Best Of 2012: Local Coffee Roaster
Give the same green coffee to 10 different roasters, and post-roast, "all would be slightly different," says Eric "Harry" Nicol at Colorado Coffee Merchants. That's because the two main variables — roast time and temperature — drastically affect the flavor, and there's no detailed rule book to follow when it comes to the process.
At CCM, a third variable is key to how the company's coffee is roasted: the equipment. Versus the much more common drum roaster, in which the heat comes from outside, CCM's fluid-air bed roaster heats like a "big, oversized popcorn machine," Nicol says. The air flow has a tendency to sift out more smoke and debris, as well as leftover chaff. Why's that important? When you drink a cup of coffee, he says, it's charred chaff that increases the drink's acidity, and can leave both your palate and stomach unhappy.
In the 8½ years since owner Eric Umenhofer opened CCM, the Fillmore Street shop has shifted most of its roasting from an 8-pound machine to a 38-pounder. Coming off that machine these days are two small-batch brands: Ümpire Estate Mountain Roasters and Idle Truck, the latter nodding to Umenhofer's previous career as a local firefighter.
It's unlikely you'll catch the original roaster running during a random stop by the shop — it's primarily used now for developing taste profiles for new coffees. However, drop by midday Monday through Saturday, and you'll probably be able to pick up a whiff of hot beans "popping" through the larger machine while you wait in line to order a latte (or mocha or another fancy drink). CCM roasts daily in order to produce 100 to 150 pounds a day, enough to keep on top of its local business for that day and the next. — Kirsten Akens