Black Eye Coffee

When I walk into Black Eye Coffee in Lower Highlands I notice a lot of things all at once. Ample comfortable seating, a tall airy ceiling, a large bar accommodating a Synesso Hydra and pour-over brewing, friendly baristas, great old-school decoration, a quiet and relaxed vibe, and an attention to coffee quality to beat the band.

They serve Boxcar as their mainstay espresso and pour-over. But, they’re furthering what seems to be becoming a Denver tradition: a strong rotating second roaster offering for both espresso and pour-over. Lately, I’ve had Ceremony and Ritual at Black Eye, and it’s been a very welcome introduction to out-of-town roasters that I hadn’t tried before.

They also have something you won’t see too often in a coffee shop: a small area in the back that is a tiny grocery store of sorts with interesting and unexpected sweet and savory items. They know their chocolate here too: they have an interesting assortment of single-origin chocolates.

I’ve been impressed at their consistency and quality. I usually order a Cortado out of their rotating espresso, and I’ve yet to have one that isn’t top notch. Plus, they also serve decaf espresso, which many quality shops shun. A big thanks to Black Eye for not omitting it: presenting a quality decaf option is a nice touch.

So, the next time you’re in Denver around Highlands, I’d recommend stopping in at Black Eye. Make sure to check out the awesome boxing-Kangaroo mural on the side of the building. But, most of all, grab your favorite coffee drink. Maybe try a new roaster. Sit back, and enjoy.

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Cortado

The Cortado is my favorite espresso drink. For me, it captures all that I love about drinking espresso, and does so elegantly and succinctly.

It could be because I made up the drink. Well, at least at one time I thought I did. Back when Flying Five Coffee was in it’s hey-day and I was spending a lot of time experimenting with different espresso drinks, I found that the drink I loved the most was a ratio of 1:1 espresso to micro-foamed milk. I’d never seen that before.

But, of course there is nothing new under the sun, and soon after I heard of this drink floating around San Francisco called a “Gilbraltar”, named after the rocks glass it was served in. And, later still, I learned that a Cortado has been around for quite some time.

What makes a Cortado so great? For me, it’s a combination of many factors. The 1:1 ratio creates a pleasing balance between espresso and milk. The sweetness of the milk can bring out flavor notes in a great espresso that you wouldn’t taste in a straight espresso. But, there isn’t so much milk that it overpowers the espresso. And, finally, I love that there’s nowhere to hide for the espresso: greatness and defects in the espresso are front and center.

Many times a Cortado is an “insider” drink. It’s not always on the menu, and it can be tough to find. But, often times, if you ask for it, good baristas will know what it is, or be able to make it with a description of the 1:1 ratio. Happily, in the last few years around Denver and Boulder, the Cortado has shown up on the menu of many good shops.

So, for me, my go-to espresso drink is a Cortado, it’s my hands-down favorite. After all, I invented it. At least I thought I did.

European Roasted Coffee

[Originally from the Flying Five Coffee blog from 2004-2009]

I’ve seen some offers and coffee shops bragging that their coffee is roasted in Europe, and then shipped here to the US. They typically claim that this is a good thing, since everyone knows that the coffee in Europe is good stuff.

But, if you accept the fact that coffee tastes its best when it is just a week or two out of the roaster, it’s difficult to agree that “European Roasted” can result in coffee at its best. Well, that’s not entirely true, if I were in Europe, I’d definitely want European Roasted coffee.

You want coffee roasted close to you so that you get it as quickly as possible. In one sense, coffee is about two places: where the beans were grown, and where the beans were roasted. The resulting taste forms a link between the cup that you drink, the roaster, and the people who grew and picked the beans.

So, the next time you see “European Roasted”, ask yourself one question: when was this coffee roasted? Unfortunately, it would be very difficult for “European Roasted” beans to be fresh.

Taste The Bean

[Originally from the Flying Five Coffee blog from 2004-2009]

Here at Flying 5 Coffee, you’ll see many more single origin coffees than blends — ie, coffees composed of only one type of bean. That’s because of our “Taste The Bean” philosophy. In short, we love tasting what the world’s coffees have to offer on their own. We love connecting what we’re drinking with where it came from, where it was grown and how it was picked and handled.

The people in the wine world call this “terroir”, which roughly translated means “from the soil.” They mean that a particular wine’s taste comes from where the grapes were grown, what the soil is like, what the climate is like, and how they are handled when they are picked. Coffee is the same way — all the same factors contribute to how coffee tastes.

So, we like to let the beans speak for themselves for the most part. That way, if you’re having a cup of Brazil, you can connect to that South American country in a way you couldn’t if we called it “House Blend.” Or, if you’re drinking an Ethiopian Sidamo, you can think about the legend of a goat herder’s dancing goats discovering coffee in the first place.

That’s not to say that we don’t have any blends — we do. Even when we blend different coffees to create a new taste though, we’ll tell you what’s in the blend so can still “Taste the Bean.

Blends

[Originally from the Flying Five Coffee blog from 2004-2009]

One thing that has always bothered me is when you see a coffee and it says “house blend” or something like that, and doesn’t say what coffee beans are in there. I want to know what’s in my cup!

To me, it seems a bit like ordering “white wine” — you have no idea what you’re going to get, and you’re a bit worried how good it’s going to be. Ordering a Chardonnay is usually a better bet. Did you ever notice that even a white “table wine” will tell you what grapes went into it on the label?

At Flying 5 Coffee, we believe you have a right to know what’s in your cup, so in every blend we offer, we let you know what beans are in there. Besides, it’s much more fun connecting what you’re drinking with where it came from.

Open Bins Of Beans

[Originally from the Flying Five Coffee blog from 2004-2009]

It seems to be fairly popular along the front range for coffee shops and supermarkets to have roasted coffee bean bins where shoppers can scoop out their coffee and bag it themselves. It”s a nice experience: you can directly see the beans you”re buying, and even sometimes smell the beans when you scoop them out. Plus, rows of coffee beans are look good.

The only trouble is the taste.

While these open air bins are romantic, they can”t provide the best tasting beans. The trouble is oxygen – when beans are in direct contact with oxygen, that enables the primary staling reaction for coffee. So, when people open the bins to scoop out coffee, a fresh set of oxygen is let into the bin so that more staling can occur. I”ve done side-by-side tests and can taste this staling in only a day or so.

So, to get the best taste, always buy your coffee in pre-packaged bags that were packaged immediately after roasting. And, of course, also know when they were roasted so that you know when you”re getting fresh coffee!