The Art of Milk and Science of Coffee: Colorado Coffee Merchants

This was the cake.  The cake of legends.

Eric Umenhofer, owner of Colorado Coffee Merchants (CCM), offered to share this creation from The Blue Star with me.  I mention it because Eric is always very generous about sharing and coffee goes well with cake.  Especially this cake.

CCM’s Umpire Estate Cabin blend had caught my attention long before the cake came along.  We drink that coffee here on the homestead nearly every morning, and if we’re not drinking Cabin, we’re drinking something called Extra Truck.  Eric knows coffee the way I know how pickles are made, with an enthusiasm for detail bordering on affection.

 

That affection seems to be contagious.  Ann, one of the lovely and charming young ladies working in the shop, told me all about the care and attention they put into making each cup of coffee.  She called it an art, and I see why.

She talked about “milk stretching”, a concept I had never heard of.  I looked it up.  As best I can tell, it has something to do with the process of heating milk for espresso drinks.  If you heat the milk too fast, the lactase (milk sugar) burns, the milk gets bubbly and the coffee tastes milky.  However, if you do it right – if you know the secret of milk stretching – the milk sugar caramelizes and tastes sweet.  Caramelizing is a form of non-enzymatic browning.  In other words, it’s browning with heat, like properly cooked onions or the perfect flan.

See what I mean about the enthusiasm for detail?

Note the finely textured foam and the reflection of the lights like sunlight on the ocean.

A properly stretched milk adds foam to the coffee drink and looks glossy.  I don’t think it’s responsible for the little tree in the middle, though.  That’s all Ann’s artistic flair.

Ann said it tastes better in a demitasse cup. She was right!

CCM also doubles as a factory.

They roast the coffee right there on site.  On any given day, you might come in and find the coffee roaster running.  Harry, one of the roasters, explained to me once how the machine moves the coffee around and roasts evenly.  At least I think that’s what he said.  We were standing right next to the roaster and I couldn’t quite hear him.  In fact, I’m not even sure his name is Harry.

I was thinking of ending this essay by coming back to the cake and the generosity, but really Colorado Coffee Merchants is all about the coffee.  You can find it at coffee shops around town or at the many charitable events to which they donate.  Visit Agia Sophia, Her Story Cafe, Copper Creek Coffee or visit the factory itself.  And trust me when I encourage you to take home a bag and make some in the morning.

Nothing starts the day right like the perfect cup of coffee.


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