When we call Denver a brewing mecca, we don't just mean beer. The bean scene here has been buzzing for years — taking shape in every conceivable form from combination coffeehouse–bike repair shops (Denver Bicycle Cafe, SloHi Coffee + Bike) to business-training grounds for students and underserved youth (Pinwheel, Purple Door Coffee) to the much-anticipated Vietnamese-style Dandy Lion Coffee Co., soon to open at Zeppelin Station. Be they newcomers or old favorites that never lose steam, these 13 joints have got what it takes to satisfy your caffeine craving whether or not you know your Chemex from your Aeropress (or care).
NOTE: With one semi-exception, we didn't include eateries with notable coffee bars, such as Stowaway, Mercantile, The Bindery, Olive and Finch or the new motorcycle-themed Triple Tree Cafe — but by all means check them out too!
Rivers and Roads Coffee
A work of art in itself, the beautiful vintage espresso machine that catches your eye the moment you step into this spare yet sunny gem hidden in Clayton symbolizes the allegiance to craft of owners Michael and Desiree Keen, who not only roast their own beans from ever-rotating small-lot producers, brew their own chai and make their own syrups but also bake up a storm for a surprisingly extensive roster of breakfast and lunch fare. Of course, said allegiance goes hand in hand with a commitment to the quiet neighborhood they’re serving — reflected further in the family-style Sunday suppers they host each month as fundraisers for local nonprofits.
Must-try: Let the sweetness of the staff be your cue to treat yourself to something special, like a creamy butter coffee or espresso affogato.
On the side: That goes double for the goods lining the pastry case — citrus–olive oil muffins, spinach-feta pies, chocolate-cream tarts and more in daily rotation. On the more substantial side, there’s the signature hot-pastrami sandwich on fresh-baked black-pepper bread with Meunster and housemade pickles.
2539 E. Bruce Randolph Ave.; 303-321-3052
Huckleberry Roasters/Port Side
Like Corvus and Crema (below), Huckleberry Roasters has built on its good standing at the forefront of Denver's craft-coffee wave in all the right ways. Meticulous sourcing, expert onsite roasting and conscientious service that extends to free cuppings and seminars earned the charmingly low-key Sunnyside flagship its avid following; next came Port Side, a sleeker, sassier alterego in RiNo with a more elaborate menu of sandwiches, brunch plates and such (not to mention booze). And now it’s got a brand-new outlet smack in the center of the action at LoDo’s Dairy Block (pictured top and above), where you can get serious over an educational coffee flight or have a lark with a cold brew–spiked milkshake.
Must-order: The Comp 1&1 offers a one-two punch of cappuccino and espresso.
On the side: One word — toast. Each location has its own variations on the theme, so try it with feta spread, cranberries, walnuts and drizzled balsamic one day, butternut-squash hummus, toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of olive oil the next.
Blue Sparrow Coffee
No doubt this RiNo java nook is an Instagrammer’s dreamland, stylish quaint and quaintly stylish down to the last detail. But connoisseurs can rest assured it’s got the substance to match, as owner Jeffrey Knott scours the globe for roasters that meet his uncompromising standards (Anchored out of Nova Scotia, Five Elephant from Germany, Denver’s own Sträva) to showcase in filter coffees, flat whites, golden lattes and Japanese-style iced coffees as well as the usual suspects.
Must-order: The nitro cold brew infused with CBD softens its own caffeine-borne edges.
On the side: For now, it's all about the bean juice. But should you need a nosh, Knott does sell pastries from a local wholesale baker and sandwiches from Marczyk’s.
1004 S. Gaylord St.; 303-733-7448
Commonwealth Coffee Roasters/Caffè Figurati
The recent departure of beloved Boulder-based Boxcar Coffee Roasters from The Source left a huge void, but Jason Farrar and Ryan Fisher of rising-star roastery Commonwealth aim to fill it with Caffè Figurati, serving espressos in a variety of styles from a counter that fronts a space soon to be used as a barista workshop. Meanwhile, their sun-splashed, funky Park Hill headquarters has the lively, buzzing vibe of a creative coworking studio.
Must-order: Espresso aside, the cereal-milk latte wows the crowd at the flagship location; Kissaten-inspired pour overs are a specialty at the new branch.
On the side: At The Source, you're just steps away from acclaimed boulangerie Babettes, but down the line the Figurati team will add dessert pairings to the lineup.
With one Frasca Food and Wine alum overseeing the kitchen and another managing the house to offer two different experiences by day and night, Call is to a mere coffee shop as a limo is to a Lyft. That said, between a racy three-head Mavam espresso machine — the first of its kind in town — and beans from Boxcar, it’s built to deliver on the java front.
Must-order: We can't resist the very idea of turmeric espresso with oatmilk.
On the side: More like front-and-center — chef Duncan Holmes is a master baker, turning out everything from daily pastries (caramelized banana–espresso bread, blackberry financiers, ricotta-and-jam–filled aebleskivers) to hearty tartines and sandwiches like roast beef and parmesan on pretzel rolls, as well as elegant soups and salads.
2845 Larimer St.; 303-954-0230
Also among our favorite neighborhood bars, this smart little Cap Hill hangout emanates both class and warmth, mirroring the thought owner Jake Soffes puts into everything he serves. The single-origin roasts he sources exclusively from Commonwealth (see above) and pulls from his hand-built lever machine rotate weekly; so do the coffee drinks he offers as specials, be it an Earl Grey–lavender latte or a cinnamon-coconut cold brew. La Fillette delivers the croissants, scones and other pastries, supplemented by the simplest but loveliest of snacks, baguettes smeared with French butter. And then there are the cocktails, terrific whether or not they’re coffee-infused: Hudson Hill’s super-savvy Instagram feed reveals what the team is pouring and pairing with tracks from Soffes’s legit record collection on any given day (cherry-basil gin rickeys and Devo, perhaps).
Must-order: You've gotta love an amaro-laced whiskey-and-espresso concoction called the 8 AM. It isn’t available until 11 AM, but that’s probably just as well.
On the side: Don't miss one of the city’s best grilled cheese sandwiches, period.
619 E. 13th Ave.; 303-832-0776
Corvus Coffee Roasters
In 2016, the smash hit that is Phil Goodlaxson's cool Platt Park roastery and espresso bar yielded a DTC offshoot with its own stunning character. While the flagship features a Dutch cast-iron roaster for small-batch beans sourced from family farms worldwide, the newer branch (pictured) resembles a high-tech laboratory, showcasing Japanese slow-drip towers for the specialty of the house — Kyoto-style cold brews — and steampunk systems dedicated to single-origin pours. Both offer an eye-opening experience in every sense of the phrase.
Must-order: If you're looking to explore, start with a seasonal potion like the warm-weather Ginger Refresh, combining cold brew with ginger beer and lime, or the maple-cinnamon Auburn Latte, a popular winter warmer. If you're going hardcore, the Morning Slam — a shot of espresso on the spot plus a black coffee to go — will be your jam.
On the side: Pastries are an option, but food isn't the focus here — unless it's food for thought in the form of cupping sessions, latte-art classes and other educational fare (Broadway branch only).
Crema Coffee House
Noah Price and Jonathan Power (The Populist) played a leading role in RiNo's gentrification by opening this artsy haunt back when the hood was more skid than sizzle. With a rotating roster of roasters that includes both local companies (Novo and Huckleberry, for instance) and out-of-state purveyors (Seattle’s Herkeimer; Durham's Counter Culture), its success has been such that it now runs a satellite coffee bar and bodega inside The Denver Central Market (pictured) —which is every bit as busy though only a few blocks away.
Must-order: Do as the regulars do and keep it simple with a cold brew, macchiato or espresso plus a side of mineral water.
On the side: At the flagship location, both the quiche and the sweet-potato waffles have veritable cult followings. Options for curbing hunger at the Market branch are endless, obviously.
Logan House Coffee Co.
A mix of industrial and cozy elements — high exposed ceilings and concrete floors, gleaming woods and a stone fireplace — sets quite the dramatic stage for this roastery with the mostery in Aurora’s game-changing Stanley Marketplace. Not only do owners Andre Janusz and Brooks Gagstetter offer three house blends plus a monthly single-origin in-house special, they also make deliveries, bringing beans packaged in recycled wine bottles to your doorstep. Better still, they do all kinds of javatastic stuff with booze, turning out cocktails like the Irish Coffee on Nitro and collaborating with local breweries on seasonal coffee-infused beers such as Ursula's Nautical Buzz IPA and Beryl’s Andrezvous Baltic porter. (On top of all that, they're opening a second location in RiNo this year.)
Must-order: Go big and bold with the best-selling Powder Day dark roast — then nice and easy with something that features chocolate from fellow tenant Miette et Chocolat.
On the side: By day, you can chow down on croissants from La Fillette and Morgan Handmade Rations' burritos; by night, Mondo Market provides salumi and cheese plates.
2501 Dallas St., Aurora; 720-515-7752
Amethyst Coffee Co.
2015 30 Under 30 honoree Elle Taylor’s belief in the artistry of the barista shines through this Golden Triangle shop: the snug, chic, light-filled space resembles a gallery that happens to exhibit coffee rather than paintings. Showcasing Commonwealth along with guest roasters like New York's Parlor and Arkansan company Onyx, the regular menu of hand brews, shots and so on doesn’t lack for options. But it’s supplemented nevertheless by a wild selection of seasonal drinks — take the Garden Party, cold brew shaken with corn-pea syrup and cream, then topped with sparkling water and sumac — plus a handful of sophisticated snacks.
Must-order: Espresso and milk spiked with housemade honey syrup is our potable happy place.
On the side: Look for doughnuts from Beet Box in ever-changing flavors.
Little Owl Coffee
Blink and you’ll miss it in the glare of the Starbucks across the street. That would be a shame, because this closet-sized shop in LoDo is a refuge for aficionados. Set against a marble wall, the aerodynamic equipment and beautiful glassware lining the bar are virtually all that pass for decoration in the minimalist space, reflecting the elegance of the all-important sipping experience.
Must-order: One perfect espresso and all is right with the world.
On the side: A small array of pastries from La Fillette await on the counter, supplemented by a few packaged items from the grab-and-go display.
1555 Blake St.; 720-328-5574
Steam Espresso Bar
Even if you didn't know that this hip yet cozy, always hopping spot on Old South Pearl was once a photographer's studio, you might guess by a glance at the framed prints on the walls. The remnants of an old Beechcraft airplane gracing the spacious backyard patio may come as a bit more of a surprise — but proper cortados, macchiatos and mochas from Boxcar beans are par for the course.
Must-order: For a kick without a jolt, try the fresh-pressed apple-beet-carrot-ginger juice.
On the side: Among other locally baked goods, empanadas from nearby Maria Empanada hit the sweet (or savory) spot.
1801 S. Pearl St.; 303-952-9716
Black Eye Coffee
Much as we miss the glamour of the Cap Hill branch, this LoHi staple — laid-back and comfy with old brick and gleaming subway tiles, antique hutches and garage-style doors (pictured above) — is still going strong. House roasts with beans from Allegro, Take Flight and others undergird a full slate of coffee drinks that includes rotating specials like gingerbread or horchata lattes, supplemented by a small selection of wine and beer.
Must-order: The almond latte remains best of class.
On the side: You name the trend, the kitchen delivers — shakshuka, quinoa salad, avocado toast, açai bowls and all.
3408 Navajo St., 303-955-1205