Futuristic — and artisan — Roasting Plant coffee shop opens its doors at DIA

Roasting Plant is a coffee shop that bills itself as a tech company. And if you want a cup, all you have to do is head to the airport.

The artisan coffee shop, which differentiates itself by roasting the beans in front of customers, celebrated its grand opening at the Denver International Airport Tuesday, continuing the push for high-quality dining experiences at the airport.

“The just-roasted coffee experience is simply much better in terms of taste,” Roasting Plant co-founder Thomas Hartocollis said. “Even without milk or sugar, people will find a coffee they love.”

Walk into Roasting Plant, which sits next to the transit center near the University of Colorado A-Line platform, and your eyes are drawn to the vacuum tubes covering the ceiling and side wall of the shop. A microroaster stands between raw green and roasted coffee beans that are held in see-through tubes. Beans occasionally shoot through the pipes as customers order cups or beans are roasted.

A customer can choose any one of nine varieties of beans or blend up to four. A barista pushes some buttons on the register and the beans are sent through the tubes overhead into a high-pressure French press next to the barista. Within a minute, the cup is brewed with a crema on top — a thin layer of foam that indicates the freshness of the coffee.

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The Denver airport location is the company’s fifth but it’s looking to have 12 locations open by the end of the year, Hartocollis said.

Everything is precisely engineered — fitting as Hartocollis’ co-founder Mike Caswell is an engineer. (He also was a brand and efficiency expert at Starbucks Corp.) The number of beans sent through each tube, how hot the roaster gets to maximize individual flavor profiles, the twirling path the beans travel through the tubes to prevent cracking — all programmed to the last detail.

Hartocollis put the Javabot — the company’s name for the technology — to work before the shop’s grand opening: loading fresh beans, sending beans into the roaster and ordering a cup from the register. It’s an entire supply chain, but in one store, he said.

“You just watched something that no one normally sees,” Hartocollis said after the beans finished their 12-minute micro-roast. “It typically happens in a factory.”

Roasted beans are only fresh for about 10 days, Hartocollis said. Many coffee places roast their beans in a factory and then ship them to their storefronts, which means the coffee may be on the verge of stale by the time customers take their first sip, he said. By roasting the beans in the shop, Hartocollis said the Roasting Plant can offer a fresher, higher quality coffee that puts it in the category of artisan, or the “third wave of coffee.”

But unlike other artisan coffee shops, Roasting Plant is humble, he said. People can dose their coffee with milk and sugar without shame.

“You don’t see a lot of third wave companies in airports because no one’s going to wait for a 10-minute pour over,” Hartocollis said. “Can you imagine the line?”

Airport chief Kim Day said Roasting Plant is both high quality and unique, checking a lot of the boxes for passengers at the airport. She complimented the coffee shop on creating an experience instead of just selling coffee.

The shop is another step in the airport’s growing effort to bring better dining and retail to the airport. A push that began around 2014, she said. It’s also gotten attention. The airport was ranked No.1 in the nation for airport dining by RewardExpert in March.

It’s also not the only dining news to come out Tuesday. Denver Central Market may be creating an airport food hall to mimic its downtown concept. Day said to also look out for two new Smash Burgers, one of which will be two stories with a bar, and a Tom’s Urban that will be teaming with Tivoli Brewery Co. to offer a beer that will only be served at the airport.

“More and more we’re offering you upscale, foodie-type opportunities here at the airport,” she said.


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