drinks (made with beans sourced from more than 20 rotating roasters from across the country), house-made food and baking goods, and relaxed vibes since it opened in 2009. Whether you’re drinking your perfectly pulled espresso neat or in a vanilla latte sweetened with house-made syrup, Crema delivers a top-notch drink. We prefer visiting the original, standalone Larimer Street location, where you can enjoy your pork belly banh mi and cold brew on the patio. Heads up: Crema offers Wi-Fi but no outlets, so if you think your work session will run long, you may want to caffeinate elsewhere.
Drink: Drip to stay (with free refills!)
Eat: The legendary sweet potato waffle or quiche-of-the-day
2862 Larimer St.; Denver Central Market, 2669 Larimer St.
Dandy Lion Coffee
Question: How do you make a traditional coffee shop even better? Answer: Combine it with a plant shop. Tucked in an unassuming building on 38th Avenue in Park Hill, walking inside Dandy Lion transports you to a beautifully designed, relaxing world of caffeine and botanicals. Co-owner Duc Huynh (also the brain behind Vinh Xuong Bakery) uses local Huckleberry Roasters beans for perfect cortados, floral lavender lattes, and slow-dripped Kyoto-style iced coffee. Whimsical design touches—from moss beneath the espresso bar to a high-tech Vestaboard display—encourage lingering. That’s especially true if you’re a plant fanatic, as Duc’s wife and co-owner Dominique Huynh creates magical plant displays. Marvel at her fanciful terrariums and pick up a few new plant babies from the retail area.
Drink: The sweet and spicy Ollie’s Drink (named for the owners’ son), a blend of iced chai, toffee nut syrup, and macadamia milk
Eat: Rebel Bread pastries
Booze: Beer and wine
5225 E. 38th Ave.
There’s a lot to love at Huckleberry’s pair of Denver cafes, from the cheerful, trendy design to the perennially pleasant employees. But some of Huckleberry’s house-roasted beans have made headlines as of late. After winning the U.S. Roaster Championship, Huckleberry’s Shelby Williamson became the first woman ever to represent the U.S. at the World Coffee Roasting Championship in Taiwan. Huckleberry also won Roast Magazine’s 2021 Macro Roaster of the Year award. That level of expertise is evident in Huckleberry’s lineup of single-origin offerings and blends, from boutique selections like the fruit-bomb Ethiopia Chelbesa natural to the Good Food Award–winning Phantom Limb blend. Of Huckleberry’s two Denver outposts, we like taking out-of-towners to the Dairy Block location adjacent to the Maven Hotel lobby, where there’s plenty of spread-out seating and great people watching. Pro tip for you alt milk fans out there: Huckleberry does not charge extra for oat milk.
Drink: The seasonal lavender rosemary latte
Eat: Both locations serve toasts, pastries, and Bonfire breakfast burritos
1850 Wazee St.; 4301 Pecos St.
One of Denver’s best roasters is actually based in North Aurora. Jubilee’s roasters have a knack for bringing out the most complex, balanced flavor from their thoughtfully sourced beans, as you’ll gather from one sip of espresso. The cozy Aurora shop is buttressed by a warehouse that owner Peter Wanberg converted into art studios for local creatives. That creative energy infuses the cafe, as does plenty of sunlight and fresh air from the garage doors. Jubilee’s “be a good neighbor” ethos shines in the amiable staff and affordable, $2 drip coffee.
Drink: The One & One—a double shot of espresso divided into a macchiato and a neat espresso, so you can taste the coffee with milk and without.
Eat: Breakfast burritos, toasts, sandwiches, in-house baked pastries
1452 Kenton St, Aurora, 1075 Park Ave. W. Suite 110
A mother-and-daughter team are behind this bright, cheery, and spacious RiNo cafe. The name, an Afrikaans slang word meaning “tasty” or “fantastic,” and the rhino mural by Pat Milbery of So-Gnar Creative hint at the shop’s larger mission. After spending a summer volunteering with Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in South Africa, daughter Kara Finkelstein became passionate about rhino conservation, and a full 10 percent of the cafe’s proceeds are donated to Care For Wild. While the cafe’s philanthropic focus might be global, the sourcing is local. Lekker’s commitment to the community is evident in the bevy of locally sourced goods, from Novo Coffee beans to Onefold breakfast burritos to Black Box Bakery pastries. Bonus: If you’re in a rush, grab your coffee to-go from the takeout window.
Drink: The horchata latte
Eat: Black Box pastries, Pandemic Donuts, Little Man Ice Cream, and Onefold breakfast burritos
Booze: Oh, yes. Local beer, wine, and cocktails (cold brew martinis!)
3460 Larimer St., Denver
Logan House Coffee Company
Originally conceived of as a home coffee delivery service in 2015, Logan House has now switched to a traditional cafe model. With locations at Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace and inside Catalyst, a wellness-focused co-working space in the RiNo neighborhood, Logan House is expanding to 15th and Arapahoe and Lowry in the coming months. The spacious yet homey Aurora cafe at Stanley Marketplace is roomy enough that there are almost always open spots for laptop work or casual meetings. Or, if you’re looking to grab a quick espresso while shopping, grab a spot at the oval-shaped coffee bar and watch the baristas at work. The roasting portfolio includes zingy single-origin light roasts as well as dark-roasted bean blends, meaning everyone can find something they like.
Drink: 18-hour cold brew in the warmer months; fall spice latte in the colder months
Eat: House-made pastries (try the coffee cake with brown butter cinnamon glaze), viennoiserie from La Fillette Bakery, and house-made breakfast burritos
Booze: The Stanley Marketplace location has a full bar, with beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas St., Aurora, Catalyst RiNo, 3517 E. Brighton Blvd.
Lost Coffee Roastery and Cafe
Lost has come a long way since its roots as a coffee cart. The independent operation has grown to three metro area locations in Aurora, Castle Rock, and Littleton. We’re partial to Lost Coffee’s Littleton location, housed in a refabbed gas station. The gas station’s old canopy now shades a large patio area and inside, the small, spare cafe contains just a few tables, hanging plants, the blue Slayer Steam LPX espresso machine, and the roasting operation. Lost takes special care to ensure that every person involved in the beans’ supply chain, from the farmers to those who mill and wash the coffee, are paid fairly. Lost’s roasts span from single-origin selections to the crowd-pleasing Before Dawn Dark Roast.
Drink: The honey cortado, which is sweetened with coffee blossom honey harvested at the same farm as the Guatemala Piedra Partida beans
Eat: Bonfire breakfast burritos, Overt Sandwiches, and pastries
1190 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton; 200 North Ursula St. #30, Aurora; 390 W. Perry St., Castle Rock
More than just a coffee shop, Elyria-Swansea’s Prodigy is actually a nonprofit that offers educational barista apprenticeship programs to youth in northeast Denver. The apprentices hone their barista and customer service skills under the social enterprise model, while the neighborhood gets a vibrant gathering space and top-notch craft coffee shop. The easy-to-spot shop is decked out in bright murals and boasts garage doors that open to a large patio area. Locally roasted Allegro Coffee Roasters beans are crafted into delicious batch brews and seasonal lattes.
Drink: The not-too-sweet white mocha
Eat: Moxie Eatery waffles, breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and pastries
3801 E. 40th Ave.
Queen City Collective Coffee
Started in 2017 by brothers Scott, Luke, and Eric Byington, Queen City Collective was inspired by Eric and Scott’s work with the Elias Fund, a Zimbabwe-based nonprofit. The brothers tapped into their experiences with coffee farmers in Africa to create their own brand of ethically sourced beans, creating a “Made By Her” program intended to spotlight and give back to female coffee farmers. You can find their beans at shops across town, and also at their own cafes in Baker (in a shared space with Novel Strand Brewing Co.), Five Points, and, within a few months, Wheat Ridge. (Queen City also has a coffee cart inside Mission Ballroom, where showgoers can enjoy coffee and coffee mocktails.) We like the cozy Five Points location best, which pairs the brothers’ complex brews (try the Nicaraguan Los Pinos Natural) with fresh-fried treats and breakfast sandwiches from in-house bakery, Pandemic Donuts.
Drink: The Dark Star, a blend of nitro cold brew and Mexican Coke
Eat: A brown butter donut from Pandemic Donuts
Booze: Novel Strand brews are available at the Baker location
305 W. 1st Ave.; 2962 Welton St.
Stylus & Crate
Great coffee? Check. Extra-kind baristas? Check. Hot, fresh liege waffles so delicious they’re worth driving across town for? Check. Vinyl tunes? Also check. Since opening in June of 2020 in a newly renovated building, this shop has quickly become a local Wheat Ridge favorite. Drinks are made with Queen City Collective beans and house-made syrups, and there are plenty of family-friendly options, too, such as Italian sodas and artisan hot chocolates. The intentionality behind the whole operation is best demonstrated by the record player: The staff encourages patrons to bring in their own albums to play, and there’s a mini vinyl shop in the back to browse. Whatever you do, do not miss the authentic Belgian liege waffles. These yeasty, pearl sugar–speckled delights are made hot and fresh on an imported waffle iron and are so good plain, we couldn’t imagine ordering them with the optional, lily-gilding toppings.
Drink: A chagaccino, which is a latte boosted with a blend of antioxidant-packed chaga mushrooms, raw cacao, and cinnamon
Eat: Belgian liege waffles, sweet and savory toasts, and cake pops
6985 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge
Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters
For serious coffee connoisseurs, a visit to Sweet Bloom should be at the top of the list. Founder and championship-winning barista Andy Sprenger’s socially conscious approach to coffee buying and roasting takes the direct trade sourcing model even further. Whereas third-wave roasters visiting coffee farms isn’t unusual, it’s not as common for the coffee farmers to visit the U.S. shops where their specialty coffees are prepared and served. Sprenger regularly brings representatives of the farms it purchases from to its Lakewood roasting facility, where they can meet the consumers at the end of the supply chain and share the story of their farm. (While these in-person events were put on pause during the pandemic, the coffee shop recently began hosting them and masks are generally required for attendance.)
If you’re not usually a black coffee drinker, you might be a convert after one of the pro baristas prepares you the perfect pour over. Sweet Bloom recently merged with Two Rivers Coffee in Arvada and has a super-stylish new cafe in Westminster, giving folks on the west side of the city three outposts to choose from.
Drink: The honey-processed (a type of processing that involves stripping the skin off of the fresh coffee cherry, but leaving fruit on the seed while drying.) José Hernández coffee from Antigua, Guatemala, a supremely balanced cup with berry and chocolate notes
Eat: Pastries are baked daily for all three Sweet Blooms at Arvada. Mark your calendar and set your alarm for the first Saturday of each month, when the Arvada location serves seasonal doughnuts that sell out by 10 a.m.
1619 N. Reed St., Lakewood; 7745 Wadsworth Blvd, Suite C., Arvada; 8850 Westminster Blvd., Westminster
Owned by a trio of sisters, this small Broadway cafe is Denver’s first standalone Vietnamese coffee shop. The sisters import stronger, more caffeinated robusta beans straight from Vietnam to achieve the robust flavor profile Vietnamese coffee is known for. These beans shine in classic hot and cold Vietnamese coffee preparations as well as the sisters’ more imaginative concoctions like the egg coffee, in which Vietnamese espresso is topped with a frothy, caramel-y foam cloud of whipped egg yolk and condensed milk and topped with cocoa powder. House-made sodas and teas and intricate moon cakes (both traditional and vegan and gluten-free snow skin varieties) and pastries round out the offerings. Note: This petite and stylish shop doesn’t have a patio or tons of indoor seating, so it’s better suited for a quick meet-up with a friend than a long study session.
Drink: For a sweet treat, try the Flan Cafe Sua Da, a marriage of Vietnamese iced coffee with a fluffy flan topping
Eat: Locally made mooncakes, sesame balls, meat pies, and macarons
30 N. Broadway
Many coffee shops talk about sustainability, but one clue that Unravel takes this imperative seriously is that all to-go drinks come in glass jars rather than paper cups. (If you bring that glass jar back to the cafe, you’ll save 50 cents on your next drink.) That uncommon level of thoughtfulness and attention extends throughout the Unravel experience. Beans are sourced directly from Unravel’s own Ethiopian farms (founder Steve Holt is a Novo Coffee and Ninety Plus Coffee alum who started his own coffee farming company back in 2006). In addition to the seed-to-cup model, Unravel roasts small batches of its coffees in house using zero-emissions Bellwether roasters. These fully electric, automated roasters are built right into the barista counters at each Unravel location.
Since founding the Denver location in 2019, Holt has been aggressively growing Unravel, with locations inside Gravity Haus hotels in Breckenridge, Vail, and Winter Park, and forthcoming outposts coming soon to Aspen and Tahoe, California.
Drink: Unravel’s popular Two Stitch Blend, which combines beans from two regions in Ethiopia and was developed as an entry to specialty coffee for folks who are accustomed to Starbucks.
Eat: Rather than pastries, Unravel offers an Australian-cafe-inspired menu including tartines, a breakfast sandwich, and smoothies. Try the fig toast with crème fraîche and pistachios.
Booze: Available at all of the mountain town locations (sorry, Denverites)
1441 S. Holly St.,Denver; 605 S. Park Ave. Breckenridge; 352 E. Meadow Dr., Vail; 78869 US Hwy. 40, Winter Park
Hanging out at this beloved Uptown coffee shop feels like spending time at your cool aunt’s house, which also happens to have amazing coffee and tasty, healthful bites. Mismatched vintage couches, two levels of seating, a large retail area, and a recently expanded outdoor patio offer plenty of cozy nooks perfect for chilling or chatting, while hanging plants and eclectic thrift-store art give the space an unpretentious feel. Weathervane does not offer Wi-Fi and discourages long laptop sessions to facilitate a sociable, upbeat vibe in the shop.
Espresso drinks are made with Huckleberry Roasters’ Blue Orchid Blend, and the house French press and cold brew are prepared with Queen City Roasters’ beans. Love Weathervane’s aesthetic? Check out their sister business, Flying Moon Cabins.
Drink: Weathervane’s signature Happy Camper Latte, sweetened with smokey maple syrup and garnished with a dusting of fragrant pine sugar
Eat: The affordable food menu has a customizable breakfast sandwich and salad, along with a can’t-miss rotating seasonal chia pudding. Pro-tip: Order online for speedier food pickup.
1725 E. 17th Ave.
The best coffee shops also function as community gathering centers. Whittier Cafe excels at this, hosting art exhibits from neighborhood icons such as Bob Ragland, as well as social justice events. (The weekly Sunday Ethiopian coffee ceremonies have been put on pause due to COVID-19.) Owner Millete Birhanemaskel sources all the shop’s beans from African nations and oversees a justice fund, which covers the cost of coffee for those who couldn’t normally afford it. In warmer months, the semi-enclosed patio is an ideal respite for enjoying your coffee or tea.
Drink: The caramel-y, rich Kenyan coffee
Eat: Santiago’s breakfast burritos, house-made paninis, and Spruce Confections pastries
Booze: A lineup of African wines local beers from Black-owned breweries
1710 E. 25th Ave.