Our Year in Coffee: 2016

Need some coffee inspirations? We worked our way through 303 Magazine’s list of best coffee shops in Denver. Check out our thoughts!


Mikaela: Right around last New Year’s I read an article by 303magazine, “Best of 303: Denver Coffee Shops, 2015 Edition”. As one of my personal resolutions was to spend less money on Starbucks; we made it our 2016 new year’s resolution to visit all 16 on the list and we sipped our last latte of the year at the last coffee shop on the list Saturday morning, New Year’s Eve. (I still drank way too much Starbucks in 2016)

So, what did we think?

Mikaela’s Top 3
1. Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen
2. Bellwether
3. Allegro Coffee

Topher’s Top 3
1. The Molecule Effect
2. Bellwether
3. Maria Empanada

Here’s the rundown of what we thought of each shop on the list:

Two Rivers Coffee – Arvada
M: 0/5
I hit this shop with a friend and did not deem it worthy of bringing Topher back to check it out. The coffee was meh, the baristas were uptight and the breakfast burritos sucked. And, tbh, who wants to go to a hipster coffee shop in a strip mall in Arvada!?

T: N/A

Amethyst Coffee Co – Golden Triangle
M: 5/5
This shop just barely didn’t make my top 3. The aesthetic was my favorite of anything on the list, their croissants were to die for and they served their iced beverages in purple mason jars. Does it get any better?

T: 4/5
Good coffe nice atmoshphere. The pastry cabinet left a little to be desired I am but a man after my confectionary goods. Also is in a part of town I quite like. Close enough to be in town far enough out to not smell the homeless camps in Civic Center Park

La Belle Rosette – DU
M: 3/5
A cute, neighborhood coffee shop. Cozy atmosphere, good coffee and food, but lacking the hipster vibe that brings coffee shops near and dear to my heart. Fun fact; La Belle Rosette used to be in the spot Overt is now.

While Mikaela does miss the hipster aesthetic I quite like the local coffee shop feel. Had a very comfortable couch and one of those toys you’d find at the Dr’s office as a kid with the little wooden beads on the wire bent in various roller coaster like shapes. I liked it. Coffee was also good and I got a cookie.

The Molecule Effect – Art District on Santa Fe
M: 4/5
Super creative drinks, bomb food and a cool atmosphere, this place was definitely one of my favorites!

T: 5/5
Excellent coffee, tasty burrito, properly adjusted heat. I liked this coffee shop a lot and is likely one I will be returning to to spend days working. Located in the art district of lower downtown on Santa Fe (My least favorite road in the state) it is in a really cool part of town with lots of character.

Europa Coffee House – Wash Park
M: 4/5
Windows overflowing with plants, a sprawling patio, a neighborhood gem. Loved the space and the breakfast burritos were killer (you can see where my heart lies, huh?)

T: 4/5
One of the best breakfast burritos I had anywhere. Coffee was very good though nothing to write home about. I really liked how open the space was and the easy going neighborhood vibe.

Whittier Cafe – Whittier
M: 0/5
Going back and reading 303’s article again, I realize we may have missed the mark here by not attending their traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, but for the other 6 days of the week, this coffee shop is nothing special. Uninspiring, unoriginal, the coffee sleeves were advertising Estes Park. Yeah, move along.

Had to put sugar and cream in my coffee. Did not have breakfast foods.

Maria Empanada – Platt Park
M: 3/5
This place only gets 3/5 because I would disqualify them as a coffee shop. Their coffee was nothing to write home about and their atmosphere was not really a coffee shop in my opinion, but the empanadas! Man, that’s a different story. This is high on my list of recommendations for restaurants to visit, but let’s be real and call it a brunch spot.

T: 4/5
While it didn’t really feel like a coffee shop they were in fact a shop that sells coffee. As a bonus they have these great things called empanadas. They are like hispanic dumplings filled with all manner of goodies. I liked them.

Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen – RINO
M: 5/5
Stowaway was my #1 favorite find this year. Super aesthetically pleasing interior and situated in RINO (my current favorite neighborhood) with a really neat patio, this place is a gem. The table service makes it feel just a notch fancier than your average shop and encouraged conversation rather than people being buried in their laptops. The food was incredible as well.

T: 4/5
Tasty coffee and tasty food but the atmosphere to me felt more like a restaurant and less like a neighborhood place to hang out at. It was however a very nice place to go and I won’t discount them on account of me not liking other humans.

Bellwether – E Colfax
M: 5/5
What a cute joint. Normally, I have no love for Colfax, but this place alongside the neighborhood grocery next door is giving me hope for the street’s future. Great music, really neat vibe and the glasses and mugs drinks were served in were art in themselves. Plus, who doesn’t love drinks being iced with a singular giant ice cube?

T: 5/5
I think I’m starting to convince Mikaela that the older parts of town can be just as nice as the newer ones. Great coffee super friendly staff and a really cool location. Also is in a cool part of town.

Habit and Carbon – Confluence
M: 2/5
I was really excited about this place. A doughnut shop attached to a super cool hipster coffee shop with mac & cheese on the menu? Yes, please! I gave this spot a shot as a morning coffee spot and a shot as a bar and both times the food and beverage was disappointing. I ordered two misses on drinks, the dinner service was painfully bad and the donuts were solidly meh both times. Points for the interior, but that’s about it.

T: 1/5
Coffee not as good as elsewhere, Doughnuts not as good as elsewhere. I’m not a huge fan of this part of town and see no reason to go back.

Alpine Modern – The Hill, Boulder
M: 4/5
What a charming spot. Not situated on the Hill proper, but tucked away up in the neighborhood across from the cemetery, Alpine Modern is a total gem. Fabulous coffee, great food and a charming, bright interior space, this place feels like a spot you want to slow down and stay forever in.

T: 4/5
I like it. Mikaela wants our apartment to look like this. I think Boulder has an inflated opinion of itself but there are some genuinely good places up there. Good coffee and a cool contraption on the wall that ┬áthink is brewing cold brew coffee. So that’s neat.

Lula Rose General Store – Bluebird
M: 3/5
A super quaint little neighborhood joint, the big windows make it feel like a 50’s diner. Good coffee, great atmosphere. Not a whole lot of room, you’ll be lucky to snag a seat, but that’s part of the charm. Bonus points for their Instagram feed always being full of fresh flowers.

T: 4/5
I Like Colfax, a lot. Good coffee and small little place with lots of windows. And they have planes on their cups. I like planes.

Black Eye Coffee – Capitol Hill
M: 3/5
Black Eye Coffee is the total opposite of most of these shops I’ve loved, aesthetically. Its dark, its sleek and its sophisticated. It’s definitely worth a visit.

T: 4/5
Surprised Mikaela liked this one; nothing in it was painted white. They have good coffee, comfy booths and serve food if you need more than caffeine. Very cool place to be.

Overt – Wash Park
M: 4/5
Overt’s score may be slightly inflated, because I worked two doors down from it for most of the year. I grabbed a coffee on opening day, stoked I never had to walk to Wash Perk (bleck!) again for a mid-afternoon buzz. I was dissapointed. The coffee was overpriced, the space was tiny and lacked any seating at all. A die-hard Vert (their restaurant next door) fan and a lover of close proximity coffee that doesn’t come out of a Keurig, I continued to visit Overt through the year. Their staff has always been charming, their coffee got better, their grab and go selection saved my life more than once and I was satisfied. Then they opened their patio and I fell in love. You’ve never met a more charming space. I started religiously spending my lunch breaks their, reading on the steps or one of the beautiful tables. If I had stopped after my first visit, I may have rated this a 1/5, but as the spot has grown and matured, its definitely a winner. Wait for warmer weather and enjoy!

T: Sandwich/Sandwich
Never had coffee here but have had the pork belly sandwich next door several times. Its amazing and on a short list of my favorite food items in the city.

Allegro Coffee Roasters – Tennyson
M: 5/5
Allegro is a name familiar to most who drink coffee in Denver. Many local shops serve it, hell even Whole Foods serves it. Its quality coffee and so I was super excited to visit their actual coffee shop. It did not disappoint. Huge and open, with windows into the roasting room, the shop itself was pretty slick. I love coffee, I really do, but I also really appreciate fun coffee drinks, aka Starbucks. When I walked into Allegro and saw their menu not only included more than drip, pour over, latte and cold brew, but also had a gingerbread latte and maple cold brew, I figuratively almost died (sorry, that’s my inner white girl talking). Cool neighborhood, great interior and great drinks, whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a Starbucks girl.

T: 5/5
Tasty coffee innovative drinks and a staple in the Denver coffee scene (wow that sounds pretentious) I like how much seating they have and the part of town they are in. Did not have food or remember if they serve any. (Mikaela: They do, you wouldn’t let me order a croissant because we’d already had breakfast >.<)

Purple Door Coffee – Five Points
M: 3/5
A coffee shop with a great purpose, there’s not a lot to dislike about Purple Door. Cute interior, decent coffee, friendly, neighborhood vibe and hey, they sponsored a Gilmore Girl’s Luke’s Diner pop-up. 3/5 because the place was a little un-original and Five Points is not my favorite, but a solid addition to the list.

T: 3/5
Think coffee shop. Yup probably what this place looks like. Nice local place but nothing outstanding.

Mikaela: Moral of the story is Denver is a pretty hip, up and coming city. Get out there and explore it! Grab coffee from somewhere other than your corner Starbucks, pop into that boutique that’s always looked neat, grab a reservation at a restaurant you’ve never tried before. To many more cups of coffee in 2017-

Topher at Lula Rose General Store
Amethyst Coffee Co


Hydrate or die at The Molecule Effect


Overt’s adorable patio


Peonies at Overt


Making New Year’s Resolutions at Purple Door Coffee


A Gingerbread Latte at Allegro Coffee Roasters




The coolest ice cubed chai at Bellwether

Author: mikaelaruland

I'm a twenty something living the wanderlust life in Colorado with my boyfriend and dog. During the week, I'm a Marketing Manager but when the clock hits 5, I'm an adventurer, a traveler, a hiker, a climber, a skier, a blogger, a photographer. Live the adventure life, you won't regret it.

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