February 8, 2014 Updated: February 8, 2014 at 10:53 am
FORT COLLINS — This coffee tastes like sunshine dust.
Jonathan Jarrow is joking, of course. What he is really picking up, he says, is a fruitiness from the Guatemalan roast, and a smooth walnut finish from the Java.
Jarrow is hosting a "cupping," coffee's version of a tasting, at his bright but basement-dwelling Harbinger The Coffee Spot in Fort Collins. He and friends from the Fort Collins craft coffee community, Christopher Schooley of Coffee Shrub, The Bean Cycle's Lesley Brandt, Susan Dalke of Crankenstein, David Sutton from The Coffee Registry and Everyday Joe's Aaron Patterson, have been circling a dark wood-grain table, leaning in to take deep bean "dog sniffs" and then swishing spoonfuls of Jarrow's brews suddenly and with an audible slurp.
The other host, Schooley, arrived to the cupping with a satchel full of silver spoons. From the blends he later picked out a "hard candy dissolve" and a "big, fat juicy cherry," to complement Jarrow's tasting notes.
Baristas say craft coffee is slowly becoming the next craft beer.
"There are a ton of people in coffee who want to make it like wine," Schooley said, pouring what appeared to be just black coffee from a mason jar. "Coffee and beer are plebian products; they're the accessible people's beverages."
According to Schooley, craft coffee, also known as coffee's third wave, currently holds the same market share as its accessible alcoholic counterpart. In cities such as Portland and Chicago, where coffeehouses Stumptown and Intelligentsia were some of the first to pioneer the movement, craft has been booming for more than a decade.
Schooley and Jarrow met in Chicago's coffee scene. A previous Roasters Guild board member and barista national competitor, respectively, the two Northern Colorado natives moved back to Fort Collins, where they each saw a largely underdeveloped craft coffee scene.
"I wasn't sure if there was a scene for it here," Jarrow said.
In 2010, Schooley helped start the Rocky Mountain Craft Coffee Alliance. He said until last year, it had been off to a slow start.
At Harbinger, Jarrow tells a customer about the roaster he is featuring any given month, such as January's Sweet Bloom, a certified Q-Grader (think coffee sommelier, similar to a wine expert) out of Denver. He can recommend a bean, such as the Ethiopian, an intensely floral variety; he'll have you smell it. He has each cup of beans premeasured for the grind, during which he looks for that "really great particle size distribution." Inside the filter, he'll give an initial pour-over of water, followed by a little "turbulence," a 25-second de-gas or "bloom," an even slurry to make sure all the grounds come into contact with the water, then a little simple stir for the finale.
Schooley said one thing the craft beer industry has done better than the craft coffee industry is connect with its consumers.
"There are definitely a lot of folks focusing on making (craft coffee) more accessible," Schooley said.
Patterson said his interest in coffee stems more from the connection he makes with people at the coffee shop.
"It's a combination of enjoying coffee, the preparation that goes into that and the skill involved," he said.
Information from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, http://www.coloradoan.com