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Blank Coffee/Food shows precision amidst singularity

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Pair a cortado with The Farm toast if you aren’t just at Blank for its donuts. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Pair a cortado with The Farm toast if you aren’t just at Blank for its donuts.
Talk of third wave coffee — the post-Starbucks era of pourovers and the like — has spurred a natural question of what a fourth wave would entail. I posed the question to Colorado Springs-raised U.S. Barista Champion Charles Babinski, of L.A.’s G&B and Go Get Em Tiger, in 2015. He took the focus away from the progression of excellence, placing it instead on building community and serving it well: “I don’t think that’s necessarily the fourth wave,” he said. “It’s just gonna be better spaces for coffee.”

The Springs now boasts many such spaces, making newly opened Blank Coffee/Food only the latest to emerge. It’s another stylish spot for a spot-on cappuccino or cortado, picture perfect with latte art, in an Instagram-ready setting with minimalist decor and exaggerated open air in the historic Roundhouse on 21st Street. Spatially, from a wide entryway to lengthy sight-lines leading to upstairs seating, much of Blank is, well, blank.
But the shop has found several ways to stand out. Front house manager Miguel Casis, a familiar coffee-scene face, notes Blank’s exclusive procuring of single-origin beans — no blends — from Denver’s fine Middle State Coffee. Not only will they change often, but weekly, each bean will see different treatment. For instance, a Colombian bean may be the $3 batch coffee one day, but another it’ll be the grind for lattes. Blank might be the first locally to offer a One & One on its menu, too: a two-cup industry drink created during competition by baristas from Santa Cruz’s Verve Coffee Roasters, preferred by tasters for allowing a neat sip with .75 ounces of espresso in one, with a touch of steamed milk added to the other .75-ounce shot so aromas and flavor nuances may be gleaned.

Another drink we haven’t seen outside Pueblo: a green chile mocha. It’s not on the menu, nor offered to me, but available to those in the know as a seasonal special. Casis places drops of a green chile simple syrup on a demitasse spoon for me to try, and alone it’s pure sweet heat and joy. A restrained half-ounce mixed in with chocolate syrup (made with single-origin cacao from Santa Barbara’s Twenty-Four Blackbirds) almost disappears into the espresso and cream, arriving only faintly in the finish as a vegetal note with a whisper of smolder.
Location Details Blank Coffee/Food
600 S. 21st St., #150
West side
Colorado Springs, CO
Coffee/Tea

But if there’s a single element that separates Blank, it’s co-owner Vance Garrett, lesser known than fellow co-owner Alex Baum, former manager at Wild Goose Meeting House, married to Loyal Coffee co-owner Abigail Baum. Garrett, a former petroleum technician with a hydrological and electrical background, also operates Congruent Services, which installs and services espresso equipment. He’s uniquely qualified to customize machinery. Like, say, taking a La Marzocco Linea Classic, an older analog model, and adding digital shot timers and a second flow valve that allows baristas to alter the flow rate for the first stage of pressure. What that means is that for the initial 8 seconds of a 32-second shot, packed grounds in the portafilter are pre-infused before full pressure kicks in. Consequently, he explains, he can extend the time of a shot if needed, to find the best flavor, without drawing more volume and over-extracting to astringency. Under-extracting too can lend sour notes that ruin a bean’s best expression, so the machine’s added features essentially make it easier to hit consistency with staff training and repeatability. For customers, that means excellent coffee.

And what goes with coffee? Everything of course, but donuts in particular. Blank house-fries five rotating flavors daily, usually including a basic glazed and cinnamon sugar, each $2. But the real fun happens for $4, with flavors like crème brûlée and strawberry lemonade. These are elegant, airy and soft donuts, damn good. The brûlée hosts a crunchy caramelized cap and thick vanilla cream, while the latter’s inner goo smacks sour and tart, true to flavor.

Blank is doing the trendy coffee shop toast thing, but more elaborately than others, nearly at the level of Smørbrød’s open-faced sandwiches when it comes to options like smoked mackerel stacked with pickled green chile and pepper threads and radish rounds atop a smear of mild farmers cheese. It works better as toast, with an arugula salad on the side, than as a torpedo baguette sandwich on bread from New York’s Wenner Bakery (both $9, several items available either/or), wherein the chewier baguette texturally overpowers the softer fish. That toothier baguette however does make the right match for the summer sausage torpedo, again with tangy pickled green chile and veg, plus Camembert and the smoky dried meat for an all-out gourmet affair.

I bypass farro and quinoa bowls to try more toasts: The tapenade pops with oily olive brine and more pickled veg acidity (a common theme), plus seasonal asparagus, while a sous vide egg waits to bleed rich yolk. The Farm channels more of Europe’s finest flavors with Brie and capicola and the same egg treatment, plus sweet, balsamic-marinated cherry tomatoes — equally lavish.

In as much as Blank’s clearly a better space for coffee, and doing fine with eats, too, it should succeed in finding its community, and serving it well.

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