There are so many exciting things happening in the Denver coffee scene right now. One of the bigger developments—the opening of a second Amethyst Coffee location—we covered here during this season’s Build-Outs. But only one article about coffee news in the Mile High City would never suffice, so it’s time to check in with another local favorite, MiddleState Coffee.
Starting as a roastery in the back of men’s apparel shop Steadbrook, MiddleState began its life being served primarily in the LoDo’s LittleOwl Coffee. But thanks to really good coffee (and a generally chill vibe), the roaster has grown its reputation nationally and has thus had to move to a larger roasting facility. But success hasn’t changed MiddleState. They’re still the same dudes at heart, who are just as likely to be shredding the city streets (or fingerboarding local cafe countertops) as they are to be sourcing new and exciting coffees. Skateboarding, good coffee, and lots of chill: is there anything more Denvert?
As told to Sprudge by Jay DeRose.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
MiddleState started in 2014, here in Denver, Colorado. We are a wholesale roasting company with a retail location in the historical lower downtown neighborhood of Denver called LittleOwl Coffee. We have been around for about five years now. Wait, my math is wrong. Maybe we started in 2013. Anyway, we have been really humbled by our growth and by the support shown to us through the people we work with. We are really just trying to do our best in every aspect of our companies. Buying exciting coffees, making sure our guests in the cafe feel special, making sure we represent ourselves as people in the best possible way too.
Have Fun/Brew Coffee is kind of our “words to live by,” or motto if you will. We firmly believe that there is a weird cosmic energy out there, and that you get out what you put in, which is why we always try to be as happy as we can and work with people who are the same way. That positive energy goes into our coffee, as it would if it were negative. At heart, we just really love what we do and the people who allow us all to do it. And skateboarding. We all really love skateboarding. That was our gateway drug for sure.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Our new space is so cool. It is in the Santa Fe Arts district of Denver, on 2nd and Santa Fe. It has a very industrial feel to it. You walk in and are immediately immersed in a place that has different grades and levels and big ceilings and doorways to other rooms. It has kind of an exploratory feel to it in the sense like, “do I go this way, or do I go that way,” but not in a confusing way.
It has lots of exposed original brick, and old gas lines, and cool wood ceiling rafters. Most of the brick is white to brighten things up. There are also big skylights throughout the entire space so the natural light will allow us to pack the space with plant life. We plan to use light colored woods and steel for tables, and benches and chairs to warm the space up a bit. One of the coolest parts of the space will be the glass wall that will separate the roastery/production area from the cafe. Fucking dream come true for us to have that. Oh, and we have a few water fountains in the production pit so that’s rad too.
We also wanna put cool interactive things in it too, like a claw machine with brewing equipment for prizes. Maybe a sticker vending machine too. Who knows. It will def be a pretty different feel from our downtown location, that’s for sure. That’s the fun of doing new spaces though.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Basically to have as much fun as we can and let things happen organically. We don’t have and never have had an aggressive approach to sales when it comes to wholesale. Through that approach we have managed to gain some insane relationships with like-minded people. Finding that balance of taking what you do very seriously, without taking ourselves too seriously. We love to buy and roast fun and exciting coffees often. Our menu of offerings rotates quite frequently, which is kind of a pain in the ass for us, but super fun and fresh for wholesale customers and consumers alike. On top of all that, make a ton of rad stickers and give them out to the people.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We will be serving espresso on a Kees van der Westen Spirit Idromatic. The progressive infusion on these machines is absurd. It’s so cool that you can actually see whats going on and have to tangibly use your body in order to change the settings, and not a key pad. It has a very barbaric and industrious feel to it, yet allows for so many different possibilities just like an electronic control board would allow you. We will also have some stuff from Marco, some old brewers from FETCO, and a few Frieling single cup brewers.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
We hope to open the cafe to the people in September, but that will probably be more like mid-October with the way this city likes to treat new business that are trying to open. Denver, get your shit together and make it easier for small business to grow and thrive. Not to mention, the sooner we open, the sooner you can start taking our money for your own revenue.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
We are working with a handful of amazing folks. Our creative director Scott Allen Hill continues to just kill it for us. He is the person behind the design of the brand really. His ideas are so clean and constructive in order for us to “stay on brand,” as Scott likes to say. I can get pretty crazy with ideas when it comes to art and branding, but Scott is always there to either support those ideas, or put them in the trash. It’s taken a while for me to fully trust Scott and let go of my stubbornness, but as soon as that happened, our relationship and understanding of one another became so much better.
Our architects are Unum Collaborative, based here in Denver. They are so open to our vision for the space and really have been amazing at keeping our vision on track, with adding elements of their own that collectively will make the space great. We are also going to do a lot of the buildout ourselves as we think we are pretty handy. Haha. My entire staff though all has so many great ideas and input to offer. I really want to do right by them and implement their minds in one way or another as well. It’s a vey collaborative thing opening and designing a new space.
No, thank you Sprudge.
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Photos by Daniel Mendoza unless otherwise noted.