Cafe Review: Boxcar Coffee in Boulder, CO

IMG_9571If you ask my wife about traveling with me, she’ll tell you that while I enjoy seeing new places, my ultimate motive during road trips becomes the search for a great coffee shop. When you find yourself in a new place, it comforts me to know that craft coffee is there, if you search it out. Boxcar Coffee in Boulder, CO, is one such place that any weary oxygen-deprived traveler can go to sit, sip, and take in the literal breath-taking views of the Rocky Mountains.

Roasting miles above the rest

Boxcar Coffee Roasters’ Pearl Street location in Boulder, CO was opened in September 2011 by Cara and Vajra Rich. Vajra, who roasts the coffee along with Janos Porps, learned much of his roasting from Paul Songer, Head Judge and technical director for Cup of Excellence, who’s office resides in the same building as Boxcar in Boulder. The staff serving up my drinks had impressive backgrounds, including one barista, Charles Lambert, who was the head roaster for Victrola for a number of years before returning to Colorado. I was also really thankful to run into Zach Hester, a Louisville native, who at the time, worked at Boxcar Coffee Roasters. After working there about a year, he moved back to his hometown. Look out Louisville, he’s slinging espresso at Sunergos Coffee.

boxcar coffee roasters brick mural

Brewing like Cowboys and Scientists

Crafting a delicious brew can resemble a chemistry set. Of the many variables I had not considered living in the midwest: altitude. Water boils at approximately 202 degrees Fahrenheit on average in Boulder and can go even lower based on barometric pressure fluctuations. Having the right water temperature is important for proper extraction. The ideal temperature range for brewing coffee is approximately 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit [1]. To leverage this phenomena, Boxcar created the method known as the Boilermakr (first picture above). In the spirit of “cowboy coffee”, the Boilermakr (‘e’ excluded for emphasis on removing the “elevation” from the list of variables in brewing) does what typical brew elevations shouldn’t: boil the water during extraction. Baristas at boxcar utilize a round bottom boiling flask containing grounds and water heated over a fiberglass mesh. The mixture is then strained (not filtered) through tea strainers. The result is less like filtered coffee or french press, and closer to the consistency when cupping coffees.

Poured by the esteemed Zach Hester, who gallantly battled Darren Jennings once in a latte art throw down whereupon his trousers were misplaced causing him to forfeit. He would have won otherwise.

Coffee in Boulder and Beyond

In conclusion, I had an amazing time in Colorado, where I visited Happy Coffee Co, Black Eye, Ozo, and Crema, all of which I would recommend visiting when you get a chance to go to Colorado. I could see myself visiting all these shops frequently if I had an extended stay in the area, especially with the variety each shop has to offer. When it comes to overall experience for coffee in Denver/Boulder in terms of hospitality, coffee quality, and atmosphere Boxcar is elevated above the rest; pun intended.

Hours Of Operation (as of June 30, 2013)

Monday-Friday: 7:30 am – 6:00 pm

Saturday: 8am – 6:00 pm

Sunday: 8am – 5:00 pm

View The Coffee Compass Map

1. For more on brewing coffee and temperature recommendations see Sweet Maria’s brewing coffee tutorial, the SCAA cupping standards, and Everything but Espresso by Scott Rao.

One thought on “Cafe Review: Boxcar Coffee in Boulder, CO

  1. Great review, it does the shop justice. It’s a great place with some fine people and talented baristas.

    Also, don’t forget Cara Rich!

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