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Craft coffee vs. Colorado Springs

2014 February 24
by Ryan

So I was talking to some coffee bar owners here in Colorado Springs over the last few weeks, and we all have come to the same conclusion:

Craft coffee in Colorado Springs is here. And growing. Fast.

From growing numbers of competitors in our monthly Latte Art Throwdown to a more refined palate on our regular guests to our shop to a large chunk of the upcoming CS Craft Week being devoted to our beverage, the craft coffee scene in the city is alive and well.

But what does that mean: Craft Coffee? Can the coffee drinkers of Colorado Springs expect to see that standoffish, snobby, “you’re scum if you put cream and sugar into my masterpiece” barista behind the bar of the city’s craft coffee bars? God, I hope not.

What it can-and should-mean to the coffee drinkers of our fair metropolis is this: if the coffee bar you’re strolling into labels itself as a Craft Coffee bar, you should expect some-if not most- of the following things to be present:

  • Biographies of coffees served. Typical coffees found in restaurants and supermarket shelves usually describe a generic region in a country. The lack of information presented is usually a direct result of multiple hands in the process of getting the coffee from the farm to your cup. The more hands means the less money going to the farmers. Your $8 bag of supermarket coffee usually means less than 10 cents make it to the farmer. In today’s interconnected world, that is appalling. Having the information means a much closer connection to the farmer, which in turn means more money makes it to the farmer–sometimes over 50 times more than that supermarket brand!
  • Multiple brewing methods. In the same way wines can be directly influenced by the casks, aging, and fermentation process, coffee changes depending on the way it was harvested, dried, sorted, and shipped. The easiest way in a coffee bar setting to see how much you can change the coffee is by multiple brewing methods. From the lowly French Press through a Syphon then on to espresso, you can easily taste changes in flavor and character in the coffee. Good craft coffee bars can make that cup however you want it.
  • Single Origin Espresso. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE our Red Stallion Espresso blend here. And I know many, many roasters have espresso blends that will knock your socks off. But blending shouldn’t be the be all, end all of espresso. Remember: any coffee can be brewed in the espresso machine. And a lot of times the straight coffee from a specific origin can blow you away just as well. I’m not saying dump the blend, I am saying see if the shop offers a single origin espresso as an option.
  • Roasted On dates on bagged coffees. To me, nothing says more about the thought process of the coffee roaster than if the date of roast is prominently shown on the bag. As I’ve opined in the past, if the coffee bag doesn’t have the roasted on date, chances are the roaster only cares about getting money from your pocket–not the coffee in the bag. I dare any roaster to prove me wrong on that one and I’ll change my opinion.
  • Latte Art. No, a fancy design on your latte does not immediately mean that shop can call itself a Craft Bar–and, conversely, a Craft Coffee bar does not need to put artwork on every cup. But they do go hand in hand. Not because of the pretty picture, mind you. Because if the barista is taking the effort to focus on creating the artwork, he or she is more in tune with the whole espresso production–not just pushing a button and seeing what comes out.

    Double Rosetta

    Trust me, you have to pay attention to everything about the preparation if you want to create free-form artwork…

So what about those of you who just want a cup of coffee? Believe it or not, we understand. Many times through the day baristas just need that cuppa, too. But please understand in the same way good sommeliers are trying to get you the wine that is exactly what you want, good baristas are trying to get you the coffee you want. Good coffee has come a long way from opening up that can of preground dreck, and every day where we learn just a little more about that wonderful elixir called coffee.

So enjoy the wave of Craft Coffee, Craft Spirits, and Craft Beers, Colorado Springs. It’ll be a fun ride. And who knows? You just might get to like those non-chain joints.