Colorado Springs best kept secrets: Colorado Coffee Merchants

Sept. 25, 2011

Aaron Collett

Eric Umenhofer had a problem that many fellow coffee elitists face around the Springs: Finding a really great cup of coffee.

He previously enjoyed really great coffee from a friend who once owned a coffee shop of her own, but it closed down. He managed to obtain a “great coffee” fix every so often when this friend roasted some coffee beans in a popcorn roaster in her own home, but it wasn’t enough.

“I scoured Colorado Springs for a roaster,” expounded Umenhofer. He eventually found one and took it home in preparation of brewing his own coffee. To his complete frustration, however, it didn’t fit in his garage.

He found a small space for rent in the East Fillmore area, set up his roaster and finally got to start making his great coffee. Umenhofer had completed his mission, but he didn’t stop there.

Umenhofer’s coffee shop is now Colorado Coffee Merchants, a cozy little shop with a commitment to working with local businesses whenever it can and serving up the freshest coffee in the Springs.

Although small, Colorado Coffee Merchants roasts about 1,000 pounds of coffee each week for wholesale clients and never serves coffee that’s more than 24 hours away from a fresh, green bean.

Colorado Coffee Merchants also sells pastries and cookies from other local businesses, such as Steve’s Private Stash and Sweet Daphne Confections.

Umenhofer remembers clearly how his business took off: “People were just coming in [off the street]. They smelled the coffee roasting and wanted to buy some.”

Umenhofer, who had just wanted his great cup of coffee, was now in the caf business. After about three months of “scent traffic,” he put up an open sign and officially became a business.

When asked about what sets Colorado Coffee Merchants apart from other coffee shops in the area, employee Erin Fairweather didn’t hesitate to respond: “We never compromise a good cup of coffee.” Colorado Coffee Merchants uses a unique method of roasting called air roasting, or fluid bed roasting.

In normal roasting, the beans lay on hot metal and can burn slightly. They are then bagged along with the by-product of roasting, called chaff.

In air roasting, the beans are elevated on a layer of heated air, never touching heated metal. The chaff is also vacuumed away by a “cyclone”- essentially a funnel that separates the roasted beans from the lighter chaff.

Umenhofer also attributes some of the success of his business to his commitment to fresh coffee. While most roasters will roast beans once a week, Colorado Coffee Merchants roasts every single day.

“The precious oils that give coffee its flavor start to deteriorate after about eight days,” explained Anne Blair, production coordinator.

Colorado Coffee Merchants also has a program called Copper Mug, where it sells a copper colored travel mug that includes a year of free coffee and discounts on all other drinks and pastries if you have your mug with you.
“It’s our way of saying thank you to our regular customers,” said Blair.

According to Umenhofer, Colorado Coffee Merchants will have mugs for sale again just in time for Christmas shopping.

The Lowdown

Colorado Coffee Merchants

Mon. – Fri. 6a.m. – 5p.m.
Sat. 8a.m. – 2p.m.

302 E. Fillmore

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