Peak Place Coffeehouse
2360 Montebello Square Drive, 445-1050, peakplacecoffeehouse.com
Peak Place is warm burgundy walls and industrial lighting under exposed metal beams, with a sexy, fluorescent-lit Nuova Simonelli espresso machine screaming like we all like it. Monument's Taste of Life provides the eats, like a plain yet plenty piquant roasted red-bell-pepper-and-chicken panini, plus light white bean- or coconut-chicken soups (all $6) — the first awesomely big in flavor but the second fading quickly. Their excellent oatmeal chocolate caramel bars ($2) yield with a soft crumble of saltiness that amps the sweet.
Colorado Coffee Merchants handles the beans — specifically the Colombian/Indonesian espresso blend, rested post-roast at room temp for four to five days to facilitate subtle aroma shifts, explains manager Anne Blair (who, for transparency, is a close friend). Flavors in our 12-ounce decaf cappuccino ($3.50) and Americano ($2.50) were beautifully bold in the way of chocolate, caramel and nutty roastiness. — Matthew Schniper
Gold Hill Java Downtown
332 N. Tejon St., 577-4291, goldhilljavadowntown.com
Gold Hill continues to be a place I like OK, and wish I could like more. In our full review a couple years ago ("Peaks and valleys," Appetite, July 28, 2011), I found lovely coffee drinks, a beautifully redone interior that was miles ahead of the former tenant's, and a menu full of food treated like an afterthought. I've been in, periodically, since — including one painful episode, a few months ago, when an order of the cream-of-corn soup yielded only a bowl of kernels topped with warm milk — and the dynamic is about the same.
That was reinforced this time with the Ultimate Breakfast Burrito ($5.95), a pre-made footnote heated in the microwave until the tortilla edges hardened and the cellophane wrap looked close to melting. Sausage, bacon, peppers and onions all made appearances — some blisteringly hot, others just formerly so — but you would never remember them if you saw them again. — Bryce Crawford
Switchback Coffee Roasters
330 N. Institute St., 581-9478, switchbackroasters.com
A Sivetz air roaster circulates the nutty, buttery, toasted aroma — caramelization of sugars in the coffee seed, I'm told — around Switchback's small showroom floor, from behind a bunker-like stack of coffee bean bags. Near racks of retail syrups and roasted one-pound bags ($12.99 to $13.99), a counter displays a half-dozen coffee-making contraptions, mostly pourover models.
Employee Nathan Bland (tough last name for a guy selling smells and flavors) pours us complimentary samples of Colombian Alto Pavia (decaf) and Mexican SHG Altura Chiapas coffees. One moves through a Kalita Wave unit, whose paper filter restricts oils "for a brighter, cleaner flavor," and the other through an Able Kone stainless steel filter into a Chemex (hourglass-shaped beaker) base, allowing for bigger body. Both are fantastic. Note: If you're seeking a Switchback-bean-based espresso drink, head next door to the new fifty fifty coffee house (more on p. 35). — Matthew Schniper