Customer Choice meets the Coffee Shop

Coffee shops have become remarkably innovative over the past 10 years, offering everything from decaf soy chai lattes to bestsellers, music, and coffee-paired food items. But the cup of coffee itself hasn’t really changed since Starbucks and other chains perfected their proprietary brewing methods several years ago. Until now.

Following a visit to the Denver Art Museum the other day, I stopped for a coffee at Novo, a new-concept coffee shop in the Museum Residence complex. While most coffee shops generally feature two or three daily brews – a dark roast, a light roast and a decaf – Novo features individually-brewed servings of a dozen or so rare beans from around the world. Exotic varieties like Aricha from Yiragaffe, Ethiopia and Esmeralda Geisha from Boquette, Panama. Daily selections are presented at the counter in green, roasted and ground states for discerning drinkers to feel and smell before they choose. Whole bean and ground coffee can also be purchased for home brewing at a rate upwards of $15 – $40 for an 8-ounce bag.

The ingenious Clover machine enables the barista to brew one cup at a time in about 1 minute per cup. The barista told me the required training is minimal: you grind a small amount of roast beans, drop the grind into a cylinder in the top of the device, set the cup size and flip a switch. The cylinder fills with boiling filtered water, the barista stirs, and (the really cool part) the water is pulled through a reusable filter at the bottom of the cylinder. The cup is filled, a piston in the cylinder rises to the top, and the barista uses a squeegee-like device to clean the used grounds from the filter.

Novo in Denver and other independents are among the first, but a recent article in The Economist hinted that larger national chains may soon be next.

What we love about Novo is the emphasis on coffee, not accoutrements. What we love about Clover is its ability to enable smaller coffee shops to compete with larger ones – and its ability to offer coffee customers a wider range of choices.